Trade CS Mose Kuria's bold statement to the effect that there were many things that were killing Kenyans and that GMOs would not really worsen the situation kicked up a storm with some people suggesting that it suggested the government was not concerned with the safety of Kenyans.
“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 at Strathmore University Friday. "That is why we are deliberately allowing GMOs into this country.”
Kuria doubled down on his statement Saturday saying that those who were complaining the most were the privileged who were not in desperate need of food.
It wasn’t Kuria’s message that stoked anger, but the way he put it.
Kuria said it was the rich idlers who could afford pizza and fish fingers that were attacking the government’s GMO policy while completely ignoring other Kenyans who were dying from hunger and eating poisonous meat.
“It is completely callous for rich idlers and Twitterati with a bowl of pizza and fish fingers to continue attacking our GMO policy while Hustlers are dying of hunger and poisoned donkey meat. You will burn in hell,” he said.
As raw as he puts it, Kuria has won the adoration of some, including lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi who showered him with praises for his “carefree, rapid and unscripted speech."
The government followed up the lifting of the ban on GMO maize in October with the announcement that 10 million bags of maize would be imported tax-free in the next six months.
But if Kenyans were already worried about the safety of consuming genetically modified maize, the Trade CS fanned the flame by referring to the maize as just another on a list of things that will kill Kenyans.
While his statement drew laughter from his audience, that was as far as the joke went.
His remarks have fanned anxiety among Kenyans, even as he said that the government saw GMOs as an immediate fix to the country's food problems.
There was a bipartisan condemnation of both Kuria's statement and the importation of maize, with the concern loudest among members of the Opposition as well as anti-GMO lobby groups.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei's immediate concern was the effect the importation would have on maize harvests in North Rift and prices.
"CS Moses Kuria is at his usual element but our Rift Valley farmers are currently harvesting maize, the importation of maize should stop until the government has mopped up all this year's crop and avoid lowering prices that don't match the inputs incurred by maize farmers," Cherargei posted on Twitter.
Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna thought that it was expected of Kuria to make such a statement.
“If you are shocked by anything Moses Kuria says or does, you are the problem. Just eat GMO and die," he said.
His colleagues in Parliament, Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, Homa Bay Town Member of National Assembly Peter Kaluma and Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina saw things as Sifuna did.
Wandayi said yesterday that famine or not, the Opposition was opposed to the introduction of GMO products into the country.
"We believe that the famine is just but an excuse for cold-hearted well placed people in government to defraud the country in a scheme very much similar to the Goldenberg scam of the 1990s," Wandayi said.
" We, therefore, need to know who is to import the maize, when and how the importers were identified, and where the maize will be coming from."