For the developing countries, lack of basic proper food mechanisms such as growth and storage is one of the the perennial biting problem. Kenyans and Sudanese people can attest to the fact that food insecurity is fatal, disastrous and beyond any bargain.
One of the ways that has been pursued by many governments to combat this ill has been biotechnology. Science has given us the answer to solving this problem in this regard, but as with any technological development, the safety of the genetically modified foods remain a mysterious affair.
Although there have been more than 2,000 studies documenting that biotechnology does not pose an unusual threat to human health and genetically modified foods are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods, questions remain in the minds of many consumers.
What does the research say?
Animal feeding studies are the basis for evaluating the safety of GMO crops. One-off studies of lab animals have occasionally shown some problems. Gilles-Eric Séralini, in his retracted GM corn study (later republished in a non-peer-reviewed anti-GMO journal), claimed rats fed genetically engineered corn developed grotesque cancerous tumors—the kind no farmer would miss among his animals if this cause-effect was genuinely in place.
A US-based company known as GMO Free USA indicates that GMOs are created and patented by agrichemical companies which in on itself should raise some red flags. Some of the companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupoint-Pioneer, Dow among many more are producers of GMOs as well as other chemicals.
That the consumption of GM food is restricted to only 60 countries—as revealed by GMO Free USA—casts lots of questions on the safety of GMO foods.
Kenya is not left aside in the ongoing GMO controversy. In 2012, Kenya resorted to banning the consumption of GMO after the Gilles-Eric Seralini study. While the proponents of the consumption of GMO criticized the ban as retrogressive, the government held firm on the ban, yet more than 60 countries including Japan and Australia have joined other European Union countries in condemning these GMO foods.
Why the about face??
Recently in Kenya, the Deputy President William Ruto declared that the ban on GMO foods will be lifted in the next couple of months.
“Various government ministries, departments and agencies concerned with biotechnology have already consulted and agreed on the necessary regulations and safety measures to be adhered to so that we can maximise on agricultural production, improve health services, conserve the environment and basically improve the living standards of our people,” said Mr Ruto.
This comes at the time when, the proponents of the GMO foods point to the fact that the the global scientific journal retracted an article it had published earlier that linked genetically modified food to cancer it has to be noted that the original authors of the study still stand by their study conclusions. Needless to say, the debate still rages on.
So what is it about GMO foods benefits that can help in Kenya which outweigh the inherent Risks of developing cancer??
Addressing famine problem: Kenya has been known for the perennial food shortage. Most parts of the country which are frequently affected include Turkana areas and even the Northern parts of the country. The use of GMO foods will certainly alleviate the problems of hunger in the country. GM foods such as oranges, spinach, kales, tomatoes, onions and water melon, definitely mature faster. When these foods mature within a short period, it speeds up the process of supply of food to the market. The ‘national granary’ eventually will not run dry owing to the fact that there is constant food supply.
Profits for farmers: Farmers who are engaged in producing the GMO foods in plants and animals will massively benefit. Why? By lifting the ban, they will stand the chance of penetrating the market with their produce, and making even bigger profits.
Consumers: The third beneficiaries are the consumers. For obvious reasons, plenty of food in supply may not only signify satisfaction but also fair food prices. In this sense, Kenyans will be able to spend cheaply per food basket.
Safety: The biggest question when it comes to GMO foods is obviously the saftey question. Would you feed a population now only to have them succumb to cancer?
Price wars: As much as the lifted ban will enable consumers to spend less and enjoy variety of foods, there are other underlying demerits related to the consumption or legalization of the GMO foods, which could be looming. When there are lots of GMO foods supplied in the market, those farmers who prefer selling ‘natural’ foods (plants and animals) may not be able to do so without lowering their market prices. However, they will possibly make losses and at the end of it, no natural plants and animals will be available for consumption.
Unsorted mystery equals danger of diseases: With the situation as it is; there is no sufficient proof that has come to the fore to dispel the worry that GM foods are unsafe. Who knows? Kenya may end up with more cancer cases. Logically speaking GM foods are bred with chemicals which could be carcinogenic, and chances of developing cancers as corollaries of their consumption may not be distant.
What is your thoughts on this issue, would you allow GMO foods in kenya? Let us know in the comments below