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Genetically modified Ugali

Kenyans love ugali. To say they love ugali is understatement, lacking impact and real substance. Kenyans adore ugali.

Now, Kenyans have decided to move their love for ugali to the next level. They need improved ugali. They will be eating modified ugali

If you love something, you look after it, improve it, make it better, and even modify it to reflect the love you bestow to it. This is what Kenyans are doing. Modifying ugali.

Improving the surface or the superficial outlook does not deliver the real appeal. There is need to modify the core. I mean the inside. The center. The real thing. That is the gene to come up with genetically modified ugali.

If you think it is only Kenyans who love ugali, you might be mistaken. It is not only Kenyans who love this thing, the white maize cake as foreigners call it.

One time I lived with some lovely Zambian women who ate Ugali or Zima as they call it every day. Literary, every day. Their argument was that any other food never met their energy needs, they risked going hungry by eating anything else.

To my Zambian friends, rice, pasta or any other cereal based food was just not good enough. According to their words, other foods did not ‘catch the stomach’- low satiety properties.  They had to cook ugali and large amount of it for that matter. Since we were in a foreign land, I could understand. Probably they did not like the foreign food. Not every body admires the look of shrimps in a plate.

Ok, back to Kenyans and their love for ugali. To know how Kenyans love ugali, visit a Kenyan living in Diaspora. I mean even a Kenyan living in Kampala or Southern Sudan. They will make for you ugali the first dinner.

Make a mistake and visit Kenyans living in Europe. You will be surprised. Ingrained eating habits die hard. They too love ugali. Actually they love it more than their relatives back in Kenya. Why am I saying this?. Main supermarkets in these countries doesnot stock maize flour. In these countries, if maize is not canned as sweet corn or sold as maize on cob, it is an animal feed or industrial raw material. No milling into human maize flour.

To buy their favourite ingredient for making ugali, they have to find their way to corner shops, usually owned by Indians or Nigerians and located in some obscure streets which are sometimes situated in risks parts of these big cities.

You may be excused to think that a packet of 2kg maize flour in Kenya costing Kshs 130 is expensive. In these corner shops, 2 Kg will cost up to Kshs 500. This doesnot deter Kenyans from buying it.

To consummate the love of ugali by Kenyans, government has set the ground for genetically modified maize. All the necessary regulations to allow importation of genetically modified maize into the country are finalized.

To make sure people get it straight as modified ugali, all the modified maize has to be milled into flour. No planting of those seeds because it will take at least 6 months which is too long for them to grow and be milled into flour. Therefore, straight from the port into maize flour mills, into packets and voila, fill the supermarket shelves.

Kenyans have some inclination to something costing less, call it mobile phone airtime or electrical appliances. I am sure no where else in this world you can buy mobile phone air time for only Khs 5 (US $ 0.05). That is why the government expects the modified ugali flour will be cheaper than the unmodified counterpart which is currently retailing at Kshs 130.

Who else eats genetically modified maize?

There are 29 countries around the world that openly grow genetically modified foods. Amongst these, 19 are developing while 10 are developed countries.

Commercial Genetically Modified (GM) foods have been around just for 15 years, from 1996. Currently, the top ten countries that grow GM foods in decreasing order of hectarage are USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa and Uruguay.

The remaining 19 countries in decreasing order of hectarage are: Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, Egypt, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Romania, Germany and Sweden.

Although there are over 50 GM crops worldwide that have passed all the requirements for commercialisation, there are slightly over ten GM crops that are fully commercialised.

Genetically modified maize/corn is the most widely grown followed by soybean. The other crops include cotton, canola (rape seed), sugar beet, alfalfa, papaya, potatoes, tomatoes and sweet pepper.

Only three countries in Africa commercially grow genetically modified crops. Burkina Faso and Egypt produces cotton and maize respectively while South Africa has been growing GM maize, cotton, and soybean for several years now.

Three other countries in Africa have grown or are growing GM crops in confined field trials, namely; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which is producing biotech banana and cotton.

In Europe (most countries have banned growing of GM maize) and America genetically modified maize is rarely eaten directly as food except as canned sweet corn, popcorn, corn on cob or corn oil.

The biggest proportion of maize is used as animal feed where the maize is harvested, shredded and fermented into silage.

The other percentage of maize and potatoes are used as a source of starch. This starch finds its way indirectly into many food products which use corn syrup, corn oil or corn starch as an ingredient.

Therefore corn syrup, corn starch and dextrose from corn are some of the ingredients from GM maize that are used to make processed foods.

In many African countries including Kenya, maize is a staple food. By authorising importation of GM maize by Kenyan government, it means Kenyans will join South Africans as the two populations that directly and heavily consume genetically modified maize.

Many food products which are imported contain GM ingredients; these include soda/soft drink, fruit drinks, aspirin, beers, some antibiotics, candy and gum and breakfast cereals.

Also many pharmaceutical companies use corn starch and other ingredients from genetically modified crops in their products.

Although most of the short-term studies of up to 90 days have given GM foods a clean bill, they have pockets of controversial results and multi-generational healthy effects are not yet known.

Enjoy genetically modified ugali.

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I am still wondering where does cooking oil companies in Kenya that make Elianto get their maize to extract corn oil. If you know please leave a comment below.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Frances September 1, 2011, 3:42 pm

    Are You Kidding Me????????
    “Enjoy Genetically Modified Ugali” (or any other GM foodstuffs)
    Sounds like genocide to me.

    • Joshua Arimi September 7, 2011, 11:42 pm

      Hi Frances,
      Probably you have been eating GM foods without your knowledge. If you eat foods with corn syrup e.g. soft drinks, then no doubt most of these syrups are made mainly from GM maize. Many other processed foods use genetically modified ingredients. Some may not be labeled if the quantity is below what is required to be shown on the labels.

  • Frances September 16, 2011, 1:50 am

    Thanks for your response, Joshua.
    I strive to be very conscious of what I ingest. Especially if it happens to be processed foodstuff. Raw, Fresh, is the best!
    “Soft” drinks are a no-no…for me. Have you researched the hazards of fructose?