What you need to know:
- But there is a broad scientific consensus that GM foods are not that dangerous.
- Since farming in Kenya is mainly non-mechanised, rural farmers face reduced manpower.
Sustainable food security is a key pillar of the “Big Four Agenda”. But the agricultural sector faces challenges due to the heterogeneity and unfriendliness of the biophysical environments. And since farming in Kenya is mainly non-mechanised, rural farmers face reduced manpower due to the rural-urban migration of productive populations. These lead to low food production and less returns to costly inputs by the under-resourced farmers.
Kenya banned genetically modified (GM) products in 2012 on the basis of a later-debunked paper by a French scientist that controversially linked consumption of GM corn to cancer. That fanned misgivings about biotechnology and sustained social and political resistance that have prevented the adoption and diffusion of the technology in law and practice. GM plants are highly stigmatised and products extremely regulated, leading to increased monopolisation by wealthy firms and hampering innovation and investments in agricultural development.
But there is a broad scientific consensus that GM foods are not that dangerous. In 2007, the EU said they are as safe for human consumption as conventional crops or even safer. In more than eight countries, they are grown on 148 million acres. In the US, their commercialisation began as early as 1990 with incredible gains in terms of expanded choice and flexibility in crop and cropping systems, improved yield and new value-added crops affecting market opportunities.
Kenya should jettison the myths and ideological hysteria about GM foods as they are key to achieving sustainable food security. The government has to prioritise it to increase the productivity of existing farmland, reduce pressure to farm marginal land and fragile ecosystems and support integrated pest management. That will not only lead to sustainability but also enable it to meets its social and welfare objectives and rejig rural economies and competitiveness.
Mr Onyango is a Global Impact Fellow at MWI. [email protected]