by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- As the Kenyan
government works to produce genetically modified crops,
agriculture experts are calling for adoption of alternative food
production systems instead, before the country thinks on
Kenya is expected to introduce
genetically modified cotton, commonly referred to as Bt
(Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton, any time soon, with trials for
Bt maize set to start.
The introduction of the cotton follows a directive by
President Uhuru Kenyatta in June 2018, asking technocrats in the
health and agriculture ministry to explore the farming of the
cotton in bid to boost the textile industry.
Further, Kenya is in the next few months expected to make a
decision on whether to lift a ban on genetically modified food
imports, which has been in force since 2012.
The genetically modified plants have been fronted as the
panacea for falling food production in the east African nation
amid growing effects of climate change that include rise in
pests and diseases.
But agriculture lobby groups note that before Kenya adopts
GMOs, it should explore, invest in and research on alternative
food production systems such as agro-ecology and organic
"We should embrace organic farming by investing in research
and explore ways to make it more popular to produce food that is
"This mode of farming is key to better nutrition, food
security, food sustainability and cares for Kenya’s
biodiversity," Route to Food Initiative youth ambassador
Emmanuel Atamba said at a recent meeting on GMOs and sustainable
farming organized by Route to Food Initiative in Nairobi.
He noted that many countries are reaping big through organic
farming, with crops selling at a premium.
"Many countries are offering a wide range of organic foods
that they are exporting.
"In Kenya, organic food consumption is catching on, but it is
still far behind the global movement, which is what the
government should work on before introducing GMOs," he said.
He noted food insecurity is not a problem of quantity of
produce, but rather affordability and sovereignty, thus
genetically engineered seeds cannot solve this challenge.
"Genetically engineered seeds and crops are presented as a
solution to achieving food security in Kenya and Africa, yet
there are other forms of agriculture which give the farmer
sovereignty and more yields," said Atamba.
Wanjiru Kamau, an agriculture policy expert, said genetically
modified seeds and farm produce represent a corporate takeover
of Kenya’s food systems as opposed to sustainable farming.
"Over-dependence on corporates for seeds and other farm
inputs will increase the country’s vulnerability to shocks
related to food production.
"It lures farmers into the use of agrochemicals and stands in
the way of sustainable solutions such as ecological
agriculture," said Kamau.
She observed that GMOs throw farmers into long-term
dependencies, undermines critical biodiversity and promotes
large-scale industrial agriculture, which exacerbates poverty
particularly in a context where the majority of farmers are
Simon Mitambo, regional program coordinator at African
Biosafety Network, noted that investing in sustainable farming
methods such as agro-ecology and organic farming are risk free,
However, Theophilus Mutui, acting director for technical
services at the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), assured that
the institution is working to ensure the environment is
protected when Kenya finally adopts GMOs.
NBA is currently conducting a national performance trial for
Bt cotton in seven areas, including Kisumu, western Kenya. Bt
maize has also been approved to undergo national performance
trials, but this is yet to begin, said Mutui.
regulations to limit risk of genetically
modified crops to African consumers
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
African governments should establish solid
regulatory frameworks to ensure that introduction of genetically
modified crops pose minimal risk to communities and the
environment, scientists said at a forum in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The international scientists attending an organic farming
conference underway in Nairobi urged African countries to
embrace agricultural biotechnology with caution given its
"Genetically modified products come with inherent risks hence
the need for countries in Africa to put in place safeguards
before their introduction to farmers," said Judy Carman,
director of Australia based institute of health and
She warned that intensive use of herbicides and fertilizers
that are the hallmarks of agricultural biotechnology could be
detrimental to the health of farmers, consumers and fragile
ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kenya is hosting a high-level conference to discuss
innovative ways to harness nature-based assets to transform
African agriculture amid threats linked to climate change,
population pressure and shrinking arable land.
Senior policymakers, scientists and green campaigners
attending the three-day conference agreed that rigorous
scientific research combined with public awareness and strong
regulations should precede adoption of genetically modified
Tyrone Hayes, an American biologist said that capacity
development for local scientists, consumer awareness and a
strong inspection regime is an imperative to buffer African
communities from potential risks of genetically modified crops.
"We cannot overlook the potential risks that large scale
adoption of genetically modified crops could unleash to natural
habitats in Africa," said Hayes.
"Consumer safety in particular must inform any attempts to
transition African agriculture from subsistence to mechanization
through intensive application of synthetic fertilizers and
pesticides," he added.
Peter Mokaya, director of Nairobi-based Organic Consumers
Alliance said that African countries should address policy,
regulatory and capacity gaps before introducing genetically
modified food crops.
Global forum resolves to
boost organic farming in Africa
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The first International Conference on Organic
Farming concluded on Thursday with delegates endorsing a raft of
measures to ensure food production systems in Africa are
More than 500 delegates including policymakers, scientists,
farmers and green campaigners attended the three-day forum in
Nairobi to explore new strategies to boost adoption of organic
farming in Africa.
The conference in its final communique resolved to lobby
African governments to enact policies that promote organic
farming as a means to achieve food security and transform rural
"We call upon African governments to align national policies
to the ecological organic agriculture agenda whose
implementation is key to achieve sustainable development goals
and the Africa Union Agenda 2063," the delegates resolved.
Kenya hosted the first ever international conference whose
objective was to revitalize organic farming agenda in Africa in
the light of challenges linked to climatic shocks, population
pressure and shrinking arable land.
David Amudavi, executive director of Nairobi-based Biovision
Africa Trust, said that African countries are well-placed to
scale up adoption of farming practices that are environmentally
friendly subject to enactment of robust policies, training of
small-holders and improved market linkages.
"The time is ripe to demystify the myth that organic
agriculture cannot feed the world.
"It can work here in Africa if we train small-scale farmers
how to harness organic inputs to grow food crops," said Amudavi.
Delegates attending the international organic farming
conference in Nairobi resolved to raise awareness on the
negative impact of intensive application of synthetic
fertilizers and pesticides to produce food.
They also pledged to rally governments, industry and
small-holder farmers towards establishment of a platform to
foster sharing of knowledge and innovations required to boost
uptake of organic farming.
Hans Rudolf Herren, president of Washington-based Millennium
Institute, said that organic farming if adopted on a larger
scale will help maintain a healthy balance between food security
and environmental sustainability in Africa.