Inside Politics

Raila w*rns State against GMO maize imports

Monday, November 21st, 2022 05:40 | By
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) accompanied by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (right) and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi addresses the media at Jaramogi Odinga Foundation in Nairobi, yesterday. PD/GERALD ITHANA
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) accompanied by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (right) and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi addresses the media at Jaramogi Odinga Foundation in Nairobi. PHOTO/Gerald Ithana.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga yesterday asked Kenyans to reject Genetically Modified foods (GMOs) that the government is set to import.

Raila asked his troops in Parliament to shoot down government efforts to allow importation of the controversial foods.

The former Prime Minister said already, the Kenya Kwanza administration, in its efforts to address food shortage that has been worsened by high cost of living, has unilaterally authorised duty-free importation of 10 million bags of GMO maize, giving chance to reaching and catastrophic implications on local agriculture, health and environment.

Raila, in a press briefing at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation offices in Nairobi yesterday, said Ruto’s administration should immediately reverse this decision on GMO foods until Kenyans have a robust debate on the matter, saying the decision to lift ban on GMO foods and their importation was a betrayal to Kenyans and the expense of foreign companies with interests in GMO.

Without giving proof, he said some multinationals had approached senior Government officials with clandestine dealings that will see the firms allowed to bring in GMO foods, saying “UDA regime will subject Kenyans to unproven and dangerous foods in an attempt to please international interests that do not care about our safety”.

“GMOs can cause harm to human and animal life and to the entire national ecosystems. They can dramatically reduce or eliminate plant diversity. It is an established fact that once GMOs are introduced, it is virtually impossible to stop their transfer where natural crops are grown because of wind and insect pollination.  In other words, GMOs can completely wipe out native and natural crops leaving Kenyans dependent on seeds and foods produced by GMO multinationals,” Raila said.

He added: “Parliament must push for motions to comprehensively and fully debate what the country should do with GMOs. We appeal to the people’s representatives to lead this discussion with immediate effect and invite Kenyans from all walks of life to submit their views. This matter of grave national importance cannot be decided in secrecy and opacity by the Cabinet without the input of the people.” 

The ODM boss noted that there is no scientific study so far that has unequivocally cleared GMOs as fit for human consumption and the environment, saying research findings that have come close to giving GMOs a clean bill of health are sponsored by biotechnology companies or their associates, and challenged Ruto to share with Kenyans the scientific study it is relying on to declare GMO maize as fit.

Inflaming tensions

Some of the European Union, America, Asia, and part of Africa countries, he said, have banned GMOs, which he described as a new form of colonialism “that will leave us permanently at the mercy of malign foreign nations and greedy corporations”.

“What does the UDA regime know that these leading countries on the global stage that have banned GMOs do not know? What is this regime’s interest in GMOs?” He posed. Raila also took a swipe on Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria for his reckless talks while justifying the introduction of GMO despite the risk.

Raila stated that Kuria lacks knowledge of scientific matters and was reducing the issue to an immature talk after the minister said that since there are a thousand ways for Kenyans to die, and so, safety of GMO foods should not worry Kenyan because they will still die,”

“As a party, we believe the matter of GMO foods in our country is too serious to be reduced to a cruel and juvenile joke. Officials who lack scientific literacy on such serious matters must never use their office to demean the Kenyan people as though we are a helpless, enslaved lot,” he said.

Separately, Nandi Senator Samson Cheralgei also called on the government to stop the importation of maize until it has mopped out 2022 crops.

According to the senator, it defeats logic for the country to import GMO maize at a time when local farmers, especially in the Rift Valley are harvesting.

“Our Rift Valley farmers are currently harvesting maize, the importation of maize should stop until the government has mopped up all this year’s crops,” he said.

“Avoid lowering prices that don’t match the inputs incurred by maize farmers.”

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi has also waded in the debate by demanding to know why the duty-free importation was limited to genetically modified maize and not any other.

“Why has there been no effort to get ordinary maize from other parts of the world or was importation of GMOs part of the pre-election deal between President William Ruto and foreign backers?” posed Wandayi.

The Ugunja MP wants the government to explain what will happen to the maize held by local farmers, claiming that the State had refused to buy even as harvesting has just commenced.

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