Kenya: Agricultural Lobbyists Demand a Stop to GMOs
By George Okore
NAIROBI---Kenyan farmers want their government to stop importing Genetically Modified Food products and instead recognise organic agriculture and other agro-ecological farming practices in the country’s agriculture policies and practices.
A consortium of food lobby groups say developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that the recently enacted Biosafety Act of 2009 serves the interests of foreign Agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers. They argue that introduction of patented seeds and relatedchemicals threatens the country’s agricultural practices, livelihoods, the environment, and undermines the country’s food and seed sovereignty.
“We believe that country should be self-reliant on organic and agroecological farming practices that do not destroy, pollute and contaminate food, land and seeds. Our ability to feed Africa through agro-ecological practices is recognised and supported by UN reports, the IAASTD report and many research findings. We call upon the government to support small scale farmers in having access to water and capacity building in agro-ecology and for this to be enshrined in our Kenyan policies”, says Anne Maina- Advocacy Coordinator at African Biodiversity Network (ABN)
The group further demands that the Kenyan government recognizes the importance of agro -ecological practices as the primary farming practice in the country by enacting concrete legislation on it and allocating an annual budget for capacity building of small-scale farmers who want to practice agroecological practices. Furthermore, they want the Kenyan government to develop concrete policies that protect the integrity of agroecological practices and farmer saved seed varieties by banning the introduction of GMOs into the Kenya”,
There is a growing body of scientific evidence to show that GMOs can cause serious damage to health, environment, food production and livelihoods. For example, animal feeding trials have shown damage to liver, kidney and pancreas, effects on fertility and stomach bleeding. A most recent study carried out on pregnant women in Canada found genetically modified insecticidal proteins in their blood streams and in that of their foetus. “The developers of GMOs have always claimed that this is impossible;-they have stated that these proteins are broken down in the digestive process and will not be found in the body. This recent finding is sending shock waves around the medical and scientific community” argues UNGA Revolution Convener Cidi Otieno.
Some environmental consequences of GMOs include development of insect resistance to pesticides engineered into crops as well as the emergence of new and secondary pests destroying farmers’ crops forcing them to buy and use highly toxic pesticides. Furthermore, development of herbicide tolerant weeds is choking farmer’s fields since these weeds can no longer be controlled by modern herbicides, forcing farmers to spray high doses of older more toxic chemicals in an effort to control them. This has disastrous consequences for environmental and human health.
The lobbyists are pushing against top-down technological solutions promoted to solve the many challenges that Kenyan farmers face. These one-size-fits all solution cannot attend to our varied needs. Instead, we call for collaboration between farmers, scientists and government to ensure that we produce healthy and plentiful food and have in the past resulted in such innovations like the Katumani breed of maize for drier areas of Kenya and an improvement in food production systems and increased yields in a sustainable way. “Everything that genetic engineering is claimed to offer can readily be achieved through safer methods such as non-GM breeding, intercropping and creative innovation”, says Gacheke Gachihi, a Social Justice Activist with Bunge La Mwananchi Social Movement.