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The Séralini affair: Discredited study that got GMOs banned in Kenya

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By George Munene

“GMO crops aren’t new to Kenya; in 2012 we had GMO maize being imported into the country until the infamous Séralini study released in September of that year that showed a link between cancerous tumors developing on mice and glyphosate– the main active ingredient of Roundup herbicide– which was being used to control weeds on the GM maize. Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted by some to mean that the GM maize was the cause of these cancers,” illuminated Dr. Joel Ochieng, Head of Agricultural Biotechnology at the University of Nairobi

While GMO crops were banned in Kenya after this, the herbicides fingered for causing cancers are still sold worldwide and in all Kenyan agro vets.

Dubbed, the Séralini affair, after French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini, the Séralini paper has since been dismissed by both scientists and regulatory agencies. 

The Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB), an investigative panel, found the study’s design flawed and that there was “no causal relationship” between the rats’ tumors and consumption of Monsanto’s NK603 corn or the Roundup herbicide that was part of the experiment.

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“The issue was brought to the cabinet which placed a temporary hold on GMO crop importation, not consumption, as a task force set up by then Minister for Public Health Beth Mugo studied their efficacy. The issue was highly emotive in Kibaki’s 2012 cabinet as there were individuals personally affected by cancer,” highlighted Ochieng.

Surprisingly, Raila Odinga, currently a firm opponent of GMO cultivation in Kenya, terming them “an attempt by the Ruto administration to compromise our health. economy and environment at the altar of commerce,” was their biggest proponent in 2012 working to convince parliamentarians and the public that they were safe and fit for human consumption.

“The ban which was meant to be a precautionary, temporary hold on genetically altered foods importation was willfully misinterpreted to bar even researchers from conducting studies or any national performance trials on GMOs,” the researcher said.

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He further noted that in actuality, the lifting of GMO food crop cultivation was done in 2019 under Uhuru’s government when the government approved open cultivation of Bt cotton. “70 per cent of cotton is used as feed and food with only 30 per cent used in the production of lint which makes clothes. Again, barely two months ago, a gazette notice by the treasury CS allowed GM maize importation as feed. The Ruto government only made the removal of the ban official.”

This shows that many politicians and individuals currently opposing vacation of the ban are doing it out of political interest and in furtherance of a political agenda, not on scientific grounds. 

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