2.Court case over Kenya's Biosafety Bill
NOTE: 'Go get a lawyer.' That quote (item 1) says it all about being a farmer in the GM crop era. Another lawyer quoted in the same piece says: 'Bayer Crop Science saw an opportunity'. They knew the European Union had a 'zero tolerance policy' toward GMO material, but 'they started pushing the limit. They gambled they'd get EU approval for this. They gambled with you [farmers].'
1.Genetic rice suit moving forward
By Christina Verderosa
DeWitt Era-Enterprise, 6 Feb 2008
The issue of genetically modified rice may have faded from the headlines, but attorneys at the Birmingham-based law firm, Hare, Wynn, Newton and Newell are actively pursuing a lawsuit over the August 2006 incident when small quantities of GMO rice were found in the Arkansas crop.
Last Wednesday, representatives of the firm updated local farmers at a meeting sponsored by the Arkansas Rice Growers’ Association on the status of the suit. The suit started out 'over a year ago, with 12 farmers from Lonoke County,' attorney Jim Thompson said. There are now 287 farm entities signed onto the suit. Thompson could not give a specific number, but said afterward there were 'several' from Arkansas County.
The suit names Bayer Crop Sciences who grew the GMO rice and Riceland Foods as defendants. Thompson said Bayer had the case removed from state court and sent to federal court. 'That was a delaying tactic,' Thompson said. The case is now back in Lonoke County Circuit Court.
Afterward, Thompson said he expects the case will go to trial this year. 'We're asking for a trial date before the year is out.' Despite the delay caused by sending the case to the federal court, 'we're pretty far along, considering that we lost a year.'
Paul Byrd from the firm's Little Rock office gave some of the background of the case. Red rice, a persistent problem for Arkansas rice farmers, was becoming more resistant to the herbicides used to kill it, so 'Bayer Crop Science saw an opportunity,' Byrd said. They knew the European Union had a 'zero tolerance policy' toward GMO material, but 'they started pushing the limit,' Byrd said.
'They gambled they'd get EU approval for this,' Byrd said. 'They gambled with you [farmers].'
Byrd also criticized Riceland for not making the presence of GMO material in Arkansas rice public sooner.
'What if you had that knowledge 30 days earlier?' Byrd asked. Farmers could then have taken action to segregate the Cheniere rice, where the GMO was detected. 'We lost an opportunity,' he said.
Thompson said Riceland has a 'fiduciary relationship' with its members, which makes it Riceland’s responsibility to look out for the interest of its members. 'They failed to uphold it.'
Attorney Jerry Kelly of Carlisle said, 'We're asking the hard questions, but they're fighting us tooth-and-nail.' Thompson encouraged all farmers effected to get involved. 'Go get a lawyer, even if you don't hire us.'
2.Body goes to court over Kenya's Biosafety Bill
Written by John Osoro
Africa Science News Service, 5 February 2008
A Kenyan Non-governmental organisation has gone to court to contest the enactment into law [of] the Biosafety Bill 2007 meant to regulate activities of genetically modified foods (GMOs) in the country.
The NGO contests that genetically modified foods would have health effects on the people and the country should not be allowed to pass into the law the Biosafety Bill 2007.
Africa Nature Stream, together with a group of 13 people have opposed the Bill Published by the Minister for Science and Technology Dr Noah Wekesa for enactment as an Act of Parliament to regulate the activities of modified organisms and further establish the National Biosafety Authority.
The ultimate objective of the Bill, the aggrieved organisation says, would be to make genetically modified organisms available for sale in the Kenyan market, saying, despite the fact that biological technology have dramatically increased, Kenyan scientists have no capacity to alter the genetic composition of organisms by mixing genes in the cellular and molecular level in order to create new breeds of plants for human and animal consumption.
'The production, sale and trade of genetically modified organisms and food remains controversial issue across the world owing to the risk they pose to human and animal health, environmental concerns, cultural and religious consideration' they say in their suit papers.
The petitioners aver that the GMOs have been known to cause various diseases which include Cancer, cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Chronic Fatigue, mental disorder among other diseases.
It is the contention of the applicants that the GMOs seed are unnatural, laboratory made and modified which consists of combined genes of different species that include animal and human genes combined together scientifically to produce the seed.
The applicants have submitted to the court that GMOs are patented and registered and owned for marketing by multinational companies who distribute them to the world market while knowing the health hazard they pose to both human and animals.
The applicants’ lawyer Kibe Mungai has argued that countries like USA, European Union, Canada, Japan, Russia, and Asia farmers have refused to plant the seeds and even consume food stemming from the GMOs.
Insurance companies all over the world have also rejected to issue insurance cover to GMOs trade, farming, consumption and transporting anything to do with plants or seeds that are genetically modified.
It is the applicants’ case that poor Africa and Asian nations who have no capacity to assess the risk of GMOs have been turned by Americans corporations into frontiers for production and sale of GMOs seeds.
In Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture has been turned by the multinational companies to use government institution such as Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), local Universities and Kenya Seed Company to illegally distribute GMOs seed to farmers who are unaware of the risks and environmental hazard.
Mungai argued that the multinational corporations have implored the third world countries to embrace GMOs and while the citizen from Western states are being encouraged to consume natural and organic foods, thus making the market of such foods very lucrative and is on the rise.
'The Biosafety Bill 2007 is merely a smokes screen because even before it is enacted KARI, KEPHIS and other government agencies are distributing GMO foods, seeds and crops without laboratory test reports from respective countries and owners of the said foods and crops without disclosure or details about the combination of the genes used to produce each relevant crop,' the applicants argue.
The applicants aver that they will be demonstrating during the hearing of the application inter parties, that Kenya has no facilities to detect and screen GMO Maize, Wheat, and Plants and Seeds when consignments are off-loaded at the port of Mombasa.
The government has no authority to prescribe food preferences to Kenyans which will interfere with their human rights by forcing them to use GMOs seeds and crops without their approval, saying that the action is criminal and unconstitutional and a violation being committed against 34 million people living across the country.
The Bill is now on second reading in Parliament and a cross section of MPs are determined to have it passed and thus grant GMOs stakeholders and other vested interests an opportunity to market and sale the seeds and crops to innocent citizens.
The presiding court has also pointed out that the application by the Non governmental organisation indeed raises very serious constitutional matters which would be determined and will serve as test case.