Economy

Court halts move to import GMO foods

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Two civilians want Sh50 billion Hustler Fund declared illegal. PHOTO | POOL

The High Court has temporarily suspended the government's decision to allow in duty-free genetically modified maize, dealing a blow to the government’s plan curb the runaway inflation that has engulfed the country.

Judge Mugure Thande also temporarily barred the importation of GMO products, foods and materials by the government or any person either directly or indirectly.

ALSO READ: Maize prices increase to historic Sh6,000 a bag

The lawsuit, which is the second one to be lodged against President William Ruto's administration for allowing the consumption of GMO products in Kenya, was filed by the Kenyan Peasants League -a lobby group representing peasant farmers.

The group claims that the removal of the ban and remove regulatory restrictions imposed in 2012 is unprocedural and unlawful.

The shipments are expected to plug a gap triggered by reduced harvest in the wake of prolonged drought, which pushed the cost of the staple maize flour to rise to an average of Sh190 in October for the two-kilogramme packet from Sh130 at the start of the year.

The costly maize flour together with fuel and other food items has led to Kenya’s monthly inflation rising to a 65-month high of 9.6 per cent in October, squeezing household budgets and demand for goods and services.

Kenyan Peasants League reckons that GMO products pose a health risk to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those with low incomes.

READ: MPs debate GMO maize imports today

The first lawsuit was filed last month by a civilian Mr Paul Mwangi.

He accused the government of mischief saying the decision was hurried and that if not quashed it will result in a violation of the rights of small-scale farmers and consumers.

On October 3, President William Ruto lifted the ban on the cultivation of GMO products after 10 years of field trials by local scientists, citing the country’s need to promptly address food security and lower food costs.

The ban had been effected in 2012 following a study by a French scientist that linked it to cancerous tumours in rats that were fed GMO crops.

Kenya is battling the worst drought situation in 40 years, consequently hurting food production in a country where farming activities are largely dependent on rainfall.

Attempts to subsidise the price of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour in mid-July by the previous administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta failed with consumers struggling to access the commodity in retail stores despite costing the taxpayers more than Sh8 billion in a month.

Dr Ruto, who had pledged to lower the cost of a two-kilo packet of maize meal to below Sh 100 during presidential campaigns, has ruled out costly consumption subsidies on flour, saying they are unsustainable.

The sky-high inflation, which is above the government’s target range of 2.5-7.5 per cent, has forced many households, especially in the low-income segment, to reduce their shopping basket in an environment where firms have frozen salaries as they recover from Covid-19 economic hardships.

The increase in the cost of essential commodities has forced workers to cut back spending on non-essential items.

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