Kenyan Scientists Say Genetically Modified Food Safe for Human Consumption
Kenyan scientists on Thursday allayed fears on safety of genetically modified (GM) products and insisted that rigorous studies done over the years have yet to confirm presence of disease causing toxins in them.
The scientists made the comments at a press conference in the East African country's capital Nairobi, dispelling recent allegations from organic groups that Kenyans might be consuming hazardous genetically engineered foods.
"Genetically modified maize is scientifically safe for food and feeds. Potential risks on any other biotech product have been addressed by regulatory agencies," said Biotechnology Committee Chairman of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences James Ochanda.
Ochanda stressed that the overriding aim for introduction of genetically modified crops in Kenya is to enable the country address food security in the light of population pressure, climatic vagaries, declining arable land, pests and diseases.
"BT maize for instance may help improve use of scarce arable land, boost productivity alongside pest and disease resistant," Ochanda said.
Organic movements in Kenya have recently raised alarm on safety of BT maize imported from South Africa and based their fears on a study by a French scientist insinuating that genetically modified maize might cause cancer in humans.
The two-year study by Professor Gilles Eric Seralini from the University of Caen in France revealed that rats which were fed on genetically modified maize developed cancerous tumors.
Ochanda doubted the authenticity of this study and noted that it had serious scientific inaccuracies. "The rat used in the study is prone to developing tumors spontaneously. The study did not comply with internationally approved protocols and had serious methodological flaws," Ochanda said.
He revealed that academies of sciences in many parts of the world disapproved claims in the study by terming it inaccurate and inconsistence.
Ochanda observed that human beings get into contact with BT toxins everyday yet no cases of negative health effect has been registered to date.
He added that extensive and independently reviewed studies conducted over two decades on genetically modified products has not revealed serious health implications to humans and animals.
All genetically modified crops undergo rigorous scientific risk assessment before approval for planting and consumption.
The Deputy Program Manager, Bio-Innovate Africa Program, Allan Liavoga, stressed the need to scrutinize and interrogate scientific findings to avoid misinterpretation and sensation.
"The international community has set up stringent rules for scientists to follow while researching on genetically modified organisms' toxicity," said Liavoga.
He regretted that authors of the latest study linking genetically modified products to cancer have not released all the data to prove their claims.
"Credibility of the experiment and results is still contentious, " Liavoga said. Sound scientific tools are being used in development of genetically modified crops.
The Director, Technical Operations, African Agricultural Technology Foundation, Jacob Mignouna, told Xinhua that adherence to ethical, environmental and health safety concerns are at the heart of promotion of genetic engineering globally.
"There is nothing for the last 20 years to show GM technology has negative effect on human health," said Mignouna.
He added that a strict peer reviewed process should have been conducted before the release of the study linking genetically modified maize to a rise in cancer cases.