Monsanto and Gates Foundation Pressure Kenya to Lift Ban on GMOs
Kenya is on the verge of reversing its ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The East African country—which has banned the import and planting of GMOs since 2012 due to health concerns—may soon allow the cultivation of GMO maize and cotton after being pushed for approval by pro-GMO organizations including Monsanto, the agribusiness giant and world's largest seed company.
Kenya close to adopting genetically modified cotton seed https://t.co/Xo7QMfg9j7 https://t.co/lrS5Nmy3wp— #Lit360 (@#Lit360)1452020416.0
If it does so, Kenya will become only the fourth African country to allow the cultivation of GMO crops following South Africa, Bukina Faso and Sudan.
According to Mail & Guardian Africa, Kenya's possible GMO reversal comes after the country's National Biosafety Authority received one application from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation to release Bt maize, and another application from Monsanto's Kenyan subsidiary to release Bt cotton. Bt crops have been bioengineered with the moth- and butterfly-killing bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
“We recommend lifting the ban,” National Biosafety Authority CEO Willy Tonui said. “We now have border control, surveillance and a strong regulatory system.”
On Nov. 21, 2012, the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health ordered public health officials to remove all GMO foods on the market and to enforce a ban on GMO imports. The Minister for Public Health, Beth Mugo, presented the concerns about the safety of GMOs during a Kenyan cabinet meeting, citing a (since retracted) French study that linked cancer in rats to the consumption of GMO foods.
The National Biosafety Authority is expected to make its decision on the maize seed Jan. 31 and then on Feb. 28 for the cotton seed, according to Tonui.
Scientists from the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization and African Agricultural Technology Foundation want the maize seeds released to farmers for mass production. As Bloomberg described, maize (or corn) is a major dietary staple in Kenya and would benefit from pest-resistant crops:
"Kenya is Africa’s largest per-capita corn consumer and the second-biggest seeds market, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Annual corn consumption is estimated at 103 kilograms (227 pounds) per person, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO]. In 2011, Kenya became the first African nation to report an outbreak of the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, which can wipe out farmers’ entire crops, the FAO says on its website."
"The industry has been in a sorry state," Waturu wrote in the paper Bt Cotton Research Progress. "In 1985, we used to produce 70,000 bales of cotton, but in 2013 we could only produce 20,000. In the same year, Tanzania and Uganda produced 700,000 and 400,000 bales respectively."
Still, the looming approval of GMOs in Kenya has been met with heavy protests by opponents. In September 2015, activists rallied in Nairobi against the lifting of the GMO ban, citing health concerns.
“We need to stand by our country’s economy and fight for the rights of our farmers. Biotechnology is not bad, but the introduction of genetically modified foods is unethical and unsafe,” nutrition expert Hellen Ngema said.
Lifting the ban is also perceived as a play that would benefit large multinationals such as Monsanto and other powerful organizations.
Kenya's potential GMO reversal comes after "pressure" from Monsanto, the United States Agency for International Development and the Gates Foundation, according to a report by RT.
The report cited Monsanto's Water Efficient Maize for Africa, a five-year development project led by the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation that aims to develop a variety of drought-tolerant maize seeds. Incidentally, as the website points out, the project receives funding from the Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development and Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
RT reported that in 2008, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation received $47 million from the Gates Foundation.
The argument for GMOs is controversial, to say the least. The pro-GMO camp touts the technology as a solution to malnutrition and global food security, as these crops have been genetically tinkered with certain nutritional benefits and/or spliced-and-diced to resist certain pathogens.
Bill Gates, for one, is known to be pro-GMO seed, especially for the crops' purported benefits to drought-prone African countries.
In February 2015, the business magnate and philanthropist told The Verge that "GMO-derived seeds will provide far better productivity, better drought tolerance, salinity tolerance, and if the safety is proven, then the African countries will be among the biggest beneficiaries."
The Verge noted in a report that the Gates Foundation Asset Trust, which manages the foundation's assets, previously held shares of Monsanto. Indeed, in 2010, it was revealed that the Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio held 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (here's the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission).
Foundation spokesperson Alex Reid told The Verge that the trust has not held shares of Monsanto "for a few years" and added that the trust is managed separately and does not receive input into what the foundation funds.
Meanwhile, Monsanto has once again made headlines for its business woes and slumping profits.
According to the Associated Press, the embattled company will "eliminate another 1,000 jobs as it expands a cost-cutting plan designed to deal with falling sales of biotech-corn seeds and other financial headwinds."
Monsanto will now be cutting 3,600 jobs over the next two years, roughly 16 percent of its global workforce.
As of press time the Gates Foundation had not responded to EcoWatch's request for comment.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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