Atheists in Kenya Society has endorsed plans by the government to import genetically modified (GMO) maize amid the biting drought that has exposed more than four million Kenyans to hunger.
In a statement on Monday, November 21, Harrison Mumia, President of Atheists in Kenya Society, dismissed claims from a section of the political class on the far-reaching effects of GMOs on human and animal life.
Mumia insisted that there is no credible evidence of harm from GMOs, saying if there are any ills they are ‘far smaller than believed’.
“The Atheists In Kenya Society would like to state categorically that we welcome and support the importation of GMO maize as a way of tackling food insecurity in Kenya,” Mumia said.
“There is no credible evidence of harm from GMOs. On the contrary, GM crops have been shown to have more impact in countries like India and Brazil
“In a country such as ours, where farm inputs. like fertilizers. farm equipment, and pesticides are becoming harder to afford for our farmers. We believe that GM crops have more to offer.”
On the contrary, Mumia said the lifting of the ban on GMOs was a step in the right direction in addressing the issue of food insecurity in the country.
“GMOs are not poison. We should see them as a toolkit for combating food insecurity. The perceived ills of genetically modified foods are illusory and far smaller than believed,” he added.
The government is planning to import at least 10 million bags of maize into the country.
Trade, Investment and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, while revealing the State’s plan last week, stated 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.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga is among leaders who have opposed the plans.
Raila, in a press briefing at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation offices in Nairobi on Sunday, said President William Ruto’s administration should immediately reverse the decision on GMO foods until Kenyans have a robust debate on the matter, saying the decision to lift the 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.
Some politicians close to Ruto are also opposing the imports on grounds that they will hurt local farmers who are currently harvesting their produce.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said on Sunday that 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.