Raila, Kalonzo slam President Ruto's decision on GM maize, insist it is harmful
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance leaders have continued their scathing attacks on President William Ruto's decision to lift the ban on the importation and farming of Genetically Modified (GM) maize.
Speaking separately on Tuesday, Azimio party leader Raila Odinga and his Wiper counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka slammed Ruto's move stating that the cons of GM maize far outweigh their costs and nutrition benefits especially since some health experts believe that the biotech foods carry a number of health risks.
"Juzi wameleta GMO ati ili kuzidisha idadi ya chakula katika nchi yetu. It is not a new thing in the world; nchi nyingi za Ulaya zimekataa (GMOs). Ujerumani, Uholanzi, Italiano, Sweden, Ufaransa zimekataa ilhali ni nchi ambazo zimeendelea sana kisayansi. Zimekataa kwa sababau wanajua itadhuru maisha ya watu wao," Raila told journalists at Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi.
"Juzi nimeskia hapa kanisa inasema ati inataka kufanya utafiti. Utafiti gani ambayo kanisa ya Kenya itafanya hapa kuliko ile imefanywa na nchi zile zimeendelea kisayansi kama Ujerumani? Mambo ya GMO, sisi kama wakenya tuseme tumekataa kwa sababu ni kitu ambayo imehatarisha maisha ya binadamu."
On his part Kalonzo, in his press briefing, noted that Kenya's food security should not be premised on maize consumption alone. According to the Wiper boss, a number of organic foods, which are readily available in the country, can complement and substitute the country’s maize production deficit.
"Kenyans are heavy consumers of processed maize and we produce an average of about 40 million bags of maize a year yet our demand is about 55 million bags of maize per year. Our deficit is about 10-15 million bags per year," said Kalonzo.
"There are other varieties of organic foods such as sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes and cassavas that can complement or substitute shortage of maize diet. Kenyans ought to be sensitised on the need to diversify their eating culture and be able to de-monopolize their dependency on a few staples like maize and rice."
Kalonzo likewise opined that even if Kenyan farmers were to start farming Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize varieties, the GM maize strain set to be reintroduced in the country, the cost of the food crop will still be out of reach for the ordinary Kenyan.
"The low cost of Bt maize is a result of subsidised farm implements and sophisticated and mechanised agricultural practices. Even if our farmers adopt the BT maize seed, this will not bring down the cost of maize since the price is artificially manipulated by the profit-oriented multinationals," he said.
"By supporting our farmers to produce more through better extension services, better inputs, climate resilience and agro-ecological practices we will be able to reduce post harvest losses and trade with our known neighbours rather than resorting to the importation of risky GMO maize."
Kalonzo also believes that since Kenya is going the GMO route, the fate of the country's food security will be in the hands of multinational companies which own the GMO technologies.
"Our unique bio-diversity will be facing extinction owing to the poor regulatory framework on GMOs in Kenya. Kenya fails to provide mechanisms for liability and redress in the event of possible harmful effects arising from the consumption and use of GMOs or compensation for our farmers in case of contamination of indigenous crops. We therefore direct national biodiversity authority as part of its mandate to ensure that these safeguards and redress mechanisms are in place," he said.
While insisting that Azimio's war on GMOs is purely out of public interest and not politically motivated, Kalonzo stated that President Ruto's administration failed to involve the public accordingly before lifting the ban on GMOs.
"The government did not engage in public participation; we shall therefore be progressing this conversation to the National Assembly and to the Senate. We urge our leaders to take this challenge."
He also urged religious institutions to join Azimio in condemning the re-introduction of GMOs locally.
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