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Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium


Background to the ban on GM foods in Kenya

In September 2012, a team of French Scientists published results from a two year study involving feeding of rats on a herbicide (Roundup) and Roundup tolerant GM maize (Roundup Ready). Publishing in the Elsevier Journal ‘Food and Chemical Toxicology’ (Seralini et al, 2012), the authors interpreted observed tumors in rats to be caused by genetic modification as well as the glyphosate that makes up the ‘Roundup’ herbicide. Following this publication, which was apparently drawn to the attention of the government, the Kenya Cabinet issued an executive order on 8th November 2012 prohibiting the importation and consumption of GMO foods in Kenya. The publication by Seralini et al. was on 28th November 2013 withdrawn by both the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicity, and the publisher, Elsevier Science, following an elaborate investigation on the data presented and the review process, which revealed that the study was based on flawed data and interpretation. The High Council for Biotechnology (HCB; a team of scientific experts commissioned by The French government on 24 September 2012 to provide an opinion on the paper by Professor Séralini’s team) found that the publication failed to establish relationship between GM foods and tumor. Further, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found this study to be of insufficient scientific quality for safety assessments (EFSA, 2012). Although Seralini et al. had claimed that very low dilution of Roundup herbicide caused more tumors than GMO maize, and that the herbicide was more toxic at the lowest dilutions, the condemnation of this publication now justifies the government’s continued support for the use of Roundup in local farms for weed control. In May 2014, six months after the withdrawal of the paper by Seralini et al, it was republished in a different Journal, ‘Environmental Sciences Europe’. This was done by the second journal to retain useful discussions that emanated from the publication, rather than to disseminate its content. In order to avoid anybody thinking that they agree with Seralini et al findings, the journal included a clear and concise caveat at the beginning: “Progress in science needs controversial debates aiming at the best methods as basis for objective, reliable and valid results……In this sense, ESEU aims to enable rational discussions dealing with the article from G.-E. Séralini et al by re-publishing it. By doing so, any kind of appraisal of the paper’s content should not be connoted” (Page 3). This means that (1) from these debates, readers will know the faults with methods and analysis used by Seralini’s et al, (2) the journal does not in any way approve of the data and interpretation. The earlier publication by Seralini et al had far reaching implications, with Kenya and Russia prohibiting GM foods within their territories, although Russia shortly later lifted the ban following the invalidation of the study, and on consultation with scientific experts. I n October 2013, the government of Kenya, in cognizance of possible negative effects of maintaining the ban on GM foods, appointed a taskforce through the Ministry of Health to investigate whether the grounds on which the ban was effected were sound (Gazette Notice No. 13607).