Maize shortage renews calls for GMO

Maize production in Kenya is under serious threat as there is a reported limited availability of quality maize in the country.

This has reignited calls for commercial farming of genetically modified maize to plug the production gap.

According to Cereal Millers Association (CMA) Chairman Nick Hutchinson, most of the available maize in the market is wet, diseased, rotten or has high levels of aflatoxins.

Mr Hutchinson is of the opinion that there is a need for the country to start considering genetically modified foods as a stop gap solution to the situation.

“We believe very strongly that there is a role for genetically modified foods we think if properly tasted, properly evaluated, properly regulated it needs to be part of agriculture not just in Kenya but in East Africa and the larger region. There are many benefits both to food safety, food nutrition and most importantly to our own farm productivity,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Millers have rejected over 700,000 bags of maize from the National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB) arguing it was not fit for human consumption. Shortage of maize has seen flour prices go up by as much as Sh15.

Speaking to citizen digital, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Director Margaret Karembu said genetically modified foods could assist in the reduction of the many setbacks facing maize farming.

“Genetically modified crops that are currently in the market are safe.  in fact 2015 was the 20th year of commercialization of GM crops and so we can say that we already have a history of 20 years in this crop having grown,” Ms Karembu said.

Genetically Modified Foods (GM foods) are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally and have always stirred controversy on whether they are fit for human consumption or not.

Kenya imposed a ban on GM crops in November 2012, citing danger to public health effectively placing a ban of import of GMO food.

According to ISAAA, the government has put in the necessary policy environment to be able to asses GM foods and is hoping that it will fully endorse this kind of farming.

Some of the policies include National Bio-safety Authority and the National biotechnology policy that was approved and endorsed by the parliament in 2006.

Report by Beatrice Eghwa

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