KENYA – Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya has noted that European buyers of Kenya’s horticultural produce have become nervous over the country’s lifting of the ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Many of the importing countries are forcing exporters to carry out extra certification to confirm that the products have not been enhanced by the technology.

GMOs are yet to be fully adopted by the European Union and there have been concerns before from the continent when Kenya wanted to introduce biotechnology flowers to the market.

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya Chief Executive Officer Okisegere Ojepat says the queries they are facing from customers are on whether what they are exporting is still GMO-free.

“We are being questioned to confirm whether what we are selling to our European customers is GMO or non-GMO and we are required to show proof through additional certification. There is no clarity so far from the government on what is going on and this is causing confusion.

We need clarity from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to give comfort to the country and the world just to ensure that our trading partners are aware of Kenya’s position. What customers are insisting on now is a declaration that what we are exporting is not GMO and, by all means, it should not have traces of GMO.”

Mr. Ojepat added that though GMO is a good technology for boosting food production, politics surrounding it since the lifting of the ban has caused confusion all over.

The European Union still accounts for the largest ratio of Kenyan horticultural exports, taking in 45 percent of the sales majorly comprising cut flowers, French beans, snow peas, and Asian vegetables.

Last year, NBA stopped planting GMO flowers after it emerged that allowing its cultivation would hit the country’s exports to Europe.

As explained by the Kenyan government, it adopted GMO technology as a means of addressing high food prices that are currently the result of drought and poor crop yields. It has already earmarked a million acres to be put under GMO crops in the next planting season.

With the implications for cancer and other diseases, although scientists cannot confirm whether GMOs increase or even link to cancer risks, GMO products are highly rejected in the market.

A court in Kenya last week stopped the importation and distribution of GMO products in the country after activists challenged the move by the government.

Genome editing technology to ensure food security

Meanwhile, Dr. Olalekan Akinbo, Supervisor AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science Technology and Innovation during the development of a GEd Communications Strategy for Ghana said utilization of Genome Editing (GEd), a scientific technology, can help develop pests-resistance seed varieties to boost food security in Ghana.

He explained that GEd technology would ensure sustainability and protect biodiversity–varieties of plants and animals–from harmful chemical substances frequently used by farmers to spray their crops would reduce and help them make savings.

Using the technology, the messenger system (a chemical in food crops including tomatoes, mango, plantain, and avocado that signal ripping) can send a signal that it should not rip in 10 days but should delay in 40 days. This will not in any way affect the nutritional value, taste, and content.

“As a technology, genome editing appears fairly new to us and is in its formative stages of development and application in Africa. It appears a bit technical and abstract to the average person with little appreciation of science,” he stated.

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