Nelly Bassily | May 3, 2010
A shipment of maize sitting at Mombassa port has ignited fresh controversy over GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in Kenya.
The Kenya Biodiversity Coalition is a group of farmers’ organizations and other civil society groups. In late March, they sounded an alarm about the shipment. The group says the maize is genetically modified. The government only says the maize is contentious.
Kenya is divided on the issue of GMOs. A year ago, the president signed a bill governing cultivation and use of genetically modified crops. It opened the door for new GMO field tests.
Kiritu Wamae is Permanent Secretary for Agriculture. He confirms that GM products are still outlawed in Kenya. He said the government treats as rumour the claim that maize at Mombassa port is genetically modified.
Meanwhile, an independent investigation claims that the government knew the maize was genetically modified. Wynand van der Walt is a member of Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa, a group that promotes regional economic integration. Mr. van de Walt says the maize exporter complied with an international biosafety protocol by declaring the crop was genetically modified.
The Kenya Biodiversity Coalition is outraged that the shipment arrived just as local farmers harvested a bumper crop. While the shipment sits in port, grain farmers are looking for buyers.
Anna Maina is a spokesperson for the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition. She says the GM maize is a threat to indigenous maize. It will contaminate Kenya’s maize gene pool, she maintains.