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Azimio leaders fault Ruto stand on GMOs

Raila Odinga accompanied by Felix Odiwuor (left) MP Langata and Babu Owino MP Embakasi East Constituency on a meet the people tour along Muindi Mbingu street, Wabera street, City hall way and Moi Avenue on October 11, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Azimio leaders have faulted President William Ruto for vacating the country's long-held views on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), saying the decision appears to be serving the interests of multinational companies more than catering towards food security in the country.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said that during Mwai Kibaki's administration they had voiced reservations against embracing GMOs due to fears the technology would not only threaten the livelihood of small-scale farmers but also pose a threat to the well-being of Kenyans and the environment.

Raila said GMO "is not a new thing in the world and many European countries that are developed in science like Germany, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Estonia, and France have rejected it because they are sure it will harm the lives of their citizens. Now you hear others say we want to do research. Which research will be done that is more than what the above countries have done? That is dirt. We as Kenyans have refused it because it’s something that harms Kenyans’ lives."

Speaking when he addressed members of Bunge La Mwananchi at Jevanjee Gardens in Nairobi yesterday, Raila claimed there are companies that have "manufactured GMO seeds which if used in the soil will take away our soil's natural ingredients."

"So as Kenyans we should stand strong and say no to GMO. We do not want it in our country," he said.

Kalonzo said the President should have ensured there was a nationwide discussion and public participation for citizens to give their views on whether they would like to consume GM foods.

Speaking at the Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka Command Centre in Nairobi, he said the ban on GMOs arrived at by the Cabinet in November 2012 was founded on research and the need to protect the interests of Kenyans.

“Genetically modified organisms are animals or crops whose genetic material has been altered in a way that they are no longer natural. Genetic engineering, therefore, poses a lot of risks and to us, it is a big no since we cannot remain silent when our government comes up with policies that will affect the wellbeing of our present and future generations,” said Kalonzo.

Cartagena Protocol

The former VP said that in 2003 Kenya became part of the Cartagena Protocol whose main goal is to protect biological diversity from potential risks, especially on food and organisms resulting from modern technology with countries being provided with information to make necessary and informed decisions on the matter.

"The vacating on the ban for GMOs opens up Kenya to diverse challenges and threats with the Kenya multi-billion food market being susceptible to strangulation by profit-hungry multinationals handing over our food sovereignty to corporate manipulators,” he said.

Kalonzo said that Kenya lacks adequate capacity to test GMO traits and its impact on health. He urged Kenyans to embrace traditional foods.

"Food security should not be premised on maize consumption alone. There are other varieties of organic foods such as sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes, and cassava that can complement our shortage of maize. Kenyans need to be sensitized on the need to diversify their eating culture."