Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kenya on the GMO Brink

GMO's have always been controversial around the globe. The controversy in Kenya is as strong as ever. The linked article below from AgWeb highlights the "Global Farmer Network" blog and features a piece by a farmer from Kenya. We encourage you to read over the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations around the globe.

Is it Time for Kenya to Move Off the Brink and Lead with Agricultural Technology

Discussion Points

  • What is the current status of GMO's in Kenya?
  • What case does this farmer make for the need for GMO's in Kenya?
  • What was the most surprising fact or thought you took from this article? Explain.
  • Do some additional research: 
    • How are GMO's perceived around the world in different continents and countries?
    • What does science say about GMO's?

21 comments:

Andy Abrams said...

As something who works in Kenya in agricultural development, I think there are much deeper issues than technology that is holding Africa back. GMO's to the common farmer I work with means nothing. Just throwing technology at people will not fix their problems. The bigger issues that first need to be addressed, are proper spacing, population, adequate fertilizer usage, access to operating capital before planting, corruption etc. I can easily help someone double and even triple their yield if all of those things are addressed. There are very few people teaching good basic agronomy. So if they don't know the basics, than there is no use bringing in new science when they don't even understand the fundamental sciences.

Unknown said...

Kenya is still on the brink of using GMO food. Their population continues to grow and their food continues to die from insects and diseases. Kenya is one of the most influential African countries and it's one of the countries without GMO food. If Kenya starts using GMO many of the other African countries will take notice and much of the food count can increase because of the more protected food.

brent said...

Kenya has been on the "brink" of passing GMO's for years.

unknown said...

It seems like the people of Kenya are in need of the GMO food, so that it will aid in helping them with their growing population and famine

Safrancis said...

Technology is a good thing, But sometimes when other countries develop issues like this, technology isn't something to jump towards. Using better fertilization and giving people access to good fertilization would be a big step in the right direction. Sending informed farmers to help them with crop spacing and planting properly would be beneficial.

laroyer said...

The current GMO status is that their band. The African nation is lagging behind the world in everything, from the adoption of technology to the simple challenge of feeding its own people. Their population continues to grow and their food continues to die from insects and diseases.

paadams said...

As the blog said, Kenya is still on the brink of using GMOs. As their country grows, their population grows as well. Kenya is thought to be on the brink of reversing its ban on GM imports. And on the brink of approving GMOs. In Kenya, they are dealing with the problem of insects right now, causing their corn to die. As for farmers in Kenya, they all are wanting their fields to grow, so the can support their family and country. But, with the help of GMOs they can help produce more corn, but because GMOs are ban, they are not are not able to grow GMO crops to help produce more corn for their country. Which is what they need right now.

M.E.T said...

Genetically modified seeds are produced with the ability to be resilient to certain plant diseases, fungi, or pests. Although GM seeds can cost more, the positive effects on crop yield are well worth it. By using GM seeds, they can lower the costs of production by reducing inputs of machinery, fuel, and chemical pesticides. GMO’s offer important environmental benefits, such as controlling farm runoff that otherwise pollutes water systems, which are associated with reduced spraying of chemical insecticides and highly toxic herbicides. Reduced mechanical weeding helps prevent the loss of topsoil. Health benefits also result from reduced pesticide exposure for farmers and rural laborers and lower pesticide residues for consumers. In addition, due to more effective pest control, crop yields are often higher. That’s not to say there are no negative effects or cons to using GMO’s, however, the benefits seem to outway the cons when it comes to feeding the world. As many are aware, by the year 2050 the population will exceed 9 billion people, that is 2 billion more than we are currently feeding. By choosing to use GMO’s, we have the capability to grow more food, producing a higher yield, yet on less land, something we need to perfect if we plan to feed our rapidly growing population. Around the globe, genetically modified crop-producing countries have benefited by improved crop productivity, food security and quality of life. Given the high level of poverty, malnutrition and hunger and the low level of agricultural productivity in Africa, genetically modified technology has great potential to offer solutions. But the controversy over the use of genetically modified technology remains one of Africa’s biggest threats to “getting off the brink” Kenya currently is banned on the import of GMO’s, while their population reaches 46 million, famine afflicts 5 million of those because they do not have the means necessary in growing an abundance of food, with the help of GMO’s. At one point the farmer stated, “We can barely feed ourselves, as subsistence farming employs about three-quarters of the population in labor-intensive, low-mechanization, and low-productivity farming.” Kenya is looked at as the largest and most influential country in East Africa, yet they are in severe need of help. And the use of GMO’s can do just the trick. As the farmer said, they will do better with them than without them.

