NATIONAL BIOSAFETY AUTHORITY
January 25, 2017
PRESS RELEASE ON ULTIMATUM BY STUDENTS TO THE GOVERNMENT ON GMO FOODS
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) is State Corporation mandated to exercise general supervision and control over the transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with a view of ensuring safety of human, animal, health and the environment. The Authority is established under the National Biosafety Act No. 2 of 2009.
Our attention has been drawn to an article “Youths to State: lift ban on GMO foods or else... appearing in page 2 of Daily Nation published on 25th January, 2107. In the article the Youth Senate demonstrated and demanded that the GMO ban imposed by the Cabinet in 2012 be lifted within 30 days. The youths have also demanded that the Government invest in Genetic engineering.
The Authority is fully aware that the Cabinet during its 16th Cabinet meeting held on 8th November 2012, directed to institute a ban on all genetically modified (GM) food imports until such a time that there is sufficient information, data and knowledge demonstrating that GM foods are not a danger to public health. Since then the ban has been in place and being enforced by the Authority and other agencies of Government.
We wish to inform the students and the Kenyan public that the ban only affects GM food imports and use while Research, Development, Training or Transit of GMOs in Kenya were not banned. Therefore these activities have been going on since 2012.
We wish to stat that the Government of Kenya recognizes and gives priority to biotechnology as one of the tools for spurring economic growth, poverty alleviation towards realization of Vision 2030 and Medium Term Plan II (2013-2017). Kenya is a signatory of the International law on application of GM Technology (the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) and also the World Trade Organization (WTO).
We empathize with the lack of information and misinformation that our Biotechnology students have and would like to inform that the Government of Kenya has put in place structures to ensure that Biotechnology is taught in our universities. In brief, we inform that the Government has invested heavily and continues to allocate funds in biotechnology and biosafety in terms of infrastructure and human capacity in Kenyan universities and research institutions. Furthermore, a number of research projects, are at advanced stages, utilizing GM technology. The Authority is therefore not happy to see them demonstrating on matters that are not academic.
To stimulate interest in Biotechnology as a subject in our Universities, NBA has continued to support the growth of Biotechnology and Biosafety as professional disciplines in Kenya. The Biosafety Training and Accreditation Department at NBA works closely with other agencies and Universities in biosafety curriculum development and certification of professionals and competencies by conducting specialized training as required for in regulations, certification and accreditation by NBA. Therefore, NBA is available to help coordinate biosafety training and capacity building programs to Universities, regulatory agencies, Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) and other stakeholders. We also support mentorships through an attachment and internship programme.
The Authority is available to support Universities and faculty to update their current syllabuses and skills in emerging biotechnologies which include Gene Editing, Synthetic biology, nanotechnology, Genomic medicine among others to make our graduates more competitive in the market.
On research trials approved by NBA we would like to assure the students that these trials will continue when the seasons for planting begin. Be informed that all Government agencies are working together to ensure and assure safety of GMOs during trials and students are welcome to participate and contribute to the trials.
Finally, we inform the students that the ban is being addressed by the Cabinet and we urge the youths to give the government time to address the matter.
The Authority would like to thank the youth for airing out their concerns about the ban on GMO Food Import in the public and welcomes them to NBA to seek further clarification on the matter.