Kenya High Court Halts Government from Importing and Distributing GMOs

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Biotechnology In Food And Agriculture Particularly Genetic Engineering Has Become The Focus Of A Global War Of Rhetoric
Biotechnology In Food And Agriculture Particularly Genetic Engineering Has Become The Focus Of A Global War Of Rhetoric

The Kenya’s High Court sitting in Nairobi City at Milimani Law Courts has temporarily suspended Kenyan government’s decision to allow importation and distribution of Genetically Modified Genetically crops, commonly known as GMOs, in the country pending determination of a second lawsuit lodged against lifting of the ban.

According to the ruling on 28th November, 2022 of Case Number: HCCHRPET/E519/2022, made available, Lady Judge Mugure Thande also temporarily barred importation of GMO products, foods and materials by government or any person either directly or indirectly.

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 Kenyan Peasants League (KPL) – a lobby group representing peasant farmers Vs. State Law and Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

Lady Judge Mugure Thande ruled, “That pending the hearing and determination of this Application, this Honourable Court be pleased to issue an injunctive and/or conservatory Order prohibiting the Respondents herein either by themselves, their agents or through such other person acting under their instructions from gazetting or acting upon the contents of Despatch from the Cabinet authored by the Executive Office of the President of Kenya, dated 03 October 2022 (“Cabinet’s Despatch on GMO”), regarding the lifting of the ban on the genetically modified organisms (GMO crops) or gazetting other directive or decision similar to the said decision dated 03 October 2022.”

“That pending the hearing and determination of this Application, this Honourable Court be pleased to issue an injunctive and/or conservatory Order prohibiting the Respondents herein either by themselves, their agents or through such other person acting under their instructions from allowing/permitting the importation of the GMO crops and food into the Country,” Lady Judge Mugure Thande indicated.

The High Court ruling added that, pending the hearing and determination of this Application, this Honourable Court be pleased to issue an injunctive and/or conservatory Order prohibiting the Respondents herein either by themselves, their agents or through such other person acting under their instructions from distributing of the GMO crops and food in the Country.

The Kenyan Peasants League 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.

The Kenyan Peasants League alleges that GMO products pose a health risk to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those with low incomes. It also alleges that the government lifted the ban without involving Kenyans through the public participation rule, as required by the Constitution. They are opposed the importation, cultivation, and consumption of GMO.

In his affidavit, the leader of the Kenyan Peasants League Mr. Cidi Otieno relied on the recent statements by Moses Kuria where the Cabinet Secretary stated that “there was nothing wrong with adding GMOs to the list of the things that can kill Kenyans.”

He argued that such a statement from the CS in charge of the Kenya Bureau of Standards meant that the GMOs were indeed dangerous for human consumption and that the actions of the Government threaten the health and human life contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya.

Mr. Otieno further argued that if indeed the government needed to mitigate hunger, it was free to import safe maize from neighbouring Tanzania or other countries, rather than import food that would lead to long term diseases of the consumers.

Mr. Kevin Oriri, the lawyer for the KPL stressed that the injunctive orders prohibit the government from gazetting the Cabinet Decision that lifted the ban of GMOs in Kenya. The orders also prohibit the government, either directly or through any other entity from importing or distributing any GMO crops and foods in the Country. He further stated that there was no public participation that led to the lifting of the ban on GMOs in Kenya.

Mr. Otieno declared that the Kenyan Peasants League shall push on with the struggle to promote peasant agroecology for food sovereignty, and that they will continue fighting against the neoliberal tendencies that kill local agriculture, threaten food safety and alienate ordinary producers and consumers from decision making on agriculture and food.

In a petition filed by the Kenyan Peasants League (KPL), the petitioners opposed the importation, cultivation and consumption of GMO crops and food arguing that they posed a deadly health hazard to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those of low income.

The first lawsuit was filed in court last month by Lawyer Paul Mwangi against the government for lifting a ban on Genetically Modified Organisms. The lawyer said the move by President William Ruto is unconstitutional and threatens the rights and freedom of Kenyans.

Lawyer Paul Mwangi sued government for lifting regulatory barriers imposed a decade ago on gmo crops and products and for withholding public information on the genetically engineered crops.
“It goes against the right to food of acceptable quality, consumer rights guaranteed by Article 43, right to fair administrative action in article 47 and freedom of conscience, religion thought belief and opinion,” he said.

“The hasty removal of all regulatory protocols in the cultivation and trade in genetically modified foods in Kenya is neither rational nor reasonable.” The lawyer said the government has a duty to protect the rights of farmers to participate directly or indirectly in formulation of policies and regulation of laws that affect Kenyans.

Mr. Mwangi accused government of mischief saying the decision was hurried and if not quashed it will result to violation of the rights of small scale farmers and consumers.

Mr. Mwangi stated that the real import of the 2022 Cabinet decision to allow 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.

Mr. Mwangi claimed that the decision by the Cabinet dated October 3, 2022 will lead to end of the indigenous seeds and pave way for the commercial practice employed to protect the patent rights of the GMO seeds.

“Of particular concern is the imminent introduction into Kenya of crops developed using Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), which is a technology involving the insertion of what is known as a “terminator gene” into seeds so that upon germination the seeds “commit suicide” and are thereby unable to pass any life to their harvest. The said harvest is thus incapable of being resown and cannot germinate into new crop,” alleged Mr. Mwangi.

The GMOs had been placed under ban by the previous administrations of Presidents Mwai Kibaki (the late) and Uhuru Kenyatta since 2012 for the purpose of protecting the right and freedoms of Kenyans.

“The last two administrations were following the ban imposed by the 2012 Cabinet decision developed regulatory protocols that had seen the structured introduction in the country of at least one food crop and one cash crop developed through genetic modification without prejudicing the rights and freedoms of the people of Kenya and the Bill of Rights,” said Mr. Mwangi.

According to him, the decision passed by President Ruto’s Cabinet to address food shortage in the country is bad to the country’s farmers and consumers. The lawsuit also accused the government of derogating rights of peasant farmers and people working in the rural areas. The government is yet to file its responses to the two lawsuits.

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