IS IT THE RIGHT TIME TO EMBRACE AND ADOPT THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS IN KENYA? BY;MUNGAI

“…….Infact ,anyone eating G.M.Os is,in effect ,a guinea pig in a very large health experiment.We should wait for validation beyond doubt that these foods are fit for human consumption.People are hungry,but,we should be careful not to eat poison.”

According to X.N.Iraki,while adding his voice in the whole debate about G.M.Os,wrote that ,we’re all Genetically Modified Organisms .All the fuss about GMOs maize is unnecessary.How can we be against the products of our ingenuity and creativity?There is nothing special about GMO foods.All vaccines and drugs you have taken for years have modified you .Let Kenyans eat GMOs maize ,it is better than dying of hunger.The future lies in genetic engineering.

These are divergent views that have being aired by concerned parties in regard to this subject of discussion,the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms[G.M.Os].

And,thanks to the looming drought which has ravaged some parts of the country which can be partly be blamed to our defective strategic measures and poor management  which has pushed to the limits  the skyrocketing of the food prices and other basic commodities.That’s why at the long last the KENYA’s government took a drastic measure to contain,arrest and save the desperate situation and in it’s wisdom it authorized and approved the importation of Genetically Modified maize,but,with stringent measures which must be adhered to.

The looming drought was necessitated by the shortage of the main staple cereals ,maize and wheat,which has forced their products to skyrocket in prices to almost 100 percent increment ,and ,thus the importation decision to supplement the shortage.

Kenyans are living in one of the hard times and desperate times due to high inflation rates.Life has being difficult to most kenyans who mostly lives under a dollar in a day,of which hasn’t being saved by high food prices which they have to contend with.

It is worth noting that the government authorized the importation of GM maize amid the issue being controversial and fears about the maize ,which kenyans are complaining that it might paralyze the reproductive system .With these raised concerns ,the government could not have chosen to ignore them.

Kenya joins a list of importers -infact ,it becomes the fourth african state to permit imports of G.M.Os crops ,joining South Africa,Egypt and Burkina Faso.Some pundits have supported the move terming it essential in helping to stabilize prices and feed millions of hungry kenyans .But,matters aren’t straightforward .The coming into force of the Bio-safety Act ,2005,on July 1 ,that allows the growing and sale of G.M crops has illicited mixed reactions.

But,that approval has opened a clash of varied opinions with some supporting the move ,while others have condemned it.To the common citizen ,especially those who are in dire need of food rations,the debate about GM doesn’t ring a bell to them.To them the debate is foreign ,as most of the kenyans don’t know ,nor,understand what these GMOs are all about.They can’t comprehend .They do rely on their leaders to entice them on most of the pressing issues.

But,the million dollar question still begs ,has the right moment dawned for KENYA ,to embrace and adopt the genetically modified crops?What are the G.M.Os?And,are they of any beneficial to the humans in the food production without having any negative side effects?Is the genetic engineering technology the next in-thing ,the substitute and the solution to our farming methods and food production?

These are among the few questions that begs for answers to clear the unfounded uncertainties,concerns that have being raised by this  whole debate .The GM perception has being lowered to the down ebb.And,as the debate on the safety of GM maize rages on ,we are baffled by the deafening silence  from Agricultural research institutions.According to Kenya Agricultural Research Institution officias ,”they are unable to assure GMO safety-the safety of GM maize import cannot  be guaranteed,more research is needed on the safety of GMOs and advice on the plant safety issues.

The debate over genetically modified foods can be very confusing  even among the experts.Kenyans are yet to hear a coherent,vigorous and informative public debate with regard to the benefits  and risks associated with G.M.Os.

There is fears that we might already be consuming GM foods ,but,there is little information  about the effects on health,environment and overall benefits,or,risks.If food supplements are discouraged for health concerns ,should we not wait until GMOs are scientifically proven to pose nominal risk!Nobody has produced good research showing how G.M.Os may be detrimental to human health.

According to Wikipedia,a Genetically Modified Organism{G.M.Os},or,Genetically engineered organism[GEO],is an organism whose genetic material has being altered using genetic engineering techniques.These techniques generally known as “recombitant DNA technology”,use DNA molecules from different sources ,which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes .This D.N.A is then transferred into an organism ,giving it modified ,or,novel genes.Transgenic  organisms ,a subset of GMOs,are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.

Thus ,the failure in enlightment of GMOs has created a wedge of concerns on whether the country adopts and imports genetically modified maize.Some politicians and activitists have totally warned against the importation of these GM maize because it has bad effects on the health .We are totally against it  as these G.M.Os causes cancer and infertility.

However,they aren’t adducing any evidence ,so one can only conclude that their arguement might be premised on a fallacy.

According to geneticists,modification of desired traits in plants is not something new ,We have all heard of hybrid seeds.Conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming.Genetic engineering,on the other hand ,can create plants with the desired traits very rapidly.Plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and create crops able to tolerate high temperatures.

To their arguement,with the rapid population growth,KENYA,will need more land and grow crops in  regions previously unsuited to them.Secondly,malnutrition is a common problem.Crops that do not contain adequate nutrients can be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals.Thirdly,genetically engineered crops have higher yields and hence profitability.

Genetically modified plants were first grown in small scale experimental planting ,which began in U.S.A and Canada in the late 1980s. The first approval for large scale ,commercial cultivation came in the mid 1990s.Since that time ,adoption of GM plants by farmers has increased annually.

According to Agriculture secretary ,Wilson Songa ,while commenting on GMOs ,said that the country could not run away from GM technology.”The technology is coming and there is no stopping it”Maize production in the country would double if the country adopts GM crops.”Before we fully introduce the crop ,it will go through the necessary agro-research analysis.”

He further argues that a farm with G.M crops could produce as much as 40-50 bags per acre unlike the current case where only 30 bags are produced.Kenya produces about 32 million bags of maize yearly,while the consumption has shot up to 38 million bags due to rise in population.

He notes that if the country adopts the technology ,production would shoot up to about 64 million bags.The country could not be competitive if it stucks to the old tradition methods of farming .He cited South Africa  where farmers uses 3-4 pesticides on a GM crop ,while in KENYA farmers uses more than 15 pesticides before a crop matures.

However, a number of studies have raised concern ,and,environmental groups still discourages consumption in many countries claiming that Gm foods are unnatural and therefore unsafe.Such concerns have led to the adoption of laws and regulations that require safety testing of any organism produced for human consumption.It’s safety in the food production has being questioned by environmental groups with concerns such as the possibilities that GMOs could introduce allergens into foods ,or, contribute the spread of antibiotics resistance.

But ,according to another study published in 1999,analyzed that there no current evidence to suggest that the process used to genetically modify food were inherently harmful.

Thus ,in conclusion the science of GMOs is a recent phenomenon that has not provided adequate studies and the published ones are only conflicting,to show the long-term health effects that consuming G.M foods might have


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