A consortium of 31 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the umbrella, Zambia Alliance For Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), have rejected the African Biodiversity Network of Experts (ABNE)’s influence on the formulation of a National Policy process to allow Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the country.

At a press briefing in Lusaka, Thursday, ZAAB Chairperson Emmanuel Mutamba observed that there was an invisible hand that had tampered with government’s policy stance on maintaining Zambia as a non-GMO country.

He observed that by 2010, the no GMO position Zambia had stood on was slowly being eroded because of so much interest and interference from multinational companies (MNCs) to dump GMO foods in Zambia.

Last month, the NBA issued import permits to three companies namely: Cold Chain, Horizon and Innscor, to import products that may contain GMOs.

“There’s an invisible hand that is pushing the NBA supporting biotechnology interests rather than supporting bio-safety interests that Zambians stand for. As per the Act, we demand the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to consult Zambians if indeed they want the National position of No-GMOs revoked,” Mutamba told journalists at Kapingila House.

He explained that in the Biosafety Act 10 of 2007, specific precautionary principles were developed in order to protect the country from negative effects of accepting GMOs, adding that the Act equally provides regulations to be followed if GMOs were to be allowed.

“There are stringent measures that the Act provides that have protected our country up to today from the inflow of live GMOs like what has happened to other countries. However, after 2008, we saw that the there was an attempt by multinational companies to start pushing for review of our regulations and policies to weaken them so that it can be easy to bring GMOs in the country,” Mutamba recalled.

And Caritas Zambia executive director Eugene Kabilika said the agriculture sector would negatively be affected if GMOS were allowed into the country.

“Small-scale farmers’ access to seed, farmers’ protecting [of] seed systems…because it’s either [the] seed system will be contaminated or they will completely [be] reliant on those producing GMO seeds, which will be expensive,” Kabilika cautioned.

“There’s a strong connection between what we eat and our well-being; if we are not sure of what we eat in terms of nutrition content, then it will be difficult for us. We know through different reports and research that there are effects of GMOs if you consume them, so saying no to GMOs will be good for our health, we can point out that there’s health effects, not only to human beings that consume, but also other living creatures, environment is also affected.”

And Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) media and public relations manager Calvin Kaleyi said Zambia had created a niche market for itself for producing crops that were non-GMO, emphasising that the crops that Zambia produced remained on high demand across the region and beyond.

“Yes, other countries in the region like South Africa will produce 14 to 15 million metric tonnes of maize per year, and we will produce between two to three million metric tonnes of crop, but our crop is non-GMO. If you look at demand for our crop, the demand is very high because the countries in the region affected by drought over the years have been looking to Zambia to provide them with the crop, which is non-GMO,” said Kaleyi.

He observed that a lot of investment had been done in the agricultural sector, citing wheat production that increased from 60 metric tonnes in 2009 to about 3,000 metric tonnes per year, among other cash crop growth, all that done without GMOs.

“If we are going to allow GMOs into this country, if we allow the pollination of GMO crops, and our indigenous crops, which is non GMO, we risk losing a lot of investments in the agriculture sector,” Kaleyi warned.

Meanwhile, in a joint letter sent to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) read by Community Technology Development (CTD) Director Juliet Luo, the CSOs stated that the consortium wanted NBA to consult Zambians on the shifting GMO policy.