The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) has maintained that Zambia’s non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) position has not changed and no legislative changes have taken place, contrary to Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilfuya’s pronouncement in Parliament.

In a statement issued, ZAAB chairperson Emmanuel Mutamba explained that there had been a public outcry over the news that the ban on GMO food in Zambia had been lifted when in fact not.

Dr Chilufya’s told the National Assembly last week that government had lifted the ban on the importation of GMO food stuffs, and that supermarkets were already stocking them on their shelves, adding “its consumption is safe”.

But Mutamba has explained that according to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), by presence of the Biosafety Act 2010, imported food containing processed products of GM crops, were allowed into Zambia as long as they go through a strict application and safety testing process by the NBA, among other measures.

“There is public outcry over news that the ban on GMO food in Zambia has been lifted. Questions were raised as to ‘whether the ban on the importation of GMOs is still in effect’ in the National Assembly on February 27, 2019,” Mutamba stated.

“The Minister of Health responded to questions with some open-ended comments related to the safety of consuming food products containing GMOs. These statements have now been picked up by the international pro-GMO Public Relations (PR) groups that are publishing with triumph, that Zambia has changed its position on GMOs. This is false, fake news, generated and pushed by the biotech industry!”

He insisted that Zambia’s non-GMO position had not changed as no legislative changes had taken place.

“An initial pro-GMO PR article was published internationally by the Genetic Literacy Project with fake news on Zambia, 4 March, 2019. Those who look a little below the surface see that this ‘project’ is funded by ‘a front group that works with Monsanto on PR projects without disclosing those ties’ (The United States Right to Know has very detailed records of these dealings). It is the same family of biotech promoters as those funding the African Biodiversity Network of Experts (ABNE), who are supporting the Zambia Ministry of Higher Education and NBA to draft the new guidelines for live release of GMOs,” he argued.

Mutamba recalled that 31 CSOs, farmer and consumer groups wrote to the Ministry of Higher Education and copied all other relevant Ministries in December 2018, raising serious objection to the bias interference in Zambia’s legislative drafting processes, and resultant undermining of human rights.

“Many Zambians are horrified by the NBA announcements that even some licenced GMO containing food products are sold in Zambia. Many of these are unlabelled and the Authority lacks necessary capacity to control this. The country certainly does not have the capacity to regulate the release of live GMOs, nor cover the opportunity costs of lost export agriculture markets, long-term public health bills and destruction of the farming sector to the power of corporate control,” stated Mutamba, who also called on government to protect citizens’ interests and the wider national economy.