Unending GMO Debate

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In November 2022,  Trade and investments Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria announced that the country would allow duty-free importation of 10 million bags of genetically modified maize for six months to address food shortage.

President William Ruto supported the initiative by saying that all food imported into the country has less than 1% GMO content where 40% more is paid for that food.

This decision elicited reactions from the public who raised concerns on whether the move had involved public participation, the case is still in court since then but the government is still pushing for the agenda.

So, why is the government pushing for Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO), what are they and how safe? 

GMOs are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally.

Genetically modified foods have been there since the 90s despite a large population showing resistance to the move. In 1973, Biochemists Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen developed genetic engineering by inserting DNA from one bacteria into another according to the Journal of Food science and technology.

Making genetically modified foods is all about genetic engineering which starts by identifying the desired trait you want to get in your end product.

Information from the organism with the trait is then copied and inserted into the DNA of another organism. When all is done, you can now plant the organism.

With the introduction of something new as always, there is usually resistance. The introduction of genetically modified foods is, however, being pushed for by the government, to solve the ravaging effects of drought.

The President of Kenya asked people to buy their idea saying that he has also consumed GMO food with no negative effects.

“I as the President cannot risk the lives of Kenyans who elected me. All scientists in Kenya agree that GMO is safe. The whole of South Africa and the US is 100% GMO. Have you heard any complications? I have eaten GMO food. Have I grown tits?” he said.

Statistically, according to a survey conducted by Geo Poll Survey 2022, of those that were aware of genetically modified foods, 91% had heard about the government approval.

Half of the respondents (51%) agreed at varying levels with the government’s decision to approve GMOs, while 21% strongly disagreed with the decision.

When they were asked if they were willing to consume GMO products, 43% were not willing to consume. Thirty-eight percent didn’t mind and 19% were unsure.

BY MARGARET MUGO

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