Linturi contradicts Kuria on importation of GMO maize

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi (centre) during a consultative meeting with the Council of Governors. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has distanced himself from the importation of GMO maize

After keeping off the raging debate on whether to import GMO maize, Linturi broke his silence Monday, claiming he was not aware of any plans to ship into the country genetically modified corn.

“I am the custodian of the ministry and am not ready to answer to what is being reported in social media,” he curtly responded during a press briefing in his office. 

His position seemed to contradict earlier sentiments by his Trade counterpart Moses Kuria that the government would import GMO maize to cushion Kenyans from hunger. 

While defending the decision to rely on GMO corn, Kuria has been adamant that the maize is not dangerous as claimed by some people.

“Being in this country, you are a candidate for death and because there are many things competing for death, there is nothing wrong with adding GMOs to that list,” Kuria said.

However, Linturi maintained that in case of food shortage, his ministry would be guided by stakeholders to make the right decision.

“I want to give you a position that I am ready to defend. I need to have statistics before I can give a comprehensive report on the national food status,’’ Linturi said.

Linturi’s clarification on the issue came after Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi said the matter of maize importation should be left to the Agriculture ministry.

“This issue of importation of maize should be guided by a survey from the Ministry of Agriculture which will find out if there is a deficit of grain. That is a policy that must be well elected. It is the Agriculture docket that will issue an importation order after looking at the food situation,” Mudavadi said.

Addressing the media after a meeting with Governors Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo) the Agriculture CS revealed he had advised farmers to ignore the 72-hour ultimatum given earlier by Kuria to off load the maize in their stores.

Linturi told farmers they are at liberty to sell their produce any time they wished and no one has authority to command them. “You (farmers) are free to sell your maize any time you wish without anyone giving you a timeline. What you should know is that when selling you should spare some stock for your own consumption,” he said. 

Kuria issued the ultimatum in Kitale last week. He blamed farmers for starving the country by hoarding maize in expectation of an increase in price.

“Those who have maize and don’t want to release it, it is up to them. On Tuesday (today) we will have a Cabinet meeting and if we are given way forward, we will do the necessary on the importation and so you have like 72 hours to release the maize,” said Kuria

The Trade CS was responding to Saboti MP Caleb Hamisi who warned the government against importing the cereal, saying farmers are going to suffer as they have enough stock in their stores and farms. 

“CS, maize farming is the strength of all farmers. Trans Nzoia is the breadbasket of Kenya, but we have the basket, we don’t have the bread inside. Now you even want to steal the basket.

“If you want to bring maize from another place, you will be hurting the farmers here,” Hamisi said.

The Council of Governors (CoG) also weighed in on the debate, criticising the manner in which the Kenya Kwanza administration lifted the ban on importation of GMO maize. 

The council’s chairperson Kenneth Lusaka said the proposal to ship in maize will put farmers at a disadvantage.

“The discussion of importation of GMO maize was premature as a report by the ministry projects a maize surplus of 19.1 million bags by end of December,” Lusaka said.

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