The biosafety regulatory agency has defended its mandate to police importation and use of products made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
It rebutted Unilever Kenya’s claims that the institution has no powers to order a withdrawal of its Aromat food seasoning from the market.
In a swift response to the global consumer goods maker’s claims that the agency’s mandate is limited to monitoring living organisms, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) said its regulatory powers cover both genetically modified organisms and products that are derived from GMOs.
Unilever Kenya, in a further affidavit filed in court on Tuesday, said the mandate conferred on the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) was limited to living organisms, but not food products which have no chance of replication.
“The genetically modified maize flour, which is a component of the impugned product (Aromat), is a product of a GMO and therefore the impugned products falls within the definition of the Act and the Regulations,” says NBA in documents filed in court on Wednesday.
The agency argues that the interpretation of the Biosafety Act advanced by Unilever is narrow, and insists that Unilever should have applied to it for approval to import the GMO ingredients used in production of Aromat.
The biosafety regulator has taken the position that the law gives it discretion to reject or approve importation of products with GMOs within allowed thresholds.
Unilever has, however, argued in documents filed on its behalf by Iseme Kamau and Maema advocates that the agency acted outside its mandate when it sought to seize or withdraw Aromat from the market, as it has no modified organisms.