Stakeholders' participation in biotechnology policy formulation and their perceptions towards genetically modified foods in Nairobi Province, Kenya
Kyalo, Winfred Muthini
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Genetic engineering technology refers to the manipulation of an organism's genetic make up by introducing or eliminating specific genes through modern molecular biology techniques. The technology may however pose public health risks to consumers. As a result of the potential risks of genetically modified foods to human health and the environment, there is widespread recognition that all key stakeholders should be involved in the formulation of the biotechnology policy framework for Genetically Modified Organisms. This study sought to find out whether all key stakeholders participated in the formulation of the national biotechnology policy and to explore their perceptions towards genetically modified foods. A descriptive crosssectional study was conducted in Nairobi using the stakeholder- based approach. Purposive and probability proportionate to sample size sampling procedures were used to select a sample of 282 respondents. Data was collected using questionnaires and SPSS used to process data. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize data and the Chi-square test used to assess relationships among variables. The findings of the study indicate that over 80% of stakeholders had not participated in the formulation of the national biotechnology policy. Another 80% thought that the government does not involve the public in decisions concerning genetically modified organisms. There was a significant statistical association between respondents' participation in policy formulation and their profession (x2=10.698, P=0.03). The results indicate that many of the respondents are positive that genetic engineering technology has the potential to improve sustainability of agriculture (78.7%) and secure food security (92.6%). However, more than a third of respondents (66.3%) feared that GM foods could harm human health. Another 86.2% feared that GM foods could be harmful to the country's biodiversity. There was a significant statistical association between respondents' level of education and their perception of risk of GM foods to human health (x2=5.727, P=0.017). There was also a significant statistical association between respondents' profession and their perception of risk of GM foods to human health (x2=81.303, P< 0.001). The study concludes that all key stakeholders should be involved in policy making and in the general discussion on whether or not to introduce GMOs in the country. The study recommends that there is need for collaboration between researchers and key stakeholders including the public on goal setting and implementation. The study also recommends that a general public survey on knowledge and perceptions of GM foods be carried out to find out how the general public views the application of genetic engineering technology in agriculture.