A fact sheet from the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) on the concerns surrounding genetically modified organisms and Zambia’s changing approach.
A fact sheet from the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) on the concerns surrounding genetically modified organisms and Zambia’s changing approach.
To whom it may concern,
Please find from the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) some comments on the draft revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, as made available to the National Biosafety Authority, The Governing Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, and concerned stakeholders of Zambia. The comments follow the short notice “Stakeholder Consultative Meeting on the Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy”, that three ZAAB representatives participated in, held 25-26 September 2017 in Livingstone. We trust that these written comments will further submissions made at the brief Consultative Meeting, and be duly considered and included in the on-going consultation and policy review process.
ZAAB received the Draft Revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy one week prior to “The Stakeholder Consultative Meeting on the Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy”, held 25-26 September 2017 in Livingstone. The policy as presented in September, reads like a hastily put together document that excludes some of the more crucial aspects of the original policy. The document is not very well drafted (typos, grammar errors, irrelevant/no references). Structurally, the only way that the paper represents any improvement on the original policy is that it now includes definitions as a separate section, albeit these are extremely limited in scope. Through reading of the current 2003 policy and revised draft Policy, some differences and areas of concern have been noted and highlighted.
The 2003 Zambian Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy (BBP) states that ‘Biotechnology and products of Biotechnology can contribute significantly to economic development of Zambia, especially in the areas of agriculture, health care, environment as well as industry’. However, any benefits will only be realized if and when biotechnological development takes place in a manner which is both judicious and sustainable.
Whilst the BPP acknowledges that biotechnology can contribute to the social and economic development of developing countries such as Zambia, it recognizes the potential harm and danger that the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS) may pose to the environment. The role of the BPP is identified as supporting the development of research and industrial capacity to apply biotechnology to enhance Zambia’s socio-economic and environmental well-being, and allows for the subsequent establishment of the National Biosafety Authority and Biosafety Advisory Committee.1
The tone of the BBP suggests that the Policy is not advocating acceptance of GMOs, but rather attempting to open up a discussion around biosafety and to put together some regulatory framework for managing biotechnology adoption whilst minimizing any adverse effects on human and animal health and the environment and to elevate biological diversity conservation over trade. In both the Introduction and Background Sections of the BBP, the focus is squarely on GMOs and the risks posed by the non-existence of legislation on GMOs, to the Country and the importance of safeguarding against adverse impacts.
Revised Draft BBP
In the Revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, hereinafter referred to as the Revised Policy (RP), the discussion is focussed on broader biotechnological applications covering pharmaceutical development, therapeutic applications, biofuel production, modified crops production, waste management, lack of capacity and educational offerings, food production and processing and forensic studies. The stated rationale for a revision is that, despite the existence of the 2003 BBP, biotechnological application was limited to disease diagnosis, classification of organisms and tissue culture and that no genetically modified organism (GMOs) were produced in Zambia. Furthermore, evolution in the fields of Biotechnology and Biosafety has necessitated a revision of the 2003 BBP.
The 2003 Policy was developed to acknowledge the increasing role of Biotechnology in the world and to caution against its application without proper legislative and monitoring measures being in place and to pave the way for the development of such instruments. It was not developed “to promote the benefits of biotechnology”, as claimed in the RP (Page 5 of the RP).
The Situation Analysis in the RP attempts to draw a link between what it sees as the benefits of modern biotechnology in enhancing food security through improved production. Food security is when “all people have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and. healthy life”. Food security is substantially more complex than securing adequate production, but is dependent also on other factors, including supply and access. Adequate production of food, as it is claimed will follow with the adoption of modern biotechnology, does not ensure food security.
Liability and Redress
The provisions on Liability and Redress in the BBP have been removed from the RP and there are now no provisions for how biosafety liability and redress shall be implemented. The Zambian Biosafety Act of 2007, takes a precautionary stance and has provision for developing a mechanism for liability and redress for any harm or damage caused to human and animal health, non-genetically modified crop, socio-economic conditions, biological diversity or the environment by any GMO or a product of a GMO. The scope of socio-economic impacts is broad and means any direct or indirect effect to the economy, social or cultural practices, livelihoods, indigenous knowledge systems or indigenous technologies as a result of the import, transit, contained use, release or placing on the market of a genetically modified organism or a product of a genetically modified organism.
As per the Biosafety Act (No 10. of 2007), those who bring GMOs into Zambia will be liable for any resulting health, economic and environmental damage. Whilst there may be a case to be made for the revision of Zambia’s Liability and Redress provisions to ensure that they are guided and informed by the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress which was adopted by Parties to the Biosafety Protocol on October 15, 2010 (but not yet ratified by Zambia), the outright omission of Liability and Redress in the RP is of grave concern. Rules and procedures on liability and redress are a necessary component of any biosafety regime as at a minimum, they define the scope of the rules and procedures, the nature of the liability/ies, the channeling of the liability and the exemptions from liability. Furthermore, other aspects including the nature and scope of redress, definitions of what constitutes damage, who may bring claims (standing), acceptable defense claims, administrative justice provisions, limits of liability and compensation and insurability will also be covered.
This is essential to protect the interests of all parties and rules on liability and redress help encourage countries, as well as individuals, companies and other organizations to comply with international