Research More on GMOs to Cushion Kenyans from Future “negative effects”: Catholic Bishop

Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe of Kakamega Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

There is need for more research on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Kenya before allowing the cultivation of GM crops, a Catholic Bishop in the East African country has said. 

As part of the efforts to realize food security in Kenya amid high cost of living and hunger threats in some parts of the country, the government approved the cultivation of GM crops on October 3, lifting a 10-year ban on foods made with biotechnology.

In his Wednesday, October 12 message on the occasion of the opening of the multipurpose hall at the Holy Family Lubao Parish of his Episcopal See, Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe of Kakamega Diocese urged the government and scientists to unite in research on GM crops to cushion Kenyans from “negative effects in the future”.

“GM crops involve improving the sector of food, but there is need for more research and assurance that there will be no negative effects in the future,” Bishop Obanyi said.

He urged researchers and specialists in agriculture to “work together with the government before officially permitting GM crops, so as to ensure that there will be no negative effects in the future.”


Thorough and comprehensive research on GM crops would ensure harmful effects of the end product are avoided, the Kenyan Catholic Bishops said.

He added, “We could celebrate now that because of GM crops, we are able to get a lot of food, but we need enough research to ensure that there will be no effects such as soil poisoning with chemicals in the future.”

The 55-year-old Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of Kakamega Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in March 2015 also spoke about the positive impact of science on human life.

“GM crops involve scientifically modified foods; this is not bad because science is there to help us invent things that can improve human life,” he said, and added, “Science has improved the medical sector; its science that lowered the effect of COVID-19 through the invention of a vaccine.”

Bishop Obanyi’s appeal to the Kenyan government for a go-slow approach on lifting the ban on GM crops in the country comes against the backdrop of reports that a section of religious leaders was supporting the reintroduction of GMOs in the country. 

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On Wednesday, October 12, Kenya’s opposition leaders led by Raila Amolo Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka claimed that religious leaders were siding with the government in promoting foods made with biotechnology and not providing advice on the way forward.

“We urge our religious leaders and faith-based organizations not to sell their soul but to speak the truth and come out of the commercial interest and political expediency,” Mr. Musyoka said during the meet-the-people session at Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi on October 12.

The opposition leaders also faulted the government for lifting the ban on foods made with biotechnology saying that the foods not only have health risks to Kenyans, but will also jeopardize food markets.

On his part, the Senator of Nairobi, Edwin Sifuna, has been quoted as saying in an October 12 report, “Most of us are Catholics and we take dictates of our life from Pope Francis, and his stand on GMO in 2015 was that we should not embrace them since they interfere with the genetic make-up of plants and animals.”

Hon. Sifuna says that the legislators from Kenya’s Western region “will vehemently oppose any regulations aimed at upholding the lift of the ban through the legislative houses and the court.”


“We have seen the courts revoke certain regulations and laws that are way more inconsequential because they had not been subjected to public participation. This issue is grave about our health,” the Kenyan Senator adds in the October 12 report.

Kenya prohibited the cultivation of GM crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced with biotechnology since 2012. The move was triggered by a controversial study in France that linked GMO products to cancer.

According to an October 5 report, “GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approval for the environmental release was granted by the National Biosafety Authority in 2016, with scientists only allowed to grow this variety in confined fields.”

The report further indicates that scientists completed the research last year and that the material has been awaiting Cabinet approval before it is released for commercial farming.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.