Government faulted on move ban importation of GMO crops

Dr John Mwoma, the director of science park innovation and incubation centre (SPIIC) at Masinde Muliro University (MMUST)- Photo/Andrew Ombuni/County Guardian News

By Andrew Ombuni

The government has been faulted by the ban imposed on the importation of genetically modified crops (GMOs) in 2012.

Scientists now GMO crops  are safe for human consumption and do not cause cancer.

John Muoma, the director of science park innovation and incubation centre (SPIIC) at Masinde Muliro University (MMUST) said the ban was a big blow to the country’s innovations in biotechnology research.

The government through the then Public Health Minister, Ms Beth Mugo, banned importation and consumption of GMOs products in 2012 on grounds that it was unfit for consumption.

Dr Muoma, a plant biotechnologist faulted the government for banning importation of GMOs by relying on the discredited study by a French Professor, Gilles-Eric Seralini.

He made the pronouncements after carrying out peer review on his findings together with Fourth year students at MMUST taking Biotechnology studies.

Prof Eric Seralini’s study that found out that GMO crops caused cancer was discredited. The study had been published by the Food and Toxology Journal in September 2012 but was later retracted in November 2013.

Dr Muoma said if the ban is lifted, it will help in ensuring the country is food secure and more so produce enough food for export. “The ban on GMOs was not based on scientific evidence and is having a negative impact on agricultural research,”

He said biotechnology can be used to develop crops that are drought and pest resistant, adding that the uptake of biotech crops will have a positive impact on farm income especially for the small scale farmers.

‘‘Genomics has aided the identification and characterization of genotypes affecting relevant traits for crop production. It also has the potential to modify plants to fit the environment leading to increased productivity,’’ said Muoma.

He added ‘‘Brazil has expanded acreage under genetically modified crops by 1.1million hectares and now over 50.2million is under GMO crops. In 2017, United States of America planted GM crops in 75million hectares and no adverse effects have been reported,’’

Muoma said countries that have embraced biotechnology have seen their economy grow and more the living standards of its citizen improved. “Adoption of biotech crops in cotton, soybean, and first and second corn represents 94 percent of such crops in Brazil has made it the second largest producer of GM crops by 26 per cent,”

Other East African countries are already carrying out trials on key foods such as banana, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes whereas Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa allow the cultivation of GMO crops.