Farmers and consumers will embrace GMOs if they understand them

There is no doubt that GMOs benefit us, but there is enough data to show that GMOs also have great potential for harm. [Istockphoto]

The debate on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is back and is still moving and quite divisive.

Although we have more research, we still cannot be absolutely certain that we have adequate science to fully support GM foods. Genetic engineering (also called genetic modification of organisms – GMOs) uses laboratory technologies to alter the composition of an organism’s DNA. This may involve changing a single base pair (AT or CG), deleting a region of DNA, or adding a new segment of DNA.

It happens when a scientist alters a gene to create a more desirable organism by taking DNA from organism A and inserting it into organism B to make it better. The result is called recombinant (a combination of DNA from two organisms) or, in the case of drugs, the modified drug is called transgenic. There are many reasons why organisms are genetically modified. For example, to make them more resistant to disease, insects/bugs or to make them ripen/ripen faster, stronger, bigger, better, sweater. For example, food crops have been modified by food engineers to resist specific insects, bad weather or to grow faster.

Genetic engineering is very different from cloning. Cloning is the process of creating a genetically identical copy or duplication of a cell or organism. It has deep ethical concerns although people tend to confuse the two, especially when criticizing GMOs.

There are many compelling arguments for and against GMOs. There is no doubt that GMOs benefit us, but there is enough data to show that GMOs also have great potential for harm. Proponents of GMOs have made compelling arguments that genetic engineering can help us cure disease, ensure food and nutrition security, improve quality of life and well-being, and even extend our lives. For example, most drugs such as insulin and vaccines are all genetically modified or modified, without which many people would die. GMOs also raise ethical, safety and environmental concerns.

No part of the argument for or against can say with absolute certainty that GMOs are free of risks and concerns or that they are all bad for us. The question is: can scientists guarantee that there will be no side effects after consuming GM foods? Or that huge multinationals will ensure environmental and safety requirements are met when they come to Kenya?

The abuse potential of GMOs has necessitated very elaborate checks and controls at international and national levels. The question that concerns us now is: has Kenya put in place such elaborate and well-resourced checks and controls? According to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Kenya has strong policy, legislative and institutional mechanisms to implement biotechnology innovations having ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2003 and endorsed the National Biosafety Development Policy. biotechnology in 2006 to guide the research and commercialization of modern biotechnology. some products.

The Biosafety Act 2009 provides the legal and institutional frameworks governing modern biotechnology which are implemented by the NBA established under the Act in 2010. The NBA has developed regulations in 4 areas; contained use, release to the environment, export, import and transit; all three in 2011 and for labeling in 2012. The NBA says it has implemented a GMO safety assessment in an effort to provide assurance that GM foods do not cause harm based on their best scientific knowledge available, although we are not so certain that we indeed have this “best scientific knowledge” available so far.

The NBA indicates that research on genetic modification is done under appropriate experimental conditions; the outdoor cultivation of genetically modified plants is harmless to human health and the environment; they ensure the safe movement of genetically modified materials in and out of the country and ensure accurate consumer information and traceability of genetically modified products in the food supply chain.

They say they do this through collaboration with eight other organizations in Kenya, including KEBs. Since GMOs require very careful scientific monitoring and control, it is important to ensure that outdoor cultivation is done in phases and only on a case-by-case basis at a time.

About Norman Griggs

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