What you need to know:
- The majority of members of the taskforce are from the Kenya Medical Research Institute and are suspected to be the ones who advised then Public Health minister Beth Mugo to ask the Cabinet to ban GMO imports.
The legality of a taskforce investigating the safety of genetically modified crops has been cast into doubt.
Concerns have arisen that its members were not legally constituted as they have not been gazetted, in line with government requirements.
As a result, Kenyans might not have a chance to have findings from the taskforce made public as even the Cabinet move to ban GMO imports is not contained in the Kenya Gazette.
The gazette is the government’s official publication for new legislation and notices.
The majority of members of the taskforce are from the Kenya Medical Research Institute and are suspected to be the ones who advised then Public Health minister Beth Mugo to ask the Cabinet to ban GMO imports.
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA), which is the lead agency for regulating GMO products, felt short-changed when the Ministry of Public Health single-handedly pushed for the ban.
NBA chief executive officer Willy Tonui told the Nation that they supported Agriculture PS Romano Kiome’s position that the import ban was not legally enforceable.
Dr Tonui said NBA remained the legal agency with the expertise to regulate GMOs, adding that the proposal was an ambush on the Cabinet as it was not part of the agenda.
Participants at a media forum organised by the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) in Nairobi raised concerns about the motive behind the ban.
Prof Norah Olembo, the ABSF executive director, said: “The taskforce can only be valid if it has officials from the NBA, who are the custodians of GM products.”
Dr Murenga Mwimali, a scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, said the requirement that GM products should be labelled could affect trade.
He said labelling would see the goods stay on supermarket shelves, with minimal buyers opting for them.
The Cereal Millers Association chairman, Mr Diamond Lalji, said labelling would scare away buyers who might think the GM products are not safe yet scientists have confirmed that they are safe as long as they are produced and processed under suitable conditions.