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Court in landmark ruling allows importation of GMO in Kenya

Environment court dismisses challenging the planting and importation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) maize in Kenya.

The Environment Court highlighted a lack of proof in its decision that using GMOs harms either human health or the environment.

Justice Oscar Angote ruled on Thursday that adequate public participation was achieved through a session at the KICC as well as a gazette notice.

According to the court, the petitioner made premature claims about the cultivation, importation, and exportation of GMO maize without a license because no evidence was provided.

“There is no evidence presented before the court by the petitioner to show that the fourth respondent is already engaged in food cultivation, processing import, and export…” said Justice Angote.

The safety of GMOs for human consumption has been a topic of discussion in the past. 

This came after President William Ruto’s administration lifted the ban on GMO imports into the country. 

Following the decision, Ruto assured Kenyans that the genetically modified products did not pose any health effects, saying that he would not endanger Kenyans’ lives.

“All the food we import is GMO, to some percentage. The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) requires the percentage to be one. But that leaves us paying 30 to 40 percent more for our imports,” he said in March 2023.

“South Africa and the USA are 100 percent GMO. Have you heard of anyone growing horns because of consuming GMOs? I am a scientist, I would not endanger the lives of those who elected me.”

This was, however, countered by Civil Society groups who filed a petition in court seeking to reverse Ruto’s orders.

The groups noted that the government had not provided sufficient evidence to show that the modified crops were safe for consumption.

The High Court ruled in favour of the civil society groups, banning the importation and distribution of the product. 

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However, the court also stated that the petitioner had not challenged the laws governing GMOs both internationally and domestically, despite evidence presented in court demonstrating that Kenya has a strong framework governing the viability of GMOs.

“Evidence before me has shown that the country has put in place a robust framework with inbuilt structures which must be met before they consider the use of GMOs.” Justice Angote added. 

“The framework has been set up for the evaluation of GMO foods to human ….evidence before the court shows that the international biosafety authority has the capacity to check on food assessment….”

According to the court, Kenya has several institutions tasked with dealing with the GMO issue in its entirety, so it cannot be true that all would conspire to expose the population to a disaster.

“This court has not been shown any evidence that the respondents and institutions violated the laws and regulations on GMO foods, specifically the approval to release maize cultivation, importation, and exportation…. “I dismiss the petition,” added Justice Angote.

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