Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Atta Annan once said that Africa should embrace biotechnology in food production. He even said that GM foods would alleviate the problem of hunger in the continent. Late last year, Kenya’s parliament passed the Bio-safety Bill with a little push by the US producers of genetically modified corn (USGC).

The USGC is openly beating it’s chest declaring that the passage of the bill is a direct result of years of their work promoting the technology in the region. They proudly declare that members of Kenya and Malawi’s parliaments – who were still debating the laws that would legalize importation of GM foods – were part of a contingent of African leaders who visited its project plot in South Africa.

According to Kurt Shultz, USGC director in the Mediterranean and Africa, in May 2006, a high-level delegation from Kenya, Malawi and South Africa consisting of Members of Parliament from each country, visited Council-sponsored biotechnology test plots in South Africa. “The timing was significant in that Kenya and Malawi were debating bills to adopt the commercial cultivation of biotechnology,” he said. “The positive impact and practical benefits the Members of Parliament saw at the USGC-sponsored test plots convinced them that Kenyan and Malawian farmers could benefit immensely from the technology if its products were made available to them. As a result, the Members of Parliament resolved to fast-track the introduction of the technology into their respective countries.”

Su Kahumbu (right) of Green Dreams at the Kibera Organic Plot

Su Kahumbu (right) of Green Dreams at the Kibera Organic Plot

The bio-safety bill was scheduled to be ascended to by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki before 1 January 2009, but that has not happened yet. As a result, organic farmers are stepping up their efforts to lobby the President not to ascend the Bill into law.

I was sent a link to an online petition calling on President Kibaki not to sign the bill on Facebook today from group called Green Dreams. Green Dreams is also the name of the organic marketing firm that is behind the group. The petition is here for those of you who don’t want GM to be legalized in Kenya. I don’t know how well that will work given that the entire media fraternity was all over him and he still ascended to the controversial so called Media Bill.

I am not sure, either, if the importation and/or production of GM foods is really going to change the food situation in Africa. As a matter of fact, it could bring more harm than good. Europe for instance will still prefer organic tomatoes over GM tomatoes – for those who want to export fresh produce to pay school fees for their children. With growing environmental and biodiversity awareness and sympathy, the chances of GM production methods remaining attractive in the long run is not a guarantee.

One can plainly see why the USGC wants the biosafety law – or in their words – “U.S. producers of genetically enhanced corn may soon see their products in the Kenyan market as Kenya recently passed a bio-safety bill permitting importation and cultivation of biotech crops and products.” They want a market for their products. Period.

One Kenyan legislator opposing the law in parliament on around 9 December 2008 pointed out in countries where GMO technology is used, such crops are solely used for animal feeds and not for human consumption. I believe he was saying that Africans are being treated like animals. I wonder if that is true.

While those MPs who supported the Bill said that Kenya is food insufficient and GM should remedy that, the opposing MPs countered that Kenya, and indeed Africa, is food insecure not for lack of GMOs but for lack of proper planning adding that low irrigation, lack of water harvesting coupled with poor infrastructure and effects of climate change is hampering countries in the region from ensuring food security of her citizens. And I agree with them.

The organic revolution is however catching up and the Kibera Story should wow you at any given time. Today I also read in the Independent online a story about a farmer in Malawi who chose to go organic for a very unusual reason. He owed his government $17 for fertilizer and government officers threatened to take away his 11 pigs if he didn’t pay up. Luckily, he borrowed the money from the local pastor, but he swore he’d never depend on fertilizer again. He’d grow his crops the way his father, and his grandfather grew their crops – the natural way.

Now, isn’t that a story? You are free to comment here and let the world know what your views are. Organic or GM?

Kenya’s Bio-safety Bill vs Organic Farminghttp://kijanimedia.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/su-k.jpghttp://kijanimedia.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/su-k-150x150.jpg kijanimedia Bio-safetyEnvironment,,,,,,,
Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Atta Annan once said that Africa should embrace biotechnology in food production. He even said that GM foods would alleviate the problem of hunger in the continent. Late last year, Kenya's parliament passed the Bio-safety Bill with a little push by the US producers...
Former UN Secretary General, <em>Kofi</em> Atta Annan once said that Africa should embrace biotechnology in food production. He even said that GM foods would alleviate the problem of hunger in the continent. Late last year, <a href="http://www.thebioenergysite.com/news/2615/kenya-passes-biosafety-bill-aided-by-usgc-efforts" target="_blank">Kenya's parliament passed the Bio-safety Bill</a> with a little push by the US producers of genetically modified corn (USGC). The USGC is openly beating it's chest declaring that the passage of the bill is a direct result of years of their work promoting the technology in the region. They proudly declare that members of Kenya and Malawi's parliaments - who were still debating the laws that would legalize importation of GM foods - were part of a contingent of African leaders who visited its project plot in South Africa. According to Kurt Shultz, USGC director in the Mediterranean and Africa, in May 2006, a high-level delegation from Kenya, Malawi and South Africa consisting of Members of Parliament from each country, visited Council-sponsored biotechnology test plots in South Africa. "The timing was significant in that Kenya and Malawi were debating bills to adopt the commercial cultivation of biotechnology," he said. "The positive impact and practical benefits the Members of Parliament saw at the USGC-sponsored test plots convinced them that Kenyan and Malawian farmers could benefit immensely from the technology if its products were made available to them. As a result, the Members of Parliament resolved to fast-track the introduction of the technology into their respective countries." The bio-safety bill was scheduled to be ascended to by Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki before 1 January 2009, but that has not happened yet. As a result, organic farmers are stepping up their efforts to lobby the President not to ascend the Bill into law. I was sent a link to an online petition calling on President Kibaki not to sign the bill on Facebook today from group called Green Dreams. Green Dreams is also the name of the organic marketing firm that is behind the group. <a href="http://www.thepetitionsite.com/3/stop-the-kenyan-president" target="_blank">The petition is here</a> for those of you who don't want GM to be legalized in Kenya. I don't know how well that will work given that the entire media fraternity was all over him and he still ascended to the controversial so called Media Bill. I am not sure, either, if the importation and/or production of GM foods is really going to change the food situation in Africa. As a matter of fact, it could bring more harm than good. Europe for instance will still prefer organic tomatoes over GM tomatoes - for those who want to export fresh produce to pay school fees for their children. With growing environmental and biodiversity awareness and sympathy, the chances of GM production methods remaining attractive in the long run is not a guarantee. One can plainly see why the USGC wants the biosafety law - or <a href="http://www.grains.org/news-events/918-kenya-passes-bio-safety-bill-aided-by-usgc-efforts-" target="_blank">in their words</a> - "U.S. producers of genetically enhanced corn may soon see their products in the Kenyan market as Kenya recently passed a bio-safety bill permitting importation and cultivation of biotech crops and products." They want a market for their products. Period. One Kenyan legislator opposing the law in parliament on around 9 December 2008 pointed out in countries where GMO technology is used, such crops are solely used for animal feeds and not for human consumption. I believe he was saying that Africans are being treated like animals. I wonder if that is true. While those MPs who supported the Bill said that Kenya is food insufficient and GM should remedy that, the opposing MPs countered that Kenya, and indeed Africa, is food insecure not for lack of GMOs but for lack of proper planning adding that low irrigation, lack of water harvesting coupled with poor infrastructure and effects of climate change is hampering countries in the region from ensuring food security of her citizens. And I agree with them. The organic revolution is however catching up and the <a href="http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1209-hance_interview_kahumbu.html" target="_blank">Kibera Story</a> should wow you at any given time. Today <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/appeals/indy-appeal/independent-appeal-malawi-strikes-organic-gold-1225814.html" target="_blank">I also read in the Independent online a story about a farmer in Malawi</a> who chose to go organic for a very unusual reason. He owed his government $17 for fertilizer and government officers threatened to take away his 11 pigs if he didn't pay up. Luckily, he borrowed the money from the local pastor, but he swore he'd never depend on fertilizer again. He'd grow his crops the way his father, and his grandfather grew their crops - the natural way. Now, isn't that a story? You are free to comment here and let the world know what your views are. Organic or GM?