An umbrella of organizations advocating for food safety, environmental conservation, farmers and consumer rights are demanding a 10-year moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) cassava varieties put in place.
This is in response to the National Biosafety Authority’s (NBA) announcement to roll out of genetically modified cassava that is resistant to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD).
According to the organizations that comprise of Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA Kenya), Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM Kenya), Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), Resources Oriented Development Initiatives(RODI Kenya), Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programmes (SACDEP Kenya), Building Eastern Africa Community Network(BEACON), African Network For Animal Welfare(ANAW) and Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KESSFF) “Interfering with the DNA of a (cassava) crop that poorly resourced Kenyans have for food and nutritional security, as well as resilience, disenfranchises the very people it is meant to help.”
They argue that the public participation process that was conducted virtually for environmental release of GM cassava in the midst of COVID 19 pandemic is “Flawed and contravenes the provisions made in the Biosafety Act Sec 54 as farmers who will be the users of this technology were denied an opportunity to gain real understanding of the key issues and concerns as it was practically difficult to provide capacity building due to limitations caused by the pandemic.”
“In spite of the high mobile phone penetration, most farmers do not have smartphones and were therefore incapable of participating in the online sessions organized by National Biosafety Authority,” they add.
As a result, they urge regulatory agencies led by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) not to approve the application for environmental release (open field cultivation) and placing on the market of VIRUS resistant genetically modified cassava Event 4046 in Kenya.
“There is urgent need for investment in research, development, and promotion of suitable non-transgenic varieties that tackle pests and diseases, which are less risky and patent-free similar to the push-pull system of managing stemborer in maize,” they recommend.