Issue guidelines on GMO food labelling

GMO maize

State to appeal court ruling stopping GMO importation. PHOTO | POOL

The temporary ban on the importation of genetically modified maize and other food products should offer an opportunity for the country to address this matter in a sober and inclusive manner.

GMO products have had a long-standing controversy in Kenya. Now is the time to deal with the concerns of those opposed to the technology, even as the government appears keen to ship in the products to deal with runaway inflation.

Activists have gone to court arguing that the introduction of GMO products is being rushed despite risks to human health.

The government on the other hand says the products are safe for human consumption. It appears that this matter is far from settled and the reasonable approach is to give consumers a choice between GMO and non-GMO food products.

This will require a robust labelling system to enable consumers to make an informed choice about the food they buy.

Such a system will help consumers to identify GMO food or a product that has GMO ingredients.

The issue of labelling has not been a priority in the debate and yet it is likely to be key in delivering the compromise needed to unlock the stalemate.

The government must communicate clearly the measures it will or has taken to ensure that GMO maize and other food items are labelled to distinguish them from standard commodities.

Enforcement of such labelling must also be thorough. By giving people an option to consume or shun GMO foods, the government will put them in control of their health and preferences.