BY HARRIET MUGO
Animal feed millers have supported the lifting of the ban on importation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) saying it will improve prices.
They are happy with the government’s move, which was communicated through a Cabinet dispatch on October 3, 2022.
“The lifting of the ban will now allow us to import soybean meal and yellow maize from both GMO and non-GMO sources,” they said yesterday in Nairobi calling on the government to also extend the gazette notice due for expiry this month, to allow duty free importation of animal feed raw materials.
Under the Association for Kenya Feed Manufacturers (AKEFEMA), the feed millers said the ban on importation of GMO foods had crippled the country’s ability to respond promptly to food and feed crises.
The Association’s secretary general, Martin Kinoti, said extension of the Gazette notice will enable the feed millers to choose source markets for yellow maize and soya.
“This will create more price competitiveness,” he said.
He said the ban on GMOs which lasted almost 10 years restricted the sources of feed raw materials, in the process crippling the country’s ability to respond promptly to food and feed crises.
“And this is despite the availability of overwhelming scientific evidence that GMOs approved by close to 70 governments around the world are safe for human and animal consumption,” the Association noted.
Kinoti noted that the country also has a fully functional robust policy, legal and institutional framework for governing the use of GMOs, and thus the ban paved way for serious negative consequences, mainly unavailability of feed and high cost.
“This led to loss of jobs and livelihoods due to closure/scale down of livestock farms, collapse of about 40 milling industries in the last two years,” he pointed out.
He noted that due to the ban, AKEFEMA members could not access soya beans from the open market, such as Brazil, Argentina and the US, which grow GMO crops, a key source of feed proteins.
“With the lifting of the ban on GMOs, Kenya is now able to source key ingredients from outside our southern neighbours, mainly Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda,” he said.
In a Cabinet dispatch after President William Ruto chaired a meeting at State House, the government explained that the decision to lift the ban was in response to the worst drought to hit the country in 40 years.
This drought has left more than three million people on the verge of starvation.
Since the ban was announced various civil society organisations and individuals have protested the move. Others have vowed to picket at the Office of President until the ban is reinstated.
They have raised concerns over the safety of GM foods on human health, and the future of organic farming in the country.
However, AKEFEMA feels that with the deployment of Agricultural Biotechnology, Kenya can now viably produce soya beans to serve this local industry.
Currently, a 70 kg bag of dairy meal is selling at Sh2, 500, layers at Sh3, 500, broiler Starter mash at Sh4, 750 while pig feed is averaging at Sh2, 550 per 70kg bag.
Kinoti said this is due to the upward changes in prices of feed, which in turn is directly attributed to the shortage, high cost and unavailability of raw materials making the livestock sector uncompetitive.
According to a study by ILRI (2018), eggs, milk and meat are widely consumed in households as a major source of protein and accounting for nearly 40 percent of a household’s food budget.
“Therefore, any change in the supply chain in the production and processing of the above, to which animal feeds play a critical factor, threatens the food security and nutrition pillar of the National Government Agenda,” said Kinoti.
Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) chairperson, Dr. Margaret Karembu, defended the country’s policy, legal and institutional framework for governing the use of GMOs.
“Under this framework, the GMOs that have been grown since 1996 are no longer a new technology, and therefore no need to panic,” she said.
By 2019, 17 million farmers from 29 countries grew 191 million hectares of GM crops and 19 of these countries were developing countries.
Karembu said currently South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Eswatini and Ghana are cultivating 2.7 million hectares of GM crops. Further, Brazil cultivates 53 Million hectares, India -12 Million hectares, Canada -12 million hectares and China – 3.2 million hectares.
“The European Union, with its highly competitive livestock sector is 70 percent import-dependent on high-protein crops. Most of which are GMOs imported from countries with 90 percent adoption of soybean and maize,” she said.
She called for stakeholders’ in all parts of the country to share the available information on the use, propagation and consumption of GMOs.
Karembu is also championing a review of the role, use and farming of GMO materials for the exclusive use in the animal feed manufacturing sector