Cassidy Johnson said...

Despite numerous studies demonstrating the benefits of genetic modification (GM) technology, particularly its potential to increase food security in developing regions, the jury is still out on genetically modified crops. Around the globe, GM crop producing countries have benefited by improved crop productivity, food security, and quality of life. There has also been an increased income to poor farmers which has been a large benefit at the personal level, especially as most countries using this technology are in the developing world. With that being said not all countries around the world have jumped on the GMO train. As of October 2015, genetically modified crops are officially banned in thirty-eight countries worldwide the majority of which are located in Europe. From a scientific standpoint there is no reason not to replace traditional crops with GM crops; they have not been linked to any health threatening ailments, diseases, or disorders. But, associations developed over many years are often difficult to break. A Pew Center poll in 2015 found only thirty-seven percent of the public thought GM foods were safe, as compared to eighty-eight percent of scientists, a greater gap than on any other issue of scientific controversy, including climate change, evolution, and childhood vaccinations. These established attitudes are not about to disappear especially since they are continually reinforced by a vocal and well funded anti-GMO campaign. According to the author of this blog post, a small scale Kenyan farmer the need for GMOs is undeniable. However, currently Kenya is one of the thirty-eight countries who have banned the use of GMOs in any capacity. Dr. Gilbert Arap Bor writes that, “Kenya has been on the brink for years” Kenya has been almost investing in GMOs for several years but has yet to pull the trigger. According to Dr. Gilbert a small farm owner in Kenya, there is a great need for GMOs. Kenyan farmers were hoping that 2016 would be the year they would finally join the rest of the modern world in the use of GM crops, but sadly that was not the case. However, the farmers remain hopeful that within the next five years Kenya will become one of the world's leading GM crop producers. Kenyan farmers are expressing their need for GM crops because they protect certain crops from pests, and other yield damaging diseases giving farmers the leg-up they have been waiting for. Kenya currently has forty-six million residents and of the forty-six million five million of them experience hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity. As time moves on and the years get closer to 2050 when the earth’s expected population is over nine billion people Kenyan farmers feel they will be behind the eightball in terms of feeding their families and community members without the help of GM crops. Kenya being such a large and influential country it is surprising that they new not leading the GMO charge in Africa, instead they are waiting to play catch up with the other countries around them who have already adopted and reaped the benefits of GM crops. C.R.J-Somonauk

unknown said...

The current status on GMO's, as well as other agricultural technology in Kenya is that they are on the brink of improving it. There is a want for things like BT maize that will help with insect pests that destroy crops and a belief that it will increase growth. I believe this is a problem that a lot of countries have because bugs are a big part of crop loss. Also since many people in Kenya use subsistence farming. Things like GMO's might make prouction easier. The case that this farmer makes is that Kenya is fully capable of moving forward on this process. They said that many countries have gone past the brink and improved their crops. Even though Kenya is the largest and most influential East African country that others look up to and they know the science, have done the regulatory basics, and have set up collaborative partnerships, they still haven't gone through with this. I am wondering why it is that they seem to be holding back so much when this is something that could help immensely; could it be something that is too expensive? The most surprising fact that Africa is the only continent with more malnourished people compared to the number from three decades ago. I found this so surprising because if Kenya is able to move forward and improve their crop production I would think that, since they are not, they would be able to sustain themselves. Could this be more of an encouragement to take the next step? In many places around the world, GMO's are seen as a bad thing and you see food at stores that say "GMO Free", but I am wondering if it could be helpful to countries that need better crop production. According to science, genetically modified crops are not any more dangerous than non genetically modified crops...my biggest question after all of this is if you think that GMO's are a good thing or a bad thing in terms of Kenya's situation and the world? -E.D. Somonauk

R.S. said...

In the United States, GMOs are perceived in many different ways, this goes for around the world as well. Many people's knowledge about them are little to none, however many people are quick to judge or disapprove. However, science states that GMOs are generally safe and do not seem to harm the environment. As for Kenya they are currently on the brink to becoming acceptable to a world of GMOs, after previously having a ban on them in the country. However, the Kenyan government seems to be dragging to give the okay to using GMOs in the country. The potential for these crops is huge. A farmer from Kenya claims that many farmers believed that by 2016 this would be approved, and they could begin planting crops such as BT maize that protect plants from certain damaging factors in a more natural way. With these crops farmers would not only be able to grow more for their family, but there would be more to provide to the entire country as well. I am very surprised to find that the Kenyan government is taking so long to allow GMOs. With scientific research and many studies done on them that can rule that GMOs are not as bad as believed to be and could be quite beneficially impacting. The future is in GMOs and with a rising population they could help feed the world more and more. With hopes that planting GM maize and cotton can lead to an increased production, more economic activity, and better food security, I am confused why with promises like that the government would not be all for it, especially when they have a rapidly growing population they are having trouble already feeding, with famine afflicting 5 million, and an emerging threat to climate change. -somonauk

M.P. said...

The current status for Kenya on GMO's is "on the brink". Kenya has been on the brink of approving GMO's for years. The farmer from the attached article talks about how he is ready for a change. He states how he would like to start growing Bt maize, which is a common type of genetically modified crop. He believes that if Kenya would approve the use of GMO crops he would be able to produce more food for his family and country. He also comments on the fact that the GMO maize protects the crop from certain pests which would positively affect the amount of crop harvested. The most surprising fact I learned from the article is that Africa missed the Green Revolution, the adoption of seed technology, and suffered from the increase of food production once compared to other countries. If Africa misses the Gene Revolution as well, they will suffer even more then they already are. Kenya is in need of a solution and the approval of GMO's is the answer. The New York Times posted an article talking about how the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine conducted over 1,000 studies and have come to the conclusion that there is no safety reason the label gmo produce besides that the consumer has the right to know. They have also proven that GMO's are safe and create no harm to the environment.

Chism said...

The current status of GMO's in Kenya is that they are "on the brink". The farmer talks about that Kenya right now "Famine currently afflicts 5 million of our countrymen and the emerging threat of climate change suggest our challenges will grow". I thought that it was really surprising that Kenya still won't accept GMO's even though most of the African countries depend on it. If they soon won't be able to feed themselves how will they help countries that they support? I think GMO's will help with countries that are struggling to feed their people. So I really don't get why government ban them.

McKenna said...

Genetic engineering is a very confusing and controversial topic that many misunderstand. Genetic modification impacts both crop and animal production and human consumption. For example, a wheat farmer can genetically modify his wheat to prevent wheat rust. Or, a dairy farmer can alter the DNA of his cattle so that they produce more milk. Due to time investments and enormous costs of producing quality GM products, the pricing of these can vary for consumers. It all depends on the production levels and the factors influencing GM products. Let's say the demand for wheat is increasing but wheat rust is killing off majority of the crops. That usually leads to higher prices because there is such a little supply and vise versa. Farmers, consumers and the organisms themselves will be impacted in some shape, way or form and could potentially have an increasing impact as technology evolves. When it comes to genetically modified organisms, I found that it has a share of both positives and negatives. Modified crops taste better, have a higher nutrient value and have a resistance to pests and diseases. The Food and Agriculture Organization also say that farmers are able to produce more crops on less land by using modification techniques. Animals have genes inserted into their genomes so that they can produce more meat and have better health. Theoretically, GM animals and crops are environmentally friendly because they conserve their natural growing nutrients like water, soil and energy. On the contrary, most of the concern about genetic modification relates to the environment and human health. GM products contribute potential health risks like allergies and antibiotic resistance. Having a background with allergies, one can say it is not fun. Allergies prevent people from being able to live healthy and if they get used to their antibiotic, they will not be able to recover. Although they are popular, it costs an average of two-million dollars to expand its technology. It is very expensive to do these kinds of things which is why many underdeveloped and developing countries cannot afford to use them. GM crops can harm amphibians, birds, marine ecosystems and soil organisms. They reduce diversity and pollute water. Diversity is what separates everyone and everything. Without diversity the value of human life will be destroyed and these animals environments will be harmed. But why is Kenya on the brink? What I mean by this is why haven’t the farmers taken matters into their own hands and tried doing something? I understand it is difficult since Kenya is a developing country and it is banned, but most of their problems lay in the development of their society. There is no doubt that Kenya, who is unable to feed its population due to lack of food, can become a leading GMO producing country. Agriculture is already the largest contributor to Kenya’s GDP so why not take one step further to make it even greater? -K.P. Somonauk

Unknown said...

As we learned through out technologies project, not everyone is open to change and scientific advancements. Just as many people were opposed to the idea of utilizing CRISPR technology, many people in Kenya are opposed to the use of GMO's. Kenya currently has a law in place saying farmers are not allowed to use genetically modified plant seeds; it has been this way for many many years. What Kenya is failing to recognize is how beneficial these modified seeds would be. When learning about hunger across the world, we learned that advancements such as GMOs can help close the yield gap that so many underdeveloped and developing countries are experiencing. Not only will GMOs help all the subsistence farmers (that make up three-quarters of Kenya's population) provide food to their people, it will also create many job opportunities as well. There really is no solid reason as to why Kenya should not start using modified crop seeds. Being a huge power in Easter Africa, Kenya needs to set a standard for surrounding countries that includes the use of GMOs.

J.P. Somonauk

Reagan Orzech said...


Within a family of four, I am the only individual that is open to GMOs, or a plant, animal, or another organism whose genetic makeup has been modified, and what they have to offer. In the words of my dad, “GM foods do not have enough research on the long-term effects on our health after intake.” This negative connotation of GMOs and other biotechnology is common around the globe and even in the United States with the recent health craze. In fact, just recently in my Global Ag class, I completed a research presentation on Monsanto, a global business that focuses on selling genetically modified seeds and different herbicides. When viewing the internet perception of this company, I found that many people despise and look at them as an evil corporation because they are contaminating our food by using science and is creating “frankenfood.” Despite the U.S being a top GMO producer with over 175 million acres and with many packaged products containing ingredients derived from corn and soy, common genetically modified crops, they and others still have pessimistic views and some ban GM imports or growth with modified products. In 2015, a tally of nineteen European Union nations, including areas like Ireland, Germany, and Denmark have opted out of growing GMOs in all or parts of their territories. Sticking with the trend of being wishy-washy, Kenya joins the list as they have remained “on the brink” of including GMOs into their lives. However, in my opinion, the positives of using GMOs, especially with the rising population of over 9 billion people in 2050, truly outnumber the one-sided opinions as there is no true scientific evidence that they cause any diseases or deaths. Instead, GM seeds can be more resistance to insects like the popular Kenya False Codling Moth that thrives in warm conditions, cause a lower risk of crop failure, and make crops better resistant to extreme weather conditions or poor soil while generating healthier crops that have longer shelf lives and allow for safe transport to people in countries without access to nutrition-rich foods. For Kenya specifically, as Dr. Gilbert Arap Bor suggests, farmers are eager to use GMOs as they can help them produce more food for their own families and communities while supplying more necessary nutrients and helping them fight their own malnutrition which affects 5 million of the 46 million people. In response to Andy Abrams, I agree that technology is not the only factor and that some members of Kenya may be afraid to stray from their traditional ways. However, I believe that including GMOs could help start solve the issues of proper spacing, pollution, and operating capital and enhance their growth as they would allow farmers to grow more on less land, use fewer chemicals and machinery, which could help reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil erosion, and give them a more steady income, open new jobs for the younger generations, and allow them to purchase more technology to help with farming. -R.O, Somonauk

katiek said...

The government in Kenya bans GMOs. Kenya uses very traditional farming techniques that have been used forever. They believe in their practices and are not willing to change or adapt them. This is the case for many countries and other people, Many struggle with accepting new technologies when it comes to agriculture and farming. Scientists have done extensive research in GMOs and have found they are safe to eat. However, the public is still extremely skeptical of them. The man who wrote the article realizes the great benefits of GMOs that the government does not. He believes that the use if GMOs could greatly benefit Kenya and help them produce enough food to feed the people of his country. Kenya already struggles greatly with feeding everyone and the population is only going to continue to grow. The man in the article also discusses how powerful and influential Kenya does. If they are willing to except and begin using GMOs other countries will follow in their footsteps. If Kenya does change and begins to allow GMOs the country has great potential of becoming much stronger and sustainable. GMOs are going to be beneficial to any country that uses them. They are going to be critical if we want to feed the nine. If a traditional farming country like Kenya begins to allow GMOs and use them others may do the same and these actions are going to be necessary with the growing population. The hardest part about this is getting the public to realize GMOs are only going to help not hinder.
kk somonauk

AC said...

In Kenya, people are still slightly sketched out about GMOs because it is something they just do not understand. The farmer claims the people of Kenya have been "on the brink" of accepting GMOs for way too long and it is time to take a stand and make the final decision about this technology. Dr. Gilbert states he would like to grow GMOs on his farm because he sees the success it has caused for other countries. Around the world genetically modified (GM) technology is seen in many different ways. Some countries accept it but demand labels to be put on the packaging for the genetically modified food. Other countries have completely banned the use of this technology because they believe it is "not natural" or "unsafe". People are afraid of what they do not understand. This fear has caused chaos around the world due to major disagreements. AC Somonauk

G.C said...

I am truly surprised that Kenya's government has still not approved GMOs in the country.As many know, most third world countries and our starving populations live in Africa. This is due to many reasons including the economy,knowledge, and environment.There has been a recent push to help out these countries after the world figuring out that they will have to soon feed the nine billion. Third world countries are those that need helped first so they know how to take care of themselves. I find it surprising that Kenya would not want to be able to have the technology to help support its surrounding struggling countries. Not only that but just supporting themselves in general. GMOs give farmers the ability to grow crops in unlikely conditions with a result of higher yields. Allowing the use of GMOs will not only benefit Kenya but the surrounding countries and possibly the continent of Africa.

unknown said...

In response to Grace C, I am also very surprised that Kenya is not on board with GMO's, since it could be very helpful with their food supply and the abundance it could bring. The amount of problems that could be solved by helping Kenya introduce GMO's and more advanced technology can be so great! There would be less hunger in Kenya and possibly their surrounding neighbors like you said. What do you think could convince them into trying more advancements? Is their information about the benefits of GMO's available to the farmers and people? Somonauk ST

pencesam said...

Like many third world countries, Kenya is likely a country too proud to accept help from higher ranked countries. GMOs would indeed help this country succeed, yet they decline any new technologies offered. To first world countries, like America,it is hard to understand why they don't take the helping hand because they have been so successful. Yet, in their perspective one must understand, having strangers come to your country and plainly stating all your work is incorrect and you have to do it like this to succeed could be quite irritating and demeaning. Personally, I understand somewhat why they are so against it, yet I still feel if they are failing as a country any help should be appreciated. -S.P Somonauk

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