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Kenya Bans GM foods
Genetically modified foods are considered as a lock to food crisis that world might be facing in the future. Methods of production of food is about to reach a new level, which promises more quantity, and better quality than conventional farming methods. All should have expected the world to accept the GM foods whole heartedly. But recently Kenya put a total ban on GM foods. This forces us to rethink on the issue.

Kenyan government put a total ban on GM foods on November 21, 2012. The order was initially passed by Kenyan cabinet on November 8 pointing out the safety issues of the GM foods and later on November 21, the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health ordered for the ban. The structural corn deficit of Kenya will rapidly rise from 300,000 metric tons according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) thanks to this ban. The import of GM foods through the port of Mombasa was already in a crisis following the strict rules on bio safety passed in 2009. Now these imports will certainly come to a complete stop as any movements to break the ban is subject to prosecution. This ban was an after effect of the studies conducted by Gilles Eric Seralini et. al, which was released by the French university. This is one among the studies which was very badly received by the whole scientific community. Seralini conducted studies on the side effects of GM foods on rats. His studies found rats getting cancer because of the prolonged use of the GM foods. Seralini used genetically modified corns which were developed for herbicide resistance. His studies stated that rodents were affected with cancer when regularly fed with this particular variety of corn called NK603. Even though many opinioned that this study does not have enough scientific adequacy, many countries like Russia and Kazakhstan put an immediate ban on the import of NK603 following the release of the Seralini’s study reports. But following the reports Kenya put a complete ban on any import or business of all kinds of GM foods. This ban is also in accordance with the National Bio safety Act of 2009, Kenya. Most of the biotechnology community spread over the whole globe opinions that even the whole National Bio safety Act will block further researches and developments in Kenyan biotechnology field, even though its objectives are very simple that includes consideration of safety issues created by the modern biotechnology activities, and to avoid any effect on human health.

Kenya is a country that suffered from severe famine just a couple of years ago. It was caused because of extreme draught conditions. The United Nations statistics account that around 3.75 million Kenyan people were affected because of the famine. The GM foods have got the capability of making the country overcoming any such future crisis in the country. But the recent exercise of ban on GM foods puts this solution in a hold. Drought conditions in Kenya will disable any attempts of recovering the nation’s food security by conventional cultivation methods. This can view can be strengthened by the fact that some areas of the country still records a single water source for around 45 kilometers of radius during some seasons of the year. Imported GM foods have already played a vital role in overcoming the famine conditions of Kenya. Future precaution methods could have been taken by genetical modification of crops that can enable the crop plants to survive and yield better in low water conditions. The National Bio safety Authority board chair Miriam Kinyua says that the ban will not affect any bio technology researches that are being held in the country and they all will continue. And she further explains that this ban will only intensify the researches in order to provide better and clear data about the safety aspects of genetically modified food. But the scientists respond negatively to this statement and they opinion that any researches going on within the country related to genetically modified organisms will come to a complete halt if the government refuses to rethink their decision.

The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) requested the Kenyan government to immediately reconsider the decision of ban on GM foods. But Kenyan government currently announced that it will think on lifting the ban only after a crystal clear report on the safety of genetically modified organisms are obtained. The study conducted by Seralini is questioned by food safety authorities all over the world. This is because Seralini’s study does not have proper design and methodology techniques. These set of food safety authorities include European Food Safety Authority. Following the release of study results by Seralini and the ban on GM foods by Kenyan government a proposal has been sent to the Permanent Representative Council of African Union. A final verdict on this matter can be expected after the African Union summit (AU summit), which will be held from January 20th to 28th, 2013. The matter will be discussed for final decisions in the AU summit. This proposal is backed up by a shocking report stating that GM food did not deliver any the advantages that it was supposed to deliver. African Union is likely to pass this decision of complete ban on GM foods considering small scale famers and retailers across the continent. They are still in pursuit of clinging to their own conventional methods of agriculture, which will is sure not to help them from overcoming the constant food crisis that the continent is facing.

A big part of African continent is stuck with poverty and famine. Many are still dying because of hunger. This situation makes the primary objective of the continent to ensure food security and eradicate poverty. The genetically modified foods are capable of giving a big hand in ensuring food security to the whole continent. They will enable to grow better yielding crops in conditions which are less favoring for the plant growth. The Kenyan government and African Union should take necessary steps to ensure the food safety of GM foods. This is necessary for Africa than any other continent in the globe, since they are the ones who are facing the risk of food security most. Immediate reconsideration of the ban after ensuring safety is essential.
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GM foods or genetically modified organisms (GMO) are usually referred to crop plants which are created for the consumption of both human and animal having their genetic materials altered to desired conditions not occurring normally. In their creation, individual genes are selected and transferred from a certain organism to another, but can also happen between species that are not related. These methods are done to make the GM plants later grow into GM crops.

Such foods are developed usually because they are less expensive, may last longer or endure certain environments, and may have better nutritional value. An example of a GM food trait is its ability to withstand insect infestation and viral infection.

For GM foods, a more rigorous evaluation is done utilizing risk assessment techniques. This is to determine the safety of the food.

According to WHO, the risk assessment technique involves the checking of:
a) direct health effects (toxicity);
b) tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity);
c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties;
d) the stability of the inserted gene;
e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and
f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion.

Among those being checked, there are three areas of concern for GM Foods. These are the allergenicity, gene transfer, and outcrossing.

The concerns about allergenicity involve having to carefully look out for genes of commonly allergenic foods and not having them transferred to GM foods. For the gene transfer, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WHO have discouraged the antibiotic resistance genes since these may cause adverse health reactions when absorbed by human cells. Outcrossing is the movement of certain GM plants genes into traditional crops or related species. This can also be the mixing of conventional crops with GM crops. If such is done, the rigorous evaluation may be skipped and health risks may arise.

I made a quick search about the common crops being considered as GM Foods. Here’s the Top 10 Genetically Modified Food Products from the Discovery Channel Website:
1. Sugar Beets
2. Potatoes
3. Corn
4. Tomatoes
5. Squash
6. Golden Rice
7. Soybean
8. Oils
9. Animal Feed
10. Salmon

The Kenyan government firmly stands on the following top 5 reasons why GMO is banned:
1. Patented Seed
2. Soil Infertility
3. Monocropping/Loss of Biodiversity
4. Terminator Seed Technology
5. Dependency on a Centralized Food System

Personally, it is an uncomfortable thought that GM Foods are banned in an area where drought, poverty, and hunger are larger concerns. I believe something greater than banning should be implemented to address such.
Lyka Candelario, RN
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Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of some antibiotics for animals for the benefits of the consumer. Farmer’s regular habit is giving of antibiotics to their livestock to ensure the health and weight gained for good market value, but the FDA limits them from using antibiotics because it could affect the health of every consumers.
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