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Kenya: Court dismisses challenge over Genetically modified crops

A khat farmer nicknamed "Gadaffi", harvests shoots of khat at his farm in Maua, in Meru county on May 30, 2022.   -  
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SIMON MAINA/AFP or licensors


Kenyan court rejected a complaint by a lawyers' association challenging the authorities' decision to authorize the cultivation and import of genetically modified organisms in response to the country's severe drought.

Just after coming to power, President William Ruto's government authorized the import and cultivation of GMOs, banned since 2012, in October 2022.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), a professional association of lawyers, had challenged the decision, arguing that it was unconstitutional and raised concerns about crop safety.

But Oscar Angote, a judge at the Environmental Court in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, ruled that there was no evidence to show any harm to nature or human health from the cultivation and import of GMOs.

"As a country, we need to trust the institutions we have in place and call them to order when they break the law," said Oscar Angote, referring to the government agencies that regulate GM foods.

"We need to be sure that our health is in good hands", he asserted.

Kenya had banned the cultivation of GMOs, in particular to protect small farms, which make up the majority of the country's population.

The country, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, was criticized after taking this decision, notably by the United States, a major producer of GMOs.

Activists and agricultural pressure groups had denounced the authorities' 2022 decision, claiming that it was "hasty" and threatened the livelihoods of small farmers. They called for the ban to be "reinstated".

Kenya is experiencing a drought of unprecedented intensity for 40 years.

Agriculture is the main contributor to Kenya's economy, accounting for around 21% of GDP in 2022, according to the authorities.

A former Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Ruto has promised to revitalize this sector.

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