NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga clashed with Naivasha MP John Mututho on Wednesday afternoon, over the alleged importation of the controversial Genetically Modified Maize (GMO) into the country.
The PM, who was making a government statement on the imports, maintained that they had not yet been allowed into the country even after Mr Mututho tabled a detailed report indicating that two varieties of the maize were already in the country and were heading to northern Kenya.
Mr Odinga added that it would be illegal for millers to import the products as the regulations surrounding their importation had not yet been published by the Government Printer.
“Mr Speaker he (Mr Mututho) has talked about lorries which are currently on the road but I cannot inspect lorries on the road right now. I wish he gave us shipping documents so that if the consignment came into the country as a shipped cargo then we can verify the claims,” he argued.
Mr Mututho was however persistent in his allegations forcing the PM to issue a pledge by the government to undertake investigations over the issue.
“Is the Prime Minister in order to mislead this House by saying that no GMO has been imported into this country whereas I have given documents to the effect that GMOs of varieties MON810 and NK603 have indeed been imported?” asked the Naivasha MP.
Several other MPs including Bura’s Abdi Nuh, James Maina (Kandara), David Njuguna (Lari), Gidion Mbuvi (Makadara) and Juja’s William Kabogo also registered their anxiety over the GMO products citing infertility and health concerns.
“I would like to find out whether the PM can admit that the investigations verifying the safety of GMOs are carried out on rats for three months and then they are declared fit for consumption,” said Mr Nuh.
Mr Kabogo also wondered why the government was insisting on importing the GMO rather than focus on buying food from local farmers. Mr Maina also held the same views arguing that there was a lot of food that was rotting in Kenyans’ farms yet the government was not buying it.
However the PM said that the National Cereals and Produce Board was already in the process of buying grain from Kenyan farmers to replenish its reserves and feed the starving communities. He said that the parastatal had already bought eight million bags from Kenyan farmers.
Mr Odinga further accused the legislators of inciting public emotions on the topic without using factual information.
“I want to invite the honourable members to embrace science and to know that science is moving on. Conservatism will kill innovation. The issues raised about GMOs causing infertility are just speculations,” he countered.
The PM also assured the MPs of the safety of the foods saying that they were already being used in several countries including Canada, United States, Argentina and South Africa. He added that the products had already been certified by the World Health Organisation.
“These countries I’ve mentioned are fairly civilised and advanced; they would not allow their own populations to consume GMO foods if they were harmful,” he observed.
During the afternoon session Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto was thrown out for 30 minutes after his phone rang inside the chamber. The MP’s phone rang twice before House Speaker Kenneth Marende asked him to leave.
“Will the honourable member whose phone has just rang, twice, own up and step out for the next 30 minutes?” directed Mr Marende.
The PM however ran out of time and could not issue his statement on Identity Cards and voter registration.
Meanwhile the Minister for Medical Services is also scheduled to issue a ministerial statement on August 9 on issues arising from the management of the Pumwani Maternity hospital.
This follows a request by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale citing numerous corruption scandals at the hospital as well as the increasing number in maternal and infant mortalities.
The MP wants the minister to give the exact number of maternal and infant deaths at the hospital since January 2011.