Kenya’s GMO Plans Disrupted, but Ethiopia Pushes Forward With Testing

The Kenyan government’s move to import Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for human consumption has faced a setback as the appellate court ruled the move is contrary to the public interest. The appellate court declined the government’s appeal until the interests of the public are heard.

On Thursday, May 25, 2023, a panel of three appellate judges, including Justice Mohammed Warsame, Ali Aroni, and John Mativo, stated the application by Kenya’s Attorney General Justin Muturi “lacked merit,” adding that “the public interest test was not met,” according to local media.

The use of GMOs has been controversial in many African nations, including Kenya. Critics argue that GMOs could potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. While Kenya faces legal hurdles in its attempt to import GMOs, Ethiopia takes a proactive approach to GMO adoption by testing genetically modified crops. However, concerns remain over the potential health and environmental risks of GMO products, both in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has seen little opposition to GMO adoption due to the lack of strong consumer protection activity in the country. Meanwhile, the ongoing legal battle in Kenya highlights the divide between the pro-GMO government and anti-GMO opposition groups who argue that the government did not consult the public and that GMO products pose health risks.

In October 2022, the new administration of William Ruto reversed the Kenyan government’s ten-year ban on consumable GMOs, but the Kenyan high court ruled against the decision a month later. The government appealed, and the appeals court upheld the high court’s verdict in favor of GMO opposition groups in Kenya.

“We see nothing for the court to preserve and it cannot be said that the substratum of the appeal will be eroded,” ruled the appellate court in Kenya.

The Kenyan High Court is also hearing another case filed by the Kenyan Peasant League, a representing body of a social movement. The League opposes the government’s decision to impose GMOs, arguing that allowing their cultivation and consumption is unlawful and that the government did not consult the public. Furthermore, the League asserts that GMO products pose health risks.

As a result of the ongoing case, the Kenyan government is prohibited from importing or distributing GMO crops and food until a final verdict is reached. If the Kenyan Peasants League wins the case, the Kenyan government may be permanently banned from importing GMOs.

The Kenyan government has argued that adopting biotechnology and using GMOs will significantly help to resolve Kenya’s food security challenges and boost the supply of animal feed. The debate between the pro-GMO Kenyan government and the anti-GMO community in Kenya follows similar lines of argument to those in Ethiopia.