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Ombudsman wants Health CS to make public report on GMO

Commission says the Constitution obligates the state to publish and publicize any important information affecting the country.

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The Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) has directed the Cabinet Secretary for Health Nakhumicha Wafula to facilitate access to information relating to the final report of the task force set up to review and evaluate scientific information on the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on human health.

The latest demand to the Minister is a follow-up to a request made to the Ministry of Health by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) in April seeking to be provided with findings of the team that probed the matter back in 2013. In its letter, the Commission noted that the matter had been kept a secret for too long and that Kenyans had the right to know whether GMOs have negative effects on humans.

“The Commission notes that the contents of the task force report are critical in facilitating meaningful and informed public participation in the ongoing GMO discourse,” KNCHR noted

This request, however, went unanswered prompting KNCHR to seek the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The KNCHR notes that its request for the report of the Taskforce to Review Matters Relating to Genetically Modified Foods and Food Safety Taskforce vide letter dated 3rd April, 2023, has not been responded to and the said report has neither been made public nor availed to KNCHR,” read the letter

The Commission on Administrative Justice took up the matter on 2nd April 2024, and asked the CS to process the request and to publish the report. According to the Ombudsman, the Constitution obligates the state to publish and publicize any important information affecting the country.

“The Commission notes that this report has not been published on your website and requests you to respond indicating the corrective measures put in place to ensure compliance with proactive disclosure obligation,” read the letter from the Ombudsman to the CS

Still, the letter by the Commission did not elicit any response from the CS prompting the Commission to issue an order, directing the release of the requested information and the publishing and publicizing of the task force report within 21 days.

The Government in 2013 set up the task force following persistent confusion on the safety of GMOs created by both local and international groups either supporting or opposing Genetically enhanced foods and advise the government on the way forward.

Even though the task force handed in its findings to the Ministry of Health in 2015 after the completion of its work, its contents are yet to be made public despite repeated pleas by a section of Kenyans.

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