KENYA— The Kenyan government has lifted its ban on Genetically Modified Crops in the country after 10 years of suspension, permitting farmers to cultivate and import food crops and animal feeds that have been genetically enhanced through biotechnology.
In a meeting Chaired by President William Ruto in State House Nairobi, the cabinet reached the decision in accordance with the recommendation of the Task Force to Review Matters Relating to Genetically Modified Foods and Food Safety, and in fidelity with the guidelines of the National Biosafety Authority on all applicable international treaties including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB).
Kenya has been reluctant to approve the import or planting of genetically modified food crops since November 2012, amid an ongoing debate about the safety of GM crops, which have been lauded for their advantages including resistance to drought, pests, and higher yields.
“As part of the medium to long term responses to the ongoing drought, and as a progressive step towards significantly redefining agriculture in Kenya by adopting crops that are resistant to pests and disease…” read the statement in part.
In April, the United States government slammed Kenya for its failure to approve imported genetically modified (GM) foods and crops saying the measure is restricting its exports.
The move has restricted the sales of products from US companies, which have been seeking potential new markets like Kenya.
“Kenya’s GE ban has blocked both US government food aid and agricultural exports derived from agricultural biotechnology,” the USTR said in its annual trade barriers list published in late March.
The US Trade Representative’s office (USTR) said in its annual report approval by Nairobi could boost agricultural purchases from the US by Kenya which is the world’s biggest producer of GM crops.
This year, manufacturers of animal feed have also been urging the government to allow the importation of yellow maize and GM soya beans to cushion farmers against high prices.
In July, the Government of Kenya issued additional tariff exemptions for genetically engineered Bt. cottonseed cake, distillers’ dried grains with solubles, and rapeseed cake to address rising feed costs.
Across Africa, GM crops are commercially grown in South Africa, Nigeria, and Sudan.
More than a dozen other nations are currently undertaking trials on about eight GM crops, including banana, cassava, and maize, in preparation for their introduction into the food supply.
Kenya is seen as one of the country’s leading adoption of GM crops in the continent, amid censure from campaigners.
For instance, Ugandan scientists have struggled to progress their GM crop research beyond confined field trials (CFTs) thanks to a lack of biosafety regulations to guide GM crops commercialization.
This has led scientists developing an improved GM maize variety that is drought-tolerant and insect-resistant at Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), to halt their research and destroy their results.