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Kenyan NGOs protest approval of GM crops

On Monday, Kenya's cabinet approved the farming and importation of biotech crops as the country scrambles to achieve food security and to tackle inflation   -  
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Kenya

The Kenyan government's decision to reverse a ban on the import and cultivation of genetically modified organisms was "hasty," activists and agricultural lobby groups denounced Thursday, calling for the prohibition to be "reinstated."

The government of new President William Ruto on Monday allowed the import and cultivation of GMOs, banned since 2012, to address the country's severe drought.

"The hasty decision to lift the ban on GMO imports into the country was taken without public debate," according to a statement signed Thursday by a dozen organizations, including Greenpeace Africa.

"Food security is not only about the quantity but also the quality of food," according to the organizations' statement, which called for "the ban to be restored."

Kenya had banned the cultivation of GMOs in 2012, in part to protect small farms, which account for the majority of farms in the country.

The country, the economic engine of East Africa, had been criticized after taking this decision, including by the United States, a major producer of GMOs.

In a statement issued on Monday, Kenyan authorities said they wanted to "significantly redefine agriculture in Kenya" and announced the authorization of "crops that are resistant to pests and diseases".

The authorities claimed to have relied on advice from the World Health Organization and the FAO before making their decision.

But for activists and agricultural pressure groups, this decision "will open the market to American farmers who receive large subsidies", which may weaken small Kenyan producers.

William Ruto, one of the country's richest men, was elected in a close election last August and has promised to tackle inflation, which includes fuel, food, seed and fertilizer.

Within a week of taking office in September, the head of state had halved the price of fertilizer.

A former minister of agriculture, Mr. Ruto has promised to revitalize the sector, a pillar of the economy that accounts for 20% of GDP.

Kenya, the economic engine of East Africa, is suffering from a drought of unprecedented intensity in 40 years, and hunger is affecting at least 4 million people out of a population of more than 50 million. According to authorities, the drought is affecting 23 of the country's 47 counties.

Four consecutive poor rainy seasons have created the driest conditions since the early 1980s.

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