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Genetically Modified Organisms and Food Security in Kenya: Conundrum and Discourse

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Kadenge, Joshua
Date: 2022
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10869
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Africa
Subject(s): food suppy
Abstract: "The importance of food security and nourishment is recognized in East African region and in many communities, globally. However, the attainment of food security in East African countries is affected by many factors, including adverse environmental conditions, pests and diseases. Scientists have been insistently looking for innovative strategies to optimize crop production and combat challenges militating against attainment of food security. In agriculture, strategies of increasing crop production include but not limited to improved crop varieties, farming practices, extension services, irrigation services, mechanization, information technology, use of fertilizers and agrochemicals. Equally important is genetic modification (GM) technology, which brings new prospects in addressing food security problems. Nonetheless, since the introduction of genetically modified crops (GMOs) three decades ago, it has been a topic of public discourse across the globe, conspicuously so in Kenyan region. This is regardless of the evidence that planting GMOs positively influenced farmer’s incomes, economic access to food and increased tolerance of crops to various biotic and abiotic stresses. This paper looks at the issues surrounding GMOs adoption in Kenya and lack thereof, the discourse, and its potential in contributing to the attainment of food security for the present as well as future generations. The EAC is a regional trade grouping comprising Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. EAC regional bloc is characterized by rising population growth, diminishing arable land, increased malnutrition and frequent occurrence of natural disasters such as droughts and floods that have left the region food insecure.5 Faced with such challenges, strategies have to be formulated, adopted and implemented to ensure the poor and vulnerable communities in EAC, have access to resilient technologies that result in sustainable increase in production of nutritious food. Innovations in crop genetic improvement technologies like genetic engineering have the potential to offer increased, robust sustainable agricultural production in the face of population growth, climate change and shrinking natural resources.6 However, many promises of the technology that could have an impact on food security in EAC countries have not been realized because very few countries in the region have fully operationalized the necessary biosafety framework to regulate products of modern biotechnology. Most countries in EAC region have rather adopted a precautionary approach toward regulating GMO foods and crops irrespective of food shortages due to low agricultural production. Food security implies the physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life by all people.7 In light of this definition, food insecurity, under-nutrition and malnutrition are currently among the most serious concerns affecting many people in EAC region and other developing nations.8 Based on the results of EAC vulnerability assessment and analysis report, approximately 41 million people are food insecure and nine million are in urgent need of food aid.9 There is, therefore, an urgent need to increase production of nutritious food in EAC countries to avert hunger and malnutrition. Pursuant to that goal, the African Union, to which EAC countries belong, launched the Maputo Declaration on agriculture and food security in 2003 that stipulated that 10% of national budgetary resources of member countries should be committed to increase agricultural production."

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