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Kenya - Agricultural Biotechnology, annual report

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Table of contents

Report highlights:

The Government of Kenya’s (GOK) has recently taken additional action on the labeling of agriculture biotechnology that has medium and long-term potential to discourage development of and investment in this historically-new technology and to preclude imports of foods containing genetically-enhanced components. On a positive note, the GOK’s National Biosafety Authority has evaluated registered U.S. genetically-enhanced commodities/products and deemed them safe for human consumption in Kenya.

Executive summary:

The GOK first required the labeling of genetic enhancement (GE) foods, feed, or ingredients in 2010, when the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) published regulation KS 2225:2010 that required the identification of GE content on product labels. Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has used the National Biosafety Law 2009, Part IX Section 51, (f) and KS 2225:2010 to insist that U.S. food aid, approved for import by the NBA (please see table here below), carry labels that identify the GE components, even when the consumers of the food will not likely ever see the label.

In its most recent foray into regulating GE foods, the GOK, through Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 48 of 2012, Legal Notice No. 40, The Biosafety Act, 2009 (No. 2 of 2009), dated May 25, 2012, incorporated additional requirements on GE-containing foods. KEBS officials, in collaboration with the NBA, proposed D (draft) KS 2225:2012 Genetically Enhanced organisms and derived products- labeling of food and feed –Second Edition, in advance of the above-referenced Gazette notice. The additional restrictions invoked by the Gazette notice include: 1) a reduction of the adventitious presence from five-to-one percent to trigger mandatory labeling when tested using KS ISO 21570: 2005 (Foodstuffs- methods of analysis for detection of genetically enhanced organisms and derived products - Quantitative nucleic acid based methods); 2) permits ―GMO-Free‖ labeling where the GE adventitious presence tests below the one percent threshold; 3) requires that labels present reference to GE content with the same font size used for ingredients, trademarks, etc; and, 4) references the CODEX Standard CAC/GL 76 2011.

The mandatory labels and potential penalties may have already altered trade in corn. Reverting to the Biosafety Act 2009, the GOK imposes a fine not exceeding twenty million Kenya Shillings ($235,300) and/or imprisonment not to exceed ten years should someone be found to violate the abovementioned mandatory labeling provisions (or any other Biosafety Law 2009 provision). Previous to implementation of the National Biosafety Law 2009 and mandatory GE labels, Kenyan traders frequently sourced corn from South Africa (reportedly about 70 percent of South African corn contains GE) in times of Kenyan shortfall but now import from non-GE sources, reportedly, to avoid the new GE restrictions.