A Ugandan civil society organization has dragged the Kenyan government to the East African Court of Justice over the recent lifting of the ban on genetically modified crops in the country.
Kenya last year lifted the ban on openly cultivating genetically modified crops, reversing a decade-old decision.
On Friday, Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights(CEFROHT), a Ugandan not for profit CSO ran to the regional court seeking redress over the move by Kenya to lift the ban on GMOs that they say will affect the region.
In the suit where the Kenyan Attorney General has been listed as the respondent, CEFROHT says the act of lifting the ban and the approval of cultivation , importation and sale of GMOs removed all regulatory barriers that had been established on GMOs in Kenya and consequently contravening Article 6(d) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
“GMOs contaminate fields, even when a farmer has not planted such seeds,yet Kenya has a number of indigenous seeds that grow and multiply naturally which form part of the natural resources. With the introduction of GMOs, indigenous seeds and foods will be contaminated such as alien genes are transferred from GMO crops to other varieties of the same crop and other unknown effects which is against and violate the Treaty Establishing the East African Community,” the petitioners say.
The Ugandan civil society organization argues that the importation and cultivation of GMOs in Kenya is against Article 6 of the East African Community Treaty as they are patented and it allows a few multinational companies to control the entire GMO food chain from research, to breeding and commercialization of seeds, which they say weakens the farmer managed seed systems that guarantees seed security and sovereignty of smallholder farmers , ultimately affecting food and seed sovereignty in the East African member states.
CEFROHT also says that allowing GMOs in Kenya takes away smallholder farmer sovereignty over their seeds, foods and farms since they are required to pay royalties and user rights to multinational companies producing GMOs in terms of seed and food which is against the Treaty Establishing the East African Community.
“GMOs take away the sanctity of heredity embedded in seed sovereignty as seeds are a fascinating object as the first link in the food chain and the very basis of Kenya’s food supply as they carry tremendous material and symbolic importance .”
The petitioners say because of the free movement of goods and persons and the common market, even other countries neighbouring Kenya that banned GMOs will be affected by the lifting of the ban given the porous borders and farmer fields which will be contaminated by GMOs.
CEFROHT argues that the defence that the ban was lifted as a measure by the Kenyan government to deal with the problem of food security they face.
The Ugandan civil society organization says GMOs are not magic bullet for food and malnutrition as the world produces more than sufficient grain and other foodstuffs for all people to enjoy a healthy diet.
“People only get hungry because they lack money to grow food themselves. This shows that increased availability of food at the global level does not necessarily translate into increased food security at the national or household level.”