Zambian stakeholders oppose new National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy … Magande urges State to take precautionary principles when faced with uncertainty over health and environmental safety
Zambian stakeholders oppose new National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy
… Magande urges State to take precautionary principles when faced with uncertainty over health and environmental safety
By Francis Maingaila
Lusaka (20-06-2022 – Zambia24) – Former Minister of Finance Peter Ngandu Magande has opposed the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy to allow not only the use but also manufacturing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food in Zambia.
Dr. Magande told Zambia24 in an exclusive telephone interview that government needs to take precautionary measures not to proceed where there is no certainty for the safety of health and the environment.
Magande observed that there is a critical division among scientists that investigated to establish the safety of the GMOs administered to humans. There is knowledge of what could happen humans two or three years after taking the GMOs.
Magande was of the view that giving people genetically modified food with full knowledge of the serious harmful nature it has on their health is as bad as killing them.
He observed that some of the GM foods the old policy sought to block came from donor countries, which produce large quantities of genetically modified (GM) maize and other grains.
Before blocking the GM foods, Magande explained, Zambia made wide consultations among environmental and other renowned watchdog groups critical of GMOs that offered technical advice on the negative effects of GMOs on the health of the citizens.
He said the GM foods the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy seeks to allow are plants and animals that have been genetically engineered using foreign genes to produce certain desired traits.
Magande stressed that farmers and breeders often employ genetic engineering techniques to produce the most nutritious, tasty foods possible.
He, however, regretted that some unscrupulous scientists create unnatural highly toxic food that is potentially harmful and cause resistance to antibiotics, including reducing immunity to diseases resulting in allergies in people with poor health.
It’s for this reason that Magande urged government not to hurriedly validate the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy which some stakeholders suspect could allow not only the use but also importation of GMOs. These may contaminate and compromise local crop varieties and the environment to the detriment of agriculture.
Against this background, ZAAB board Chairperson Gabriel Mapulanga requested President Hakainde Hichilema to ensure his government honors the recommendation for Zambia to practice sustainable and smart climate agriculture he made on the eve of African Freedom Day as a way of mitigating the impact of climate change on food and nutrition security in the country.
Fr. Mapulanga told Zambia24 in an exclusive telephone interview that ZAAB has written a letter to President Hichilema requesting him to halt the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy expected to be validated any time soon as it was not only hurriedly done but also did not take into consideration the view of the key stakeholders.
Fr. Mapulanga said ZAAB expects President Hichilema to issue a presidential decree which will facilitate a comprehensive review of the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy to include clauses that will protect native varieties of corn and other key crops.
He urged President Hichilema to use his presidential declaration not only to reject the adjustment of the Biosafety policy that seeks to allow the use of GMOs but also to prohibit planting GMO seeds, including those crops produced through new gene-editing techniques.
Instead, Fr. Mapulanga suggested, the proposed the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy should include a mechanism that will be used to conduct systematic monitoring of GMOs.
Fr. Mapulanga also expressed an urgent need for the expansion of scientific facilities in the Ministry of Agriculture to detect the GMOs and improve research on biosecurity and food safety issues related to GMOs, including new regulations in the Environment Ministry on these issues.
In addition, Fr. Mapulanga said ZAAB is seeking ways to enhance ties between farmers and consumers and help them to recognize the value and qualities of locally produced heirlooms that are nutritious.
He observed that one of the main threats confronting local varieties in the context of trade liberalization is the low prices paid to farmers on the crops they grow.
Fr. Mapulanga was of the view that the goal of enhancing collaboration between farmers and consumers is to diminish the gap between farmers and consumers by increasing the prices paid to farmers and providing consumers with access to safe and healthy food.
These views were agreed upon and supported by Participatory Ecological Land Use (PELUM) Zambia which urged the government not to allow the validation of the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy which will allow scrupulous scientists from donor countries that supply GMOs to turn Zambians into guinea pigs in the pretext of providing food.
