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July24,2011:KENYA:-Genetically modified food is not harmful to eat, an assistant minister has said.Education assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny asked Kenyans to ignore false claims about the food.“I have eaten genetically modified food in South Africa and I have not died. I have not had any negative effect from eating it,” he said at a press conference at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.Prof Olweny, who taught genetics and agriculture at Nairobi and Maseno universities before becoming an MP, refuted claims that GM food had negative effects.He said GM crops were the product of research in agriculture just as technological advances resulted in the development of mobile phones.He said Kenya had the capacity to handle GM products, contrary to the assertion made by Public Health minister Beth Mugo a week ago.“I’ll say that here, and I’ll say it again tomorrow,” said Prof Olweny.He said the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute and universities could handle the products.Prof Olweny claimed there were chances Kenyans were wearing clothes made of genetically modified cotton from China, which has 3.5 million hectares of the cotton.“The most likely thing is that the dress you are wearing, the shirt, the underwear, the towel you use to wipe yourself is made of GM cotton. Have you felt anything?” he posed.
July24,2011:Andhra Pradesh:-The controversial Genetically Modified (GM) crop field trials are all set to get a fillip in the state. The Andhra Pradesh government is moving in the direction of encouraging and regulating the controversial GM crop field trials. For this it has formed a 5-member committee of experts, headed by Principal Secretary to the government, Agriculture Department, to review the situation now and then, and to assess requests for Biotechnology trials (Institutional Strip Tests and BRLs).The Centre recently modified its rules and sought permission from state governments before granting appr-oval of GM crop field trials. Several companies and institutions have appr-oached the Central government’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee for permission to conduct field trials for a variety of crops including BT wheat, tomato, okra (bhendi) and maize.
In a major decision at the GEAC 110th meeting, it was decided that for all GM crop field trials, the GEAC/RCGM would issue an approval letter only on receipt of a No Objection Certificate from the...
July24,2011:KENYA:-quires 200,000 bales of cotton every year to be self-sufficient in cotton needs and this is easily achievable through planting GMO cotton.These revelations come when the country is debating whether it should import GMO maize from South Africa.Arguments in favour of adopting genetically modified maize have resonated from the larger science community, while environmental activists have opposed it on the grounds that GMOs are harmful to humans and biodiversity in the long term.
In Africa, GMO technology has been mostly applied to cotton and maize crops although the technology has been used to develop vaccines like that against Hepatitis B and hormones like insulin used by...
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July17,2011:-Guidelines issued by the Cabinet yesterday on genetically modified foods clear up a great deal of confusion.They are bound to be controversial insofar as they allow the importation of GM maize at a time when there are still a lot of worries over the safety of such foodstuffs.The Cabinet statement came just a day after an assurance by Public Health minister Beth Mugo that Kenya had not opened the doors to GM maize. Not so reassuring, however, was her admission that she could not rule out such maize being already in the market.Her assurance came with the rider that “officially we are not aware of the presence of GM maize in the country . . . we cannot rule it out completely because we understand what happens at the port of Mombasa.”The garbled message presented the picture of a government unaware of what was going on; and one that would be impotent if merchants chose to circumvent all safeguards related to GM foods.It also presented a picture of a government whose left hand does not know what the right is doing.Kenyans are being presented with conflicting information from the ministries of Public Health, Agriculture, Special Programmes, and Higher Education, Science and Technology.The situation is also muddied by the conflicting positions exhibited by a myriad administrative, research and regulatory bodies, especially the National Biosafety Authority, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology.At the very least Kenyans should expect coherent policies from their government free of doublespeak and contradictions.Hopefully the Cabinet statement clarifies matters, but it must be followed by action that ensures Kenya has the capacity to vigorously enforce the safety regulations. Public worries about the safety of GM foods cannot be taken lightly.
July17,2011:-As I reported last week, the USDA's recent surprise decision not to regulate genetically modified bluegrass poked yet more holes in an already-porous regime for overseeing GM crops—essentially to the point of regulatory collapse.There were a few important strands I wasn't able to wrestle into the story. The main one is an odd letter that USDA secretary Tom Vilksack sent Scotts Miracle-Gro as an addendum to the agency's response to Scott's GM bluegrass petition. Vilsack's letter, dated July 1, acknowledges concerns that GM bluegrass will contaminate non-GM bluegrass—that is, that the Roundup Ready gene will move through wind-blown pollen and work its way into non-modified varieties. This is the process known as "gene flow," and it has already been well-established for GM corn and other modified crops.Since bluegrass shows up (among other places) in cow pastures, organic dairy and beef farmers face the risk of suddenly having their animals nosh on fields full of a GM crop, which would jeopardize their organic status. As the the secretary put it in his letter:he USDA recognizes that if this GE variety were to be commercially released, producers wishing to grow non-GE Kentucky bluegrass will likely have concerns related to gene flow between the GE variety and non-GE Kentucky bluegrass. Exporters of Kentucky bluegrass seed, growers of non-GE Kentucky bluegrass seed, and those involved in the use of non-GE Kentucky bluegrass in pastures will likely have concerns about the loss of their ability to meet contractual obligations.
So, Scotts is going to release a product that will potentially cause real and arbitrary harm to market actors. What's Vilsack's response?USDA therefore strongly encourages Scotts to discuss these...
July17,2011:-Differences continued to emerge among leaders over whether the country should import genetically modified crops.Medical assistant minister Kazungu Kambi and Belgut MP Charles Keter warned against the importation of GM maize, arguing that it had negative effects.“We do not want our people to eat GM maize because it has bad effects on their health. We totally are against it,” said Mr Kambi.However, Agriculture secretary Wilson Songa said the country could not run away from GM technology.“The technology is coming, there is no stopping it,” he said.Dr Songa said maize production in the country would double if the country adopted GM crops.“Before we fully introduce the crop, it will go through the necessary agro-research analysis through Kenya Agricultural Research Institute,” he said.He argued that a farm with GM crop could produce as much as 40 to 50 bags of maize per acre unlike the current case where only 30 bags were produced.Kenya produces about 32 million bags of maize yearly while the consumption has shot up to 38 million due to rise in population.The agriculture secretary noted that if the country adopted the technology, production would shoot up to about 64 million bags.A 90kg bag of maize is currently going for Sh4,500, up from Sh1,200 three years ago.Speaking during a Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security meeting at Intercontinental Hotel, Dr Songa said the country could not be competitive if it stuck to the old traditional methods of farming.He cited South Africa, where farmers used three to four pesticides on a GM crop while in Kenya farmers used more than 15 pesticides before a crop matured.