A Bill For An Act Of Parliament To Regulate Biotechnology And Biosafety Matters And For Connected Purposes.
The ACB has been requested by a network of NGOs and other civil society groups in Kenya, to analyse and critically comment on the latest draft of the Kenyan Biosafety Bill (“the Bill”).
- In general, the Bill does not in its present form represent an adequate, robust and comprehensive biosafety regime designed to protect the environment, human health and biodiversity from the risks posed by GMOs and its related activities. It is foremost, a piece of draft legislation that seeks to put in place, a mere permitting system designed to approve applications for the contained use; import; export, placing on the market and release into the environment of GMOs. The underlying imperative of the Bill is the promotion of genetic engineering and not biosafety.
- The Bill has partially, selectively and numerous instances, erroneously (intentionally?) attempted to implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Biosafety Protocol) in order to weaken its implementation. Critically important provisions of the Biosafety Protocol that form the cornerstones of biosafety regulation have been omitted from the Bill in its entirely. These include the Precautionary Principle (Articles 10(6) and 11(8) of the Protocol) and Public Participation (Article 23 of the Protocol). It must be noted that the Biosafety Protocol establishes international rules that are considered to be a “floor” rather than a “ceiling” for the drafting of a regulatory framework. In other words, the rules of the Protocol are the minimum standards for achieving the objectives of the Protocol. It is therefore extremely worrying that the Kenyan Bill has not made an attempt to fully implement the minimum standards established by the Protocol.
- The Bill restrictively applies only to adverse impacts on the environment. It does therefore not engage at all with biodiversity and human health. In fact, the protection of biodiversity and human health is excluded from the ambit of the Bill in its entirely.
- The Bill has failed to deal with traceability and labelling and liability and redress. In this regard, the African Union’s African Model Law on Safety in Biotechnology (“African Model Law”) does not appear to have been used at all, as a basis for the drafting of this Bill. This is contrary to the decision of the Heads of States of the African Union’s meeting in Maputo July 2003, which urged member states to use the Model Law as a basis for its biosafety regulatory framework.
- If the current version of the Bill is passed, this will bode ill for the implementation of the Protocol on the African continent generally, and in East Africa in particular. Substantial amendments will have to be made to the Bill in order for it to (a) comply with the Biosafety Protocol; and (b) represent a biosafety regime. Attention must also be paid by the Kenyan government to the outcome of the first Meeting of the Parties held in Kuala Lumpur during February 2004 as the Bill will thus have to provide for these new measures fully.
Read the draft bill here.