State fights GMO imports freeze in Court of Appeal


In conducting a safety assessment of GMOs, the aim is to reduce the potential of introducing or transferring toxic compounds, anti-nutrients, or allergenic elements from one species to another. FILE PHOTO | POOL

The government has moved to lift a ban on the importation and distribution of genetically modified crops, saying the freeze by the High Court last month had paralysed the work of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA).

Attorney General Justin Muturi says in an application to the Court of Appeal that the body mandated to regulate and research Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) continues to suffer paralysis in service delivery as a result of the order.

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Mr Muturi further said the order issued without hearing from the government’s side and extended to February 2023 is prejudicial and has placed the government in a disadvantaged position.

He said this is because High Court judge Mugure Thande insinuated that she granted the order because of global concerns about the safety of GMOs, without tangible evidence.

“That granting of the said orders exparte and extending the same was premature as global concerns on the impact of genetically modified organisms on human health and environment can only be determined based on scientific evidence adduced during the hearing of the petition,” senior principal State counsel Anne Wanjiku said.

The High Court temporarily barred the importation of GMO products, foods and materials by the government or any person either directly or indirectly.

The case was filed by the Kenyan Peasants League, a lobby group representing peasant farmers, Paul Mwangi and the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya.

The group claims that the decision of President William Ruto-led administration to lift the ban and remove regulatory protocols imposed in 2012 is unprocedural and unlawful.

Mr Mwangi argued that the real import of the 2022 Cabinet decision to allow the re-introduction of GMOs was not to remove a ban on genetically modified foods but to effect a blanket uplift of all protocols controlling the introduction of genetically modified foods in Kenya.

The lobby said GMO products pose a health risk to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those with low incomes and lifting the ban without involving Kenyans through public participation, was wrong.

The NBA, however, says the government has invested in researching the safety of GMOs and there is a likelihood that the resources will go to waste if the order remained in force.

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“The orders issued were so extensive and revolutionary that they go to the very foundation of the Constitution. They were beyond the matters that were before the superior court,” Ms Wanjiku said.

The government added it is necessary and in the public interest that the ban is lifted, pending the determination of the appeal.

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