National Biosafety Authority Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Roy Mugiira, speaks at the GLOBALG.A.P. Tourstop in Nairobi. Photo Credit: Murimi Gitari

Biosafety regulator allays fears of Kenya’s GMO nod affecting the export market

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”T” dropcap_content=”HE Kenyan government has sought to allay fears that the lifting of the GMO ban will affect the export market for horticultural produce”]

The National Biosafety Authority Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Roy Mugiira, said the country’s priority at the moment is to roll out cultivation of Bt Cotton and Bt Maize and not the largely exported horticultural crops.

“At the moment Kenya does not export maize but largely the exports are the horticultural crops and there is no reason to raise alarm about losing the export market due to the lifting of the ban by the government,” Dr Mugiira said during the GLOBALG.A.P.

Tourstop conference held in Nairobi between March 28 and 30. President William Ruto’s Cabinet last year lifted a 10-year ban on GMOs, paving the way for the cultivation

of biotech crops and importation of GMO foods to alleviate a food shortage in the country. The policy shift raised concerns in some quarters that Kenya might lose its export market, especially in the European Union (EU), which is a key market for fresh produce.

The European Union is one of the frontrunners of the precautionary principle in adopting GM technology which aims to minimise the potentially harmful effects on the environment and human health while balancing potential benefits to agriculture and trade.

But Dr Mugiira ruled out any problems for Kenya’s exports to the EU, saying Kenya is complying with the Cartagena Protocol as relates to transboundary movement of living modified organisms and precautionary principle.

The primary role of this protocol, he observed, is to facilitate trade in the crops sector which requires special attention to non-tariff trade barriers such as negative legislation and prohibitive regulation of modern agricultural biotechnology, particularly genetic modification of organisms.

“The EU, even with the precautionary principle, largely imports GM products from Argentina, Brazil and the US and therefore it can be taken as a non-tariff barrier to trade.

We routinely issue certificates of status of non-GMO to exporters taking their produce to different destinations. The produce includes tea, dry beans and macadamia that require certificate of status of non-GMO which is a non-tariff barrier,” he said. Dr Mugiira said that the NBA will adopt standards like the GLOBALG.A.P. to ensure traceability of produce from the farms to the market.

“This is the same procedure we want to adopt as National Biosafety Authority to ensure the safety of everyone when it comes to GMOs,” Dr Mugiira said. Agriculture Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai also defended the government’s decision to lift the GMO ban, saying it was by the report of a taskforce that found the products posed no safety risks to human health and the environment.

Mr Kimtai noted that the Act of Parliament that constituted the National Biosafety Authority in 2011 gave it powers to ensure the country has competent skills to monitor the cultivation of GMO crops.

“This GM technology was adopted long ago by countries we trade with and it was therefore important as a country to also adopt it by lifting the ban that was imposed ten years ago for Kenya to be able to produce more food. With the effect of climate change, our farmers require varieities that are droughttolerant and pest and disease-resistant,” he said.

GLOBALG.A.P. Managing Director Dr. Kristian Moeller and NBA CEO Dr Roy Mugiira. Photo Credit: Murimi Gitari

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