Just four years after banning imports of genetically-modified crops, Kenyan officials have come full circle: They’ve moved a big step closer to introducing genetically modified crops into Kenyan fields. Earlier this year, the country’s National Biosafety Association approved Monsanto’s genetically-modified, drought-resistant corn for field trials that will test whether it is safe and has sufficient nutritional value.

As a journalist who recently moved to Kenya, I’m constantly reminded that few things are as important to Kenyans than corn. I was not surprised to find out that Kenyans eat more corn than almost any other national population on the continent – about 194 pounds per year.

“Some Kenyans will say they haven’t even eaten if they haven’t had ugali [a popular maize-based dish],” says Felister Makini, deputy director general for crops of the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, KALRO, which put in the application for field trials of the GM maize. Ugali is almost as much a source of national pride as Kenya’s wildlife. Indeed, when I — an American expat — tell Kenyans that I don’t (gasp) like ugali that much, I receive looks like I had just said I’d rather eat my own foot.