PELUM Zambia country director Wamunyima Muketoi told Zambia24 in an exclusive telephone interview that the potential hazards of GM foods have are extremely high and urged the government not accept the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy until there is sufficient and credible information on the contrary, that will prove that there is no risk feeding people with GM foods currently believed to have long-term effects on the health of the people.
Muketoi urged the government to find ways of providing not only safe but also healthy food that will guarantee people good health.
And a strong GMO critic Musaku Mukumbwa warned that allowing the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy to pass in its current form, will not only compromise the seed varieties and food sovereignty but will also jeopardize the traditional and vital practices that support organic and sustainable farming.
Mukumbwa (76) told Zambia24 in an exclusive interview that most small-scale farmers in organic agriculture not only practice mixed cropping and crop rotation but also use natural fertility, key to sustainable agriculture.
He regretted that the practice of organic farming is always threatened by herbicide-tolerant GM crops, which use broad-based herbicides that kill not only all plants or just the weeds that farmers may not want to kill but also fungi and bacteria essential to soil fertility management.
GM crops upset the ecological balance, bringing serious repercussions for farming and the surrounding environment and encourage the arbitrary destruction of fragile rich biodiversity
He blamed the lack of expertise, equipment, infrastructure, legislation, and regulatory systems to implement effective biosafety measures for GM crops.
He said allowing the validation process of the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy that seek to facilitate an entry of GMOs using the back door will hurt the food and nutrition chain system including the environment.
He disclosed that some organizations, networks, and lobby groups with strong ties to the GM industry are working round the clock to promote GM crops to unsuspecting leaders with the hidden intention to bring the second green revolution as the answer to hunger.
A study by Caritas International shows that GMO crops are not only commercially available but there are field trials taking place in some countries where there was no public knowledge or regulatory oversight put in place as research on GM crops is being carried out.
The report suggests that frequently, GM crops are coming in form of food imports and seed smuggling, even to countries like Zambia that have taken measures to prevent imports of GM food.
The report indicates that GM crops cannot be easily controlled because pollen can travel long distances not only by way of wind and insects but also because human error and curiosity or simply regular farming practices also help seeds to spread and this makes it impossible for GM crops to co-exist with non-GM crops of the same species without the risk of contaminating the normal seeds, where tight controls over seeds and farming are unrealistic.
Small-scale farmers with contaminated fields are forced to pay royalties to the companies that own the patents on the GM crops that contaminated their fields,” the report reads.
Through elaborate contracts, agreements, and conditions, which are imposed by the multinational GM seed companies, the report suggests, that most GM seed manufacturing companies prohibit more than 80% of the small-scale farmers from saving their on-farm produced seeds for the next season and from sharing them with their neighbors, relatives, and friends.
On the contrary, the Zambian government expressed the desire to engage a consortium of civil society organizations operating under the umbrella name of Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) to discuss issue surrounding the new National Biosafety and Biotechnology draft policy whose architecture are suspected to plan to sneak in GMOs in the country.
Minister for Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu told ZAAB National Coordinator Mutinta Nketani during a live debate on WhatsApp platform on Friday night the 17th June 2022 that he keenly followed spirited debate and explanation on the need for dialogue before validating the new National Biosafety and Biotechnology draft policy takes place.
According to Nketani, it will be very catastrophic for Zambia to have the new National Biosafety and Biotechnology draft policy validated in its current form because it contains clauses that seek to promote foreign influence on the Seed sector.
If enacted without proper scrutiny, Nketani fear, the new National Biosafety and Biotechnology draft policy might allow the introduction of live GMOs which will put Zambia’s indigenous seeds under great threats of extinction which might result in compromise food sovereignty.
” It was an excellent presentation; I have keenly followed the discussion. Please come we discuss so that we do the right thing,” the minister pleaded.
He assured the ZAAB National Coordinator that a correct procedure and democratic procedure will be followed with full consultation before effecting the enactment of the New National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy.
ZAAB is an advocacy network of faith, farmer and civil society organizations, formed in 2010 to champion and defend the common cause of realizing a just and sustainable food and agroecological system in Zambia including fighting for cleaner and health food.
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