By FREDRICK OBURA
A sense of betrayal is emerging over the recent move by government to gazette a law making it mandatory for millers to label Genetically Modified Foods (GMO).
The new regulations contained in the Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 17 of 2012, Legal notice no. 40 make labelling a requirement to help consumers aware of the content they are buying.
Under the new law, importers of any GMOs must apply to the National Biosafety Authority specifying the species or identifying the amount of the GMO to be imported and its use.
Upon receiving the application, NBA then assesses all risks in a process that takes between three and five months before approval.
If the application is approved, millers have to comply with the regulations before placing the product on the market for sale.
Violation of the new law exposes the importer to a possible jail term of 10 years or a Sh20 million fine or both.
Millers and a community of scientists are now up in arms against the regulations, saying they are too prohibitive and are likely to occasion food shortage this year.
Prof Jesse Machuka from Kenyatta University’s Department of Biotechnology says the law is a big blow to local scientists.
“Our approach to labelling should be informed by best practices, experience and evidence from other developing countries and regulations should be amended for practicality,” he said.
Paloma Fernandes, Chief Executive of Cereal Millers Association says as a result of the new regulations, many millers are shying away from importing maize.
“The government should carefully analyse the costs and implications of the labelling regulations on food security and the entire economy,” she says.
“Mandatory labelling limits innovation in food technology and has a direct trade impact with the bilateral partners,” she says.