North Rift MPs to meet CS Kuria over plans to import GMO maize
A section of Members of Parliament from the North Rift region has opposed plans to import genetically modified maize into the country, saying the move will hurt local farmers.
Speaking to members of the press on Sunday, November 20, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said plans to ship 10 million bags into the country were in bad faith and will demoralise local farmers currently harvesting their crops.
Cherargei argued that the farmers are likely to incur huge losses after spending so much on farm inputs.
"When we were planting maize we spent about Ksh7,000 on fertiliser per bag. The price of petrol was also high. Importing the maize will hurt maize prices in the country and our farmers won't get returns for their sweat," he argued.
The senator suggested that the Kenya Kwanza government should prioritise buying the current harvest before thinking of importing any maize into the country.
"We are calling on the government to suspend plans to import maize into the country and spend the next three months buying the harvest from our farmers. If there is a shortage by February then they can go ahead with the importation plans," he added.
He said he will be leading a group of MPs from the region to meet Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mithika Lintuiri and his Trade, Investment and Industry counterpart Moses Kuria for talks on the ongoing plans.
"It is surprising that the CSs for Trade and Agriculture appear not to recognise the fact that our farmers are currently harvesting maize. I don't think the statement on importing maize was made in good faith. It will demoralise our farmers. MPs from the Rift Valley region will be sitting with the two CSs by Tuesday to address this matter," he added.
CS Kuria announced on Thursday that plans to import 10 million bags of duty-free maize into the country were in top gear.
He said the duty-free window for the importation of the maize will last for about six months.
The CS sparked a storm after claiming that there was no harm in bringing in GMO maize as Kenyans were, in any case, dying from so many causes.
“We have two deliberate steps. One is that we have so many things that can kill us in this country,” he said at the Strathmore Business School during a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises forum. “Living in this country you are a candidate for death,” he said, sending the audience into sustained laughter.
Kuria said that because there were so many things competing for death, there would be nothing wrong to add GMOs to that list.
“That’s why we have deliberately decided to allow GMOs into this country,” he said. He explained that the decision to allow the importation of duty-free maize was because the country is experiencing a dire food shortage which has exposed more than four million Kenyans to hunger.
Kuria's comments sparked controversy with opposition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday terming the remarks as 'regrettable'.
In a statement, the Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya leader said Kuria's remarks were a mockery to the people of Kenya and asked him to apologize.
"CS Kuria’s remarks on this matter are regrettable. To say that even without GMOs, Kenyans will die anyway is a mockery to the people of Kenya. Raila Odinga, therefore, says Kuria should apologize to the people of Kenya, "Raila stated.
The former premier further maintained that the decision by the Cabinet to lift the ban on GMO foods was a betrayal to the country.
He claimed that by allowing GMOs President William Ruto was being a puppet, working for foreign nations.
"We consider the decision to lift the ban on GMO foods and their importation a betrayal to our country. On this, the Ruto administration is not working for Kenya. Ruto is being a puppet, working for foreign nations and their multinationals against our interest as a nation," Raila said in a statement.
"Ruto is not working to promote Kenyan research work in Kenyan universities, colleges and institutions. He is working to promote foreign biotechnology institutions abroad," he added.
Raila further called on Ruto's administration to reverse the decision until a debate on the matter is held and the matter resolved amicably.
"We call upon the UDA regime to immediately reverse this decision on GMO foods until Kenyans have a robust debate on the matter," Raila said.