As Rains and Crops Fail Kenyans Debate Whether Drought-Resistant GM Crops Are a Solution
Kenya faces a severe water and food shortage following four failed consecutive rainy seasons. The harshest drought in the East African region, which has not been seen in the past four decades, has pushed much livestock to perish due to a lack of food.
The deadliest drought, which now affects more than 4.4 million Kenyans, has recently attracted heated debate on whether people should adopt genetically modified organism foods to curb food shortage in the country.
Will GMOs Foods Help Kenya Fight Drought?
Genetically modified organisms are types of food crops featuring genes strands from another organism inserted into their DNA. GM crops grow fast and are disease- and drought-resistant compared to typical plants.
Even though many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, and India, have embraced the wide use of GM foods, several governments in many regions, such as East Africa and Europe, have banned the use of GMs.
In 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture banned the importation of GM foods. Moreover, in the past few years, many people and governments have linked genetically modified foods with various types of cancer.
But interestingly, in a short interview with BBC, Richard Oduor, a professor of biotechnology at Kenyatta University, refuted cancer claims in GM foods, emphasizing that eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has no impact on the human body.
GMO Foods Gain Mainstream Adoption
In recent months, GMO foods have begun gaining adoption among Kenyans after the government lifted their decade-long ban in October. At the time, Franklin Mithika Linturi, the cabinet secretary for Agriculture, stated that he would allow farmers to grow genetically modified crops to ease drought impacts and the country’s recent high cost of living.
According to Linturi, GMO maize would help improve the country’s food supply, relieving some of the pressure of the ongoing drought. The Kenyan government recently ordered 11 tons of pest-resistant GM maize seeds widely grown in South Africa.
However, several non-profit organizations have filed lawsuits against the Ministry of Agriculture, seeking to block the importation of GMs Seeds into the country. The plaintiffs cited that GMs would impact the natural resources in the East African region.
If the government wins the lawsuit, pro-GMO campaigners believe that the drought and pest-resistant crops will raise the yield return in the country. Kenya produces a third as much maize per hectare as Brazil, China and France, where GM maize is widely grown.
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