Farmers lose court battle to block lifting of GMO ban


Civil society activists protest against GMOs in Nairobi last month. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI

A group of farmers has for the second time suffered a setback after the High Court declined to issue orders halting plans to lift the ban on genetically modified foods.

The Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum had moved to court claiming that the ban on importation of GMO foods by the government would soon be lifted following remarks by Deputy President William Ruto.

But High Court judge Joseph Onguto on Monday dismissed the group’s claims, saying that they had not established a strong case to warrant issuance of any orders.

Mr Ruto had on August 12 announced  the intent, saying that Kenyan scientists had been pushing for the lifting of the ban in a bid to fight hunger.

“Based on the evidence before me, I am not satisfied that the circumstances are so exceptional  to demand court’s intervention given that there are various regulations in place touching on GMO foods,” Mr Justice Onguto said.

The judge also ruled that the farmers had provided speculative evidence which would easily crystallise once the Cabinet makes a decision on the matter. The judge said that public interest would better be served if the Cabinet is allowed to discuss the issue and then make a decision.

“For now, based on the safeguards in place through the Biosafety Act 2009 and the regulations thereunder, l am satisfied that threats alluded by the  farmers may be addressed through such a framework rather than a court order,” he ruled.

READ: Farmers sue government over move to lift GMO ban

The judge also acknowledged that indeed the public would be affected depending on political and economic considerations regarding the GMO debate.

“There is no consensus on the benefits, disadvantages, risks and effects of GMO generally and this battle has raged on since 1975 but still continues,” he added.

The farmers had argued that the public had not been sufficiently made aware of the scientific report and safety precautions regarding GMO as required under the Biosafety Act hence lifting the ban would be illegal.

Former Health  minister Beth Mugo imposed the ban on November 8, 2012 and a task force was set up in 2013 to investigate the matter.

According to the farmers, the report by the task force has never been made public.