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Government to lift ban on GMOs

13 August 2015, 09:30 PSCU

Nairobi - The Government will soon lift a ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to create an enabling environment for the growth of the biotechnology innovations and industry in Kenya.

Deputy President William Ruto said the government has put in place necessary safety measures following a cabinet ban on GMOs in 2012.

Speaking during the 4th National Biosafety Conference at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) Nairobi, the Deputy President said the Cabinet will lift the ban.

Ruto said Kenya has made a bold decision to embrace modern biotechnology Policy and enacting Biosafety Act of 2009.

The Act established the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to regulate all activities involving Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in food, feed, research, industry, trade and environmental releases.

Ruto said the government will fully support the authority to achieve its mandate.

“I want to challenge the Bio-Safety Authority to develop a bold public awareness campaign to make the country aware of what you are doing and why it’s important and how it affects people’s lives,” he said, adding that lack of public awareness has led to fear of biotechnology.

Read Also: Scientists urge Kenya to rescind GMO ban

“When people hear anything scientific, they develop fear, they cringe, so it is our duty to overturn this unfounded fear,” said Ruto.

He said the public must embrace science because it is what is going to lead to more future advancement.

“Science and technology is what will take us to the next level so we should not fear. Confound your critics now,” he said while asking the authority to make its work known.

He added that all the line ministries had been consulted and agreed that biotechnology is the way to the future and all the necessary laws will be put in place.

He said Kenya made a bold decision to embrace modern biotechnology as attested to by the signing of Cartagena Protocol, Biotechnology Policy and Enacting Biosafety Act in 2009.

The Deputy President said a lot has been achieved since the enactment of the Biosafety Act and similarly had been taken to ensure that genetic engineering technology is implemented safely.

“We know going into the future any meaningful development will be knowledge based and technology driven,” he said.

Ruto said it was a great achievement for Kenya and Africa following the recent discovery of Malaria vaccine terming it as a major milestone in combating malaria.

“We will save millions of lives that are today threatened by Malaria. We just need to be patient since we have waited for decades for this vaccine,” he noted.

“We are proud Kenya scientists have partnered in the programme in KEMRI and other institutions. It gives confidence to Kenyans that we have the calibre and what it takes to ensure that biotechnology can address the challenges we have. It is encouraging that the research on GMOs that has been conducted for over a decade is now moving towards environmental release as confirmed by two applications that has been submitted to NBA on Bt Maize and Bt Cotton.”

Cabinet Secretary Ministry for Education, Science and Technology Prof Jacob Kaimenyi said Kenya has opted to embrace modern biotechnology.

He said Kenyans will be educated on issues of biosafety and the roles of the authority.

“By organizing this conference we hope not only to create awareness but also educate the public on issues of biosafety and roles of the authority, I also urge the media to educate public on the matter,” he said.

“Kenya needs a scientific and knowledge based society, they need to know about modern biotechnology and their products.”

Chairman, Board of Management, NBA Prof Jenesio Kinyamario said they were committed to ensuring safety in the application of biotechnology in the country.

Prof Kinyamario said the board seeks to provide adequate protection of the environment and define the way forward for Kenya.

The Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Willy Kiprotich Tonui said the conference came at a time when Kenya is progressing towards environmental release of GM crops and the existing news about the malaria vaccine developed by Kenyan scientists.

He cited the ban of GMO by the cabinet in 2012 as a major setback and requested the Government to urgently expedite a taskforce report released after the ban in settling the matter.

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