Genetic engineering goes beyond crops and animals with very good products

by James Kamuye Kataru

Debate on genetic engineering should not be limited to crops and animals as there are a number of products in use out there, but little is talked about them. We are surrounded by several products of this technology that we can’t draw a clear line between “what is” and “is not” biotechnology forcing most people to benefit in denial, or live in total ignorance and confusion.

In an earlier post I mentioned how the use of synthetic insulin for type 1 diabetic patients had saved more lives and revolutionized medical research. There are more essential genetically engineered products in use today with great impact. These range from medical, construction, consumables, sanitary, etc. For example the human growth hormone that influences height, builds bones and muscle and the hepatitis B vaccine are some of the great genetically engineered human health products that have become essentials in our lives.

Image of cooking oil in Kenya. Most edible oils are manufactured from GMO corn and soybeans [iStockphoto]


These are proteins that speed up metabolism and chemical reactions in human bodies. Enzymes build and break down substances in living organisms. Some are produced from genetically engineered microbes and used in laundry solutions and detergents with power to dissolve stains and dirt. Even some beddings that warm our beds on cold nights are made of recombinant microbes (enzyme substances).  

Other products widely used and made out of GMOs include cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, soybean oil, and granulated sugar. This is besides the BT cotton, cassava, and maize varieties that have been released for propagation in the country. Though most of these GMO crops like potatoes, squash, apples, papayas, and pineapples are yet to be introduced for propagation and consumption in Kenya and some countries in Africa, their consumption has been allowed elsewhere.

Ways in which GMO products are used in Kenya and around the world include;

All these GMO enzymes are important in their application. For example, enzymes in the food industry improve extraction of nutrient compounds and concentration.

It is important to remember that GMO has the following benefits in crop and animal production;

  • GMO improves the quality of food cultivated.
  • GMO crops are high yielding and simple to grow.
  • GMO crops can be developed to withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • They use fewer chemicals during crop management than others.
  • They conserve soil, water and the environment.
  • Genetically modified animals improve quality and quantity of milk and meat produced.

Image of bio digester tanks used in Kenya. Photo credit:

So far, steps taken by Kenyan government to legalize the safe growth, production and consumption of GMO products are impressive. Years of research and resources invested by our development partners are not going to waste. Though misinformation and negativity have cause setbacks with courts intervening, the long walk to a food secure nation where all technologies will thrive side by side is coming to an end with high hopes that more crops are going to be released to farmers.

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