What is in this article?:
- Kenya may spearhead GM crops in Africa
- Misbegotten GM food ban
- Sub-Saharan Africa lags the world in food production. While farmers in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S. have jumped at the chance to take advantage of high-yielding GM crops, farmers in Kenya and its neighbors have been relegated to the sidelines.
A newly elected government provides a country with a rare opportunity for a fresh start—and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nomination of Felix Kiptarus Kosgey to become Kenya’s next Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries offers my nation a remarkable opening to make a hard push for real food security.
Success, however, will require President Kenyatta, his deputy Ruto, Agriculture Secretary nominee Kosgey, and the rest of our new government to set aside the bad mistakes of the recent past and embrace the bright future of biotechnology.
There’s every reason to hope that they will. At the launch of the Jubilee Coalition manifesto in February, Kenyatta and Ruto promised to “put food and water on every Kenyan’s table.” At his inauguration on April 9, Kenyatta reaffirmed his government will implement the manifesto in total.
This is both a tall order and a worthy goal—and one of the surest ways to achieve it is by accepting the latest advances in agricultural biotechnology, recognizing that they have become conventional practices in many countries and should become so here as well.
Everywhere farmers have had the chance, they have adopted genetically modified crops. Last year, more than 17 million farmers around the world planted more than 170 million hectares of GM crops, according to a new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
This is an all-time high. Moreover, farmers in poor countries made it possible: For the first time, developing nations accounted for more than half of the world’s GM crop plantings.
Unfortunately, as much as Kenyan farmers have hailed the Green Revolution of the 20th century, they have not yet participated in this Gene Revolution of the 21st century.
Our scientists have made strides toward developing biotech crops that would flourish in our soil and climate, but a toxic mix of scientific illiteracy and political pressure has prevented the commercialization of these promising plants. To make matters even worse, the previous government banned the importation of GM foods into Kenya and ordered the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to remove all GM foods from the shelves of grocery stores.
This tragic decision came last November, in the wake of a controversial French study that claimed to find a connection between GM food and tumors in rats. The results were immediately widely debunked by renowned scientists from around the world.
Yet the political activists whose personal ideology opposes agricultural biotechnology—many of them wealthy Europeans who don’t have to wonder about their next meal—managed to smear a vital tool for fighting hunger.