In Kenya, GM foods were banned in November, 2012, by the Public Health minister Beth Mugo. The decision was not based on any concrete evidence of harm.
As Kenya continues to bury its head in the sand, all around us, countries that have not succumbed to superstition and hysteria are benefiting from GM foods, particularly with regard to cereals and beans.
Higher yields and far greater drought resistance mean that GM foods are the most viable option for creating food security. Old methods such as selective breeding cannot achieve the same result.
The environmental and safety fears expressed by GMO opponents can be easily addressed. Kenya would not be inventing the wheel if it allowed the production or consumption of GM foods.
GMO practices have been refined and perfected over the two decades that the technology has been providing food.
In the USA, for example, GMO farms are located close to other conventional farms without any spread of the artificially created genetic material.
Indeed, GM foods are more beneficial and less harmful to the environment than conventional foods. They require fewer pesticides and less water. For sustainable and eco-friendly cultivation, GM foods are far preferable to conventional or even organic foods.
Ultimately, Kenyans should be given the choice as to whether to consume GM foods or not. All over the world, such foods are prominently labelled, a practice we can easily adopt.
Those among our people who want cheaper, higher quality food that is cultivated in a manner that causes the least amount of drain on natural resources would then be free to consume GM foods; while those opposed to GMOs, on whatever grounds, could continue consuming only conventional or organic foods as is their right.
Kenya does not have the luxury of ignoring this safe and immensely beneficial technology. As a country we face an acute food challenge, even with our fertile soil and favourable climate.
The supply deficit in staple foods in particular could be solved relatively quickly and cheaply by introducing GMOs into our farming, resulting not only in greater yields, but also less expenditure on pesticides.
Additionally, GMOs are less susceptible to the vagaries of weather, particularly drought, than conventional foods, ensuring a more steady supply.
When cellular telephones were first introduced in Kenya, they were met with the same type of baseless opposition GMOs face. There was talk about cellphones causing cancer, infertility and even insanity! Luckily, science prevailed over myth.
Similarly, the GM food debate needs to be conducted in a rational manner. Kenyans should not be subjected to scare-mongering. Rather, scientific, environmental and food security facts should be put objectively on the table.
Let the opponents of GMO technology present a factual case against this decades-old technology rather than the current campaign of unfounded “what ifs”.