Agri-biotech experts call on Kenya to lift ban on GMO imports

Group photo: Agri-Biotechnology and Biosafety Communications Conference 2015

Delegates from 30 countries from around the world, attending an international Agri-biotechnology and Biosafety Communication (ABBC 2015) conference in Nairobi have called on the Government of Kenya to lift a 2-year ban on GMO imports.

Addressing the delegates who comprised farmers, scientists, policymakers, private sector, the media and science communicators, the Principal Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Dr Wilson Songa, emphasized the role of agricultural biotechnology in propelling the country towards prosperity.

“To harness this potential, the GMO import ban must be lifted,” he said. In addition, he said that Kenya has adequate capacity to develop and ensure safety of GMO products.

Members of Parliament present called upon the government to release the report by the Ministry of Health task force that was set up to look into the safety of GM foods, following the ban on GMO imports.

The ABBC conference brought together organizations and networks involved in agri-biotechnology and biosafety communication around the world to take stock of the progress and dynamics of agri-biotechnology communication over the past two decades. It was organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, the National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation among other partners.

One of the key lessons was that agri-biotechnology and biosafety communications must be simplified and messages delivered in appropriate languages for different stakeholders to make impact.

The delegates came up with the following Nairobi Declaration 2015:

We, the participants of the International Conference on Agri-Biotechnology and Biosafety Communication, held on 13-14 April 2015 in Nairobi, representing the academic and research community, civil society, law makers and policy advisors, the media, farmers and other stakeholders drawn from 30 countries across the world, collectively issue the following statement resulting from this conference:

Whereas

  1. The world faces unique and particular food security challenges in future, as the human population increases towards a likely 9.6 billion by 2050 and climate change raises additional problems for agriculture in terms of water and temperature stress, increased disasters and extreme weather;
  2. Some progress has been made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals on extreme poverty, malnutrition, infant mortality and food security. Much work remains to be done to ensure that citizens of all countries enjoy the full opportunity of healthy and sustainable access to food;
  3. Biotechnology and genetic engineering, while not being the only solutions to these challenges, offer great potential in addressing many specific concerns in food production, including micro-nutrient deficiencies, productivity and yield gaps, pest and disease problems;
  4. There exists an international scientific consensus that the ‘genetic modification’ process itself does not raise any risks over conventional breeding approaches;
  5. The debate around genetically modified products continues and is often characterized by emotive and misleading information about purported dangers that are not supported by any scientific evidence;
  6. Highly restrictive policy and regulatory environments exist in parts of the world, greatly hampering the capacity of farmers to access innovations that will improve farm productivity, household incomes and food security;

We hereby declare our commitment and determination

  1. To work collectively to improve the communications environment, including the use of the latest as well as traditional communication strategies to ensure effectiveness.
  2. To work inclusively, with all stakeholders, including those opposed to this technology, in an effort to build consensus and common understanding.
  3. To promote choice, so that farmers, consumers and other end-users can make informed decisions that reflect their best interests.
  4. To address the concerns of people at all levels, to ensure the widest participation possible.
  5. To demonstrate how agricultural production challenges can be tackled using biotechnology, and how it can directly contribute to food and nutrition security, poverty alleviation, job creation and sustainable economic development.
  6. To support credible scientists who are most trusted by the public and governments to be effective communicators and to have a closer relationship with the media and policymakers to ensure that scientifically-informed messages reach target audiences.

In particular, we gratefully acknowledge the active participation of Members of the Kenya National Assembly and many senior government representatives who participated in this conference and welcome their invaluable inputs to ensure the current ban on importation and consumption of GM foods in Kenya is lifted.

Improving water management for agricultural production: International forum on water and food takes up the challenge

Water reservoir at Tsinkanet, Mek'ele, Ethiopia
Water reservoir at Tsinkanet, Mek’ele, Ethiopia (Photo: ILRI)

The Third International Forum on Water and Food (IFWF3) currently underway in Tshwane, South Africa  (14-17 November 2011) brings together partners from the CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) as well as water and food scientists and other key stakeholders to assess how a research-for-development approach can address water and food challenges through a combination of process, institutional and technical innovations.

The CPWF carries out research in six different basins, dubbed Basin Development Challenges:

  1. Andes system of basins to increase water productivity and reduce water-related conflict in selected basins through the development of more equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms.
  2. Ganges basin to reduce poverty and strengthen livelihood resilience through improved water governance and management in coastal areas of the Ganges basin.
  3. Limpopo river basin to improve integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk.
  4. Mekong river basin to reduce poverty and foster development through management of water for multiple uses in large and small reservoirs.
  5. Nile river basin to strengthen rural livelihoods and their resilience through a landscape approach to rainwater management.
  6. Volta river basin to strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably for multiple uses.

A bit about CPWF (from the CPWF website)

The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) was launched in 2002 as one of the reform initiatives of the CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Phase 1 ran from 2004–2008 and Phase 2 runs from 2009–2013.

Over the last six years, and based on more 68 projects carried out throughout the world, the main lesson learned is that improved water productivity is only one piece of the puzzle. Equally important are equitable access to water and better water governance. Taken together and integrated across scales, these can reduce poverty, improve livelihoods resilience, and boost ecosystem services.

The CPWF represents the largest, most comprehensive investment in the world on water, food and environment research. Through the paradigm of water productivity – developing ways to produce more food within limited water availability – it offers a new approach to natural resources management research within the CGIAR. The CPWF works together in with institutions, NGOs and community groups in partnerships which seek meaningful impact for the people who use the new innovations developed by scientific research.

Check out the IFWF3 blog for more on the workshop activities or follow #IFWF3 on Twitter.