This Kenyan editorial puts into context the pressure countries in the South are under to accept GM foods (witness Sri Lanka)..
Note of Caution On GM Food
The Nation (Nairobi)
September 24, 2001
The importation of substandard manufactured goods, expired foods and drugs and chemical products that are banned in their countries of manufacture, is nothing new. After all, this is Kenya, where anything and everything that can earn unscrupulous businesspeople a quick shilling, goes.
The unregulated liberalisation of the economy in the past decade or so, elevated the problem to a scale never imagined by the country's policy makers. Suddenly, local supermarkets became awash with even the most basic of imported consumer goods that are otherwise locally available.
Mineral water, dairy milk, milk powder, butter, pasta, tomato sauces, soft drinks, honey, jams, oranges and canned meats whose importation was previously strictly restricted, literally flooded the market. Such was the frenzy that tonnes of British beef suspected to be infected with the dreaded madcow disease, almost reached our retailers.
Shiploads of maize, rice and sugar are offloaded in the country by the day. The fact that several consignments have been found to be unfit for human consumption, is indicative of the real dangers Kenyans are exposed to, for there is no guarantee that such harmful foods do not slip through the port gates. Two years ago, one such yellow maize consignment was only detected in Nairobi - some 700 kilometres from the port of entry.
And even after detection and condemnation, the fate of the contraband is anyone's guess. Hundreds of hungry Kenyans descended on the condemned maize and carried away most of it before it was destroyed by fire. They argued they would rather risk food poisoning than starve to death.
Recently, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and the Kenya Bureau of Standards condemned a wide range of beauty products found to contain mercury and other harmful chemicals.
The directive to retailers to stop the sale of the condemned products fell on deaf ears as many of these products still adorn shelves in many of our supermarkets, shops and kiosks.
These are but some of the many health hazards that Kenyan consumers face.
For this reason, last week's statement at the Central Kenya ASK show in Nyeri by Agriculture Minister, Bonaya Godana that the government had accepted genetically modified technology in food production is worrisome. The long-term effects of genetically modified technology on the health and ecology are still the subject of intense scientific investigation.
Kenya should tread this path very cautiously.