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Is Kenya Ready for GM Cassava?
There are biological control methods that have been used to control of the cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). Now that Herren’s biological pest control strategies had saved the African cassava, could they do it again? By investing in co-creation of solutions in which farmers and scientists work together, embedded in the local ecological conditions, restoring the ecological balance in the field (soil), so as to provide healthy nutrition for the plants should be adopted by all stakeholders. Continuous in-situ breeding of CBSD resistant varieties such as the Kiroba cassava in Tanzania is also an alternative method.
Most of the products of biotechnology don’t address the pressing life and death issues, they are engineered to reduce the symptoms but it comes at a cost for the environment and health, not forgetting economic impact as well as a result of resistance building from both insects and weeds that require new products to be developed.
Claims that biotechnology offers solutions to life threatening problems lacks merit following the years taken to develop a single product. Safer options such as biological control, which unlike GMOs, deal with the cause rather than the symptoms of the problem should be the best practice world over.
The answer is not more technology to overcome nature, it is in understanding nature and working with it to restore balance. Years of biotechnology research give you one genetically modified plant variety that does one thing as opposed to tackling the root cause of the problem of ecological imbalance. There is also a risk of CBSD evolving in the GM cassava causing a significant threat to cassava production in the region.
How complete is the scientific understanding of RNAi considering the evolving research which reveals the properties of RNAi that expose outdated safety assumptions of RNAi GM crops?
How certain is the biosafety concerns with regards to potential risks of exposure following consumption and off-target effects of gene expression in people or animals?
What are the safety studies conducted in accordance with the national and international food safety guidelines with regards to; Data to prove absence of RNAi variants, toxicology assessment, evidence of feeding study or trials, profiling techniques routinely employed to assess the changes in gene, protein and metabolite expression as required by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations Codex Alimentarius Guidelines on Food safety. Failure to provide this information is unacceptable and in breach of national and international food safety standards and goes against the Precautionary Principle of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which Kenya is a party.
By CGA food safety team