Nelly Bassily | November 17, 2008
A bill that would provide a legal framework for the cultivation of genetically modified organisms may be passed by the Kenyan government next month, after years of delays. The Biosafety Bill would authorize the National Biosafety Authority to oversee developments in biotechnology, including genetically modified crops.
The legislation was first drafted in 2005, but has faced many obstacles. A group of 53 civil society organizations has created an online petition to oppose the bill. The group claims that genetically modified plants and animals could infiltrate indigenous farms, and that patents and licensing fees could make small-scale farmers dependant on international agri-business.
Alfred Mutua is a spokesperson for the Kenyan government. He maintains that the Biosafety Bill will shield local agriculture from the potentially negative effects of new biotechnology.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has been carrying out laboratory and field research on genetically-modified maize, sweet potato, cassava, and cotton crops.
-For an overview of the history of the Biosafety Bill, go to: http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/opinions/will-kenyas-biosafety-bill-of-2005-ever-become-la.html.
-The online petition against the bill can be found here: http://www.elci.org/Biosafetypetition%5Cbiosafety_petition.htm.