AG Muturi wants three-judge bench to hear merged petitions on GMOs

Attorney-General Justin Muturi

Attorney-General Justin Muturi. Mr Muturi is banking on the interpretation that his recommendation does not alter the function of Parliament.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The AG is also seeking the setting aside of orders issued by the High Court in December last year suspending the importation and distribution of GMOs in the country.

Attorney-General Justin Muturi wants a consolidated petition lodged against the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be heard and determined by a three-judge bench.

The AG is also seeking the setting aside of orders issued by the High Court in December last year suspending the importation and distribution of GMOs in the country.

The government lifted the decade-old ban on GMOs in October last year in response to the biting drought that has hit the country leading to food insecurity and livestock deaths.

The ban was lifted through a Cabinet resolution dated October 3, 2022 but it met stiff opposition over safety concerns and fears that the GMOs crops will eradicate indigenous seeds.

Through state counsel Ann Mwangi, the AG yesterday told Justice Mugure Thande that the temporary orders have paralysed operations of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), a body mandated to regulate and lead research on GMOs.

Ms Mwangi said the court orders have affected the cultivation of BT-cotton and put NBA at a disadvantaged position.

“We all know that BT cotton was commercialised and farmers have been planting the seeds. The orders prohibit them from planting even the seeds they already have,” said Ms Mwangi.

She added that NBA cannot process applications for seeds from farmers. But the petitioners — lawyer Paul Mwangi and lobby group Kenyan Peasants League — opposed the AG’s twin prayers.

They also accused Mr Muturi of forum shopping as he had also approached the Court of Appeal fighting the same interim orders.

“The AG has moved to Court of Appeal to stay the interim orders and we are waiting a hearing. He cannot decide that he needs the bench empanelled when a case is at the hearing stage,” said Mr Mwangi.

Justice Thande directed the AG to file a formal application for empanelment of the bench but stopped short of pronouncing herself on the setting aside of the interim orders. She fixed the case for mention on March 28 when the court will be informed whether the case will be consolidated with another one filed by the Law Society of Kenya at the Environment and Lands Court in Nyahururu over the genetically modified crops.

The three petitions were lodged against President William Ruto’s administration for allowing the consumption of GMOs in Kenya.

The petitioners are opposed to the importation, cultivation and consumption of GMOs on grounds that the decision to lift the ban was not procedural or lawful. They also contend that GMO products pose a health risk to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those with low incomes.

Another contention is that the government lifted the ban placed in 2012 without involving Kenyans through public participation as required by the Constitution. Mr Mwangi accused the government of mischief, saying, the decision to lift the ban was hurried and will result to violation of the rights of small-scale farmers and consumers.

He said the real import of the decision was to effect a blanket uplift of all protocols controlling the introduction of genetically modified foods in Kenya.