The ban that was put on Genetically Modified (GM) products in Kenya six years ago has been upheld, this after the parliament rejected a proposal by the National Biosafety Authority to suspend it.
This has sent pro GM activists back to the drawing board, with some like of the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) forced to shoulder high research costs.
The two bodies have been working towards introducing Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) maize in Kenya, promising to triple the country’s maize production.
The BT maize by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in conjunction with other bodies like WEMA and AATF transfers its genes into the maize plant which upon eaten by stem borer cause it to ingest the encoded proteins through the gut suffocating the insect to death.
The rejection went against the promise by Deputy President William Ruto that he would have the ban lifted.
In August last 2015, Deputy President William Ruto said that the government was working towards legalizing genetically modified crop varieties in a bid to improve the country’s food security before the end of 2016.
Mr Ruto, who was speaking at the fourth National Biosafety Conference, also urged stakeholders to roll out BT cotton to benefit from resources at the Ministry of Industrialization set aside for cotton and leather tanning revival.
Findings of the Prof Kihumbu Thairu-led task force have remained a guarded secret after he refused to reveal contents of the findings when he handed the report over to former Health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia.
Othaya MP Mary Wambui’s insisted that the ban remain on health grounds but the experts defended the technology and its benefits.
The ban, imposed in 2012, was occasioned by research results carried out by a French scientist linking GMOs to cancer.
In September 2012, a team of French scientists led by Gilles-Eric Séralini published a report that linked GM maize consumption with tumor growth in rats.
The French researcher later withdrew the claim after it was discredited by other scientists. The researcher has since discarded the results.
National Bio-safety Authority (NBA) chief executive Will Tonui allayed legislators’ fears on safety of GMOs “Health and environment concerns are adequately addressed before any application is approved by the regulatory board,” he said.
NBA chairperson Amuyunzu Nyamongo acknowledged that some sections of the Bio-safety Act and policy need review, but urged politicians to push for more cash to be allocated for research. “We need political goodwill for technology to succeed.