Kaimenyi to Cofek: Be patient until Cabinet decides on GMOs

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Education, Science and Technology Cabinet Secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi has urged Cofek to be “patient until the Cabinet makes a decision on the GMO’s ban”.

Prof Kaimenyi’s letter is dated August 18, 2015 but was only received on September 3, 2015.

Incidentally, it is dated the same day Deputy President Hon. William Ruto called and spoke to Cofek Secretary General Mr Stephen Mutoro, indicating that he had issued instructions to the National Biosafety Authority (under Kaimenyi’s Ministry) to respond to letter dated August 13, 2015.

Cofek has been leading opposition to lifting of the GMO’s ban imposed on November 21, 2015. 

Here is the excerpt of the full letter from Prof Kaimenyi addressed to Cofek and copied to DP Mr Ruto and Cabinet Secretaries for Health Mr James Macharia and his counterpart Mr Adan Mohamed who serves as acting CS for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries;

“We refer to your letter sent out to the Cabinet Secretaries (Education, Health and Agriculture and copied to the Deputy President) dated 13th August, 2015 and note the concerns that you have raised. In response we wish to advise as follows; 

We wish to correct the impression that The Deputy President made an abrupt public announcement. The correct position is that the Deputy President is fully briefed and aware that there exists sufficient knowledge about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and their safety. Based on recommendations from all the Ministries involved, the Cabinet will make a decision on the ban within a period of  2 to 3 months. 

In this regard, be assured, that the Concerns raised by the Cabinet on November 12, 2012 which led to the formation of a Taskforce on GMOs will-be discussed soon and the Cabinet will decide when the report will be made public.

The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) was established pursuant to enactment of Biosafety Act,2009 to ensure safety of all GMOs before they can be approved for various uses including research, transit, importation, placing on the market or environmental release (open cultivation) by conducting risk assessment. You recall that the Act and the Regulations thereunder were enacted through extensive and intensive consultations and public participation. 

In accordance with their mandate, NBA recently received a joint application by AATF and KALRO for environmental release of GMO maize and published a notice in compliance with Section 19(4) of the Biosafety Act which requires that the Authority shall publish an application to introduce genetically modified organism into the environment in the Gazette and at least two newspapers for general information. 

The Notice is therefore not in any way an affront to consumers’ rights, but to the contrary, it is a legal requirement that gives the public an opportunity to participate and make their comments within a period of 30 days.

In addition, the Authority is hosting a public forum on Friday August 21, 2015 and currently receiving the comments which ‘will be taken into consideration during the decision making process in accordance with the law. You are therefore invited to attend the forum and /or submit your comments to the Authority as required by the law. 

In accordance with Article 46 of the Constitution, NBA is mandated to exercise supervision and control over the development, transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) so as to ensure and assure safety of human and animal health and provide adequate protection of the environment.

Your attention is also drawn to The Biosafety Act (Labeling Regulations, 2012) which requires labeling of products consisting of, or containing, genetically modified organisms or food or feed produced from genetically modified organisms, placed on the market in accordance with the Biosafety Act. The objective of those Regulations is for consumers’ to make informed choices and to ensure the traceability of products consisting of or containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and food and feed produced from

Genetically modified organisms. Hence there will be accurate labeling, monitoring the effects on the environment and, where appropriate, on health, and the implementation of the appropriate risk management measures including, if need be, withdrawal of products. 

Finally it should be noted that the Board of Management at NBA is properly constituted in accordance with the criteria contained in the Act and includes a representative of the consumers’ interests. The Board is also independent and observes public interests as majority of National Institutions. 

We hope the above information addresses the issues raised in your letter and you are requested to be patient until the Cabinet makes a decision on the ban.”

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