President William Ruto on Monday made a controversial decision to allow the cultivation of Genetically Modified crops in Kenya. The president gave the directive after a meeting with the cabinet. This comes almost ten years after November 2012 when the late former president Mwai Kibaki banned the crops.
Why were Genetically Modified crops banned then?
Controversy has always surrounded the GMOs as an alternative source of food especially in sub-Saharan Africa despite the region being the most affected by droughts and famine. GMOs are generally believed to be detrimental to the health of individuals although no substantial evidence has been put forward. In 2012 Beth Mugo the Minister of Public Health at that time cited a study conducted at Kenya Medical Research Institute that seemed to prove that the products were carcinogenic. Trhis led to the ban by The late President Mwai Kibaki on 9th November 2012.
Why lift the ban now?
Kenya has in the past one year received criticism from the USA on the reluctance to legalise GMOs. The move is seen as a ploy to straighten diplomatic relations between the two countries who are heavily interlinked. A move to legalise GMOs in Kenya is crucial to the United states as they are the biggest producers of GMOs.
Among other things that might have been discussed in the cabinet meeting, the central agenda must have been on the drought situation in the country. the drought has affected almost half of the Kenyan Counties. This therefore means that Kenya which is predominantly an agricultural nation is short of the expected food reserves. The re-introduction of the crops is seen as a move to streamline the food situation in the country to prevent the hunger and starvation that is being witnessed now.
There has also been speculations that the government is facing a tough economic situation that they inherited from the previous government. If that is so then the government may not be able to satisfy the need for constant supply of relief food. The GMO will act as a cushion in the future in case of similar occurrences.
The supporters of the decision have pointed out that the move will boost Kenya’s food capacity because the said crops are drought resistant and therefore have the ability to survive i9n the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya. The critics on the other hand have pointed out that the government is turning a deaf ear to the finding of Beth Mugo under the Kibaki regime.
What next ?
The move is to take effect immediately and it is expected that the government will organize publicity campaigns to popularize the move. It is however not very strange considering that the government has sometime in the past allowed the planting of GMO cassavas which are believed to be drought resistant. A specie of cotton that is believed to be resistant from pests and diseases has also been allowed in the past.
How it shall turn only time shall tell.