In a significant legal ruling, the Environment and Land Court of Kenya has dismissed a petition lodged by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) challenging the government's decision to lift the ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods.
The decision, made through a cabinet dispatch on October 3 last year, had effectively ended a 10-year restriction on GMO foods in the country.
Justice Oscar Angote, presiding over the case, rendered the verdict, asserting the importance of the nation's well-established biosafety regulatory framework, which incorporates stringent safeguards to be met before considering the use of GMOs.
The judge's decision underlines the trust in Kenya's institutional structures and their adherence to the rule of law.
"As a country, we need to trust the institutions that we have in place and call them to order in the event of a breach of the law," Angote stated, emphasizing the need for faith in Kenya's regulatory mechanisms.
Judge Angote also highlighted the pivotal role of the Biosafety Act of 2009, which restricts the sale, importation, and exportation of GMOs.
This legislation mandates that any individual or entity intending to sell, import, or export GMOs within the country must first obtain written approval from the National Biosafety Authority (NBA).
"The Biosafety Act stipulates the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), in close collaboration with the Department of Public Health, which safeguards the health of consumers through food safety and quality control, surveillance, prevention and control of foodborne diseases," the judge explained, underscoring the significance of the regulatory framework in protecting public health.
Furthermore, Justice Angote emphasized the severity of violating the Act.
Failure to seek approval for GMO-related activities, as outlined in the Act, constitutes a criminal offence, punishable by a substantial fine not exceeding Sh20 million, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a combination of both penalties.
This stringent legal provision underscores the gravity of GMO-related offences and reflects the country's commitment to maintaining the integrity of its biosafety regulations.
Angote delivered a reassuring message to the citizens of Kenya, stating, "With all these institutions, we should be confident that our health and environment are in good hands. It can't be true they can all conspire to expose the population to calamities."
With this verdict, the Kenyan government's decision to lift the ban on GMO foods stands firmly, and the country's regulatory framework continues to be a cornerstone in ensuring the safety of its citizens and the preservation of its environment.