The High Court has been asked not to consolidate three cases filed to challenge the importation of genetically modified food.
During the hearing yesterday, lawyer Paul Mwangi and Kenya Peasants League asked the High Court judge not to entertain the case that had been filed before the Environment and Land Court (ELC) in Nyahururu.
The lawyer argued that the ELC court had no power to handle a case on violation of the constitution while the constitutional court cannot hear a case on environmental pollution.
“My reading about the jurisdiction is that constitutional, environmental, and lands courts are totally separate and distinct courts, and matters are not transferrable between them,” argued Mwangi.
“The High Court does not have any powers before the environmental court. The petitioners are asking for different orders. We are challenging compliance with the constitution and the ELC matter is concerned about environmental conservation.”
The Biosafety Association of Kenya, Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium and the Association of Kenya Feeds Manufacturers supported Mwangi’s argument.
Separately, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has its own case seeking to quash the cabinet’s decision to lift the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) ban.
The Attorney General (AG) urged Justice Mugure Thande to transfer the cases to the environmental court.
The AG argued that the issue is about the cabinet’s memo allowing GMOs, therefore, the constitutional court had no power to hear the cases.
In a rejoinder, Mwangi stated that the issue was whether there was public participation. According to him, the environmental court can determine whether GMOs have an effect on the environment.
“Let the environment court determine whether eating GMO maize is harmful to the environment and let this court determine whether there are constitutional violations that have been raised,” argued Mwangi.
Mwangi and the interest groups moved to court after a controversial decision by the government to lift the ten-year ban on genetically modified foods. “The court issues an order prohibiting the government, its agents or anyone acting on their behalf from gazetting or acting on the cabinet dispatch from the executive office of the President regarding the lifting of the ban on the genetically modified organisms crops,” ruled Thande.
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Justice Thande ruled that in case, the government has already imported the controversial GMOs and that no government entity or official should distribute them to the public until the dispute relating to the safety of such foodstuffs is determined.
The judge’s decision came in the middle of a raging dispute between Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria and a section of lawmakers after he announced that the government would import GMO maize to cushion Kenyans facing hunger.
Several leaders including opposition chief Raila Odinga have also opposed the government’s move to lift the ban.
In court, petitioners argue that there has never been any conclusive scientific research on the safety of GMO foods and that allowing them in the country will not only pose great health risks but also erode the country’s cultural food and farming practices.
President William Ruto had on October 3, 2022, announced that Kenya had lifted the ban following a cabinet meeting to increase food due to prolonged drought. GMOs were banned in 2012 by late former President Mwai Kibaki.