East Africa: Kenyan Court Rejects GMO Lawsuit, Raises Concerns About Trade in the Region
In Nairobi, Kenya, a recent court ruling has upheld the importation of genetically modified foods (GMOs) after the dismissal of a case challenging their entry into the country. The petition was brought by the Law Society of Kenya, which argued that GMOs pose a threat to human health and that lifting the ban on their importation is unconstitutional. However, High Court Justice Oscar Angote ruled that the petitioners failed to provide evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of genetically modified food on human consumption. The decision to allow the importation of GMOs was made in October last year due to concerns over food insecurity and the inability of farmers to meet the demand for food in the country.
Justice Angote emphasized the importance of trust in the institutions responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of food. However, there is skepticism regarding the effectiveness of these regulatory bodies. Cidy Otieno, the national coordinator of the Kenya Peasants League, expressed doubts about the trustworthiness of Kenya’s regulatory agencies. He cited an example where a product containing GMOs was found on store shelves in Kenya, even though GMOs are not allowed in the country. This highlights the need for stronger regulations in Kenya.
Agriculture plays a significant role in Kenya’s economy, contributing one-third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Farmer advocacy groups have expressed concerns about the future of agriculture in Kenya, fearing that the presence of GMOs could undermine the competitiveness of local farmers compared to their well-supported counterparts in the United States. The acceptance of GMO products in Kenya has also raised concerns among neighboring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda, which currently do not allow GMOs. Tanzania has vowed to be vigilant against the importation of genetically modified food.
The East African region has a free flow of people and goods through an agreement within the regional bloc known as the East African Community. The importation of GMOs into Kenya could potentially strain trade relations between Kenya and its neighbors, as it may give rise to non-tariff barriers related to standardization. Nason’go Muliro, an international relations and diplomacy lecturer from Kenya, warns that neighboring countries might refuse to accept agricultural products from Kenya due to fears of GMO contamination.
The planting of GMO seeds could also lead to legal disputes among farmers in Kenya and its neighboring countries. The issue of cross-pollination and potential contamination of non-GMO crops raises concerns among farmers near the border. The Kenya Peasants League anticipates legal battles arising from these situations. They have also challenged the lifting of GMO bans in Kenya and the cultivation of GMO crops, but the resolution of this case is expected later this year.