KENYA – Four court cases have blocked the release and distribution of 11 metric tonnes of genetically modified maize seeds that were to be made available to farmers for the March and April planting season.
In four separate actions, plaintiffs have asked courts to prevent the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) from allowing the genetically modified seeds to to be distributed
The Attorney General has been named as the first respondent in the fourth lawsuit brought before the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) in Arusha, Tanzania asking the government not to engage in the importation, commerce, distribution, or cultivation of GM seeds.
The ban on importing genetically modified food crops had been in force since November 2012, but the cabinet overturned the ban in October 2022 following the worst drought in 40 years and soaring food prices
Petitioners are challenging the legality of the last year’s Cabinet decision to lift the prohibition without the requisite amount of public input.
NBA on the other hand confirms that several traders have approached the regulator with requests to import GM products into the country, including a consignment of GM white maize from South Africa. The regulator, however, froze the requests until after the determination of the court cases.
”We will be able to approve the requests as soon as the courts give directions on this matter,” Dr. Roy Mugiira, the chief executive of NBA, told the Business Daily, in an interview.
According to Dr. Mugiira, the seeds were meant to be used as a demonstration, with farmers testing them alongside commercially available seeds to evaluate which performed better.
However, some of the petitioners worry that allowing genetically modified crops into Kenya may contaminate native seed stocks, cause environmental damage, and endanger the health of Kenyans as well as erode Kenya’s food sovereignty by making Kenyans dependent on seed multinationals.
Researchers on the other hand counter that BT maize is more resistant to pests, especially the stem borer, which is said to reduce maize yields by more than 15% in recent years.