The approval of genetically modified (GMO) products in Kenya has sparked a significant debate, with diverging opinions mainly centered on health concerns, socioeconomic considerations, and political interests. On one side, scientists and experts have defended the technology, claiming it is a game-changer for the country’s food security and can help address issues such as pests and drought. The Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium (KUBICO) has stated that those opposed to GMO technology have used negative myths to communicate their message to the public. One of the common myths about GMOs is that they cause cancer, however, scientists have stated that available data from peer-reviewed journals do not show any adverse effects of biotechnology maize and that there is no connection between cancer and this technology.

John Mitema, an international reviewer of scientific journals and the chair of the Bomet University council, has stated that a lot of research has been conducted on mammals and there is no documented evidence showing any link between cancer and GMOs. Peris Onono, executive dean of the School of Business at Kenyatta University, has argued that pests, especially the stalk borer, are a major source of loss for farmers and that GMO technology can help address this issue and build food security. Onono has suggested that the government should build capacity for research institutions to ensure that seeds are propagated locally, which will give Kenyans the opportunity to see how the technology is produced and help build confidence in its use.

On the other side of the debate, those opposed to GMO technology argue that these foods are not fit for consumption and that the country is not ready for this technology, which has been in existence for the last 26 years. Some have expressed concerns that GMO crops will negatively impact the country’s biodiversity, particularly indigenous seeds. Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua has opposed the importation of GMO products, stating that the country’s food security can be achieved through sustainable agriculture.

Since President William Ruto lifted the ban on the cultivation and importation of GMOs in October, the debate has been dominated by experts in genetic engineering versus NGOs and politicians. The KUBICO, an umbrella body representing all scientists in the biotechnology field from institutions of higher learning, has accused those opposed to the technology of using negative myths to communicate their message to the public. However, anti-GMO activists have argued that the government has not adequately consulted with small-scale farmers and has not addressed concerns about the impact on the country’s biodiversity and food security.

The approval of GMO products in Kenya has sparked a significant and ongoing debate, with both sides presenting valid arguments. While scientists and experts have defended the technology as a potential solution for issues such as pests and drought, those opposed to it have raised concerns about the impact on human health, the country’s biodiversity, and food security. It remains to be seen how the Kenyan government and society will ultimately approach this issue.

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