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GMOs could wipe out local gene banks, groups warn – Business Daily

The civil society has raised concerns that the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops could lead to the extinction of indigenous seeds in the country as well as the depletion of the current gene bank.
Lobbyists say the introduction of GMO crops in Kenya will contaminate indigenous crops through cross-pollination, negatively impacting on Kenya’s traditional varieties.
Addressing a news conference in Nairobi yesterday, they said there is a need to have a buffer zone between biotech crop and indigenous ones to avoid cross-pollination but given the small size of land among farmers, most of them may not maintain the distance required.
“We need to protect our local gene bank by ensuring that we do not lose our indigenous seed through the introduction of GMOs in the country,” said Anne Maina, national coordinator for the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA-K).
Indigenous seeds are those varieties that have been grown, selected and managed by local communities over time through several generations.
Timothy Njagi, a fellow with the Egerton-based Tegemeo Institute of Policy and Research says there is a need to preserve the seed bank for indigenous crops.
“Whereas GMOs are good for the country, we must make sure that we maintain our old varieties as well through the gene bank,” said Dr Njagi.
Kenya has a Genetic Resources Research Institute domiciled at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation, which is responsible for conserving plant, animal and microbial genetic resources.
Rosinah Mbenya, chief executive officer for Participatory Ecological Land Use Management said indigenous seeds are key to Kenya’s food security given their resilience to drought in the wake of climate change.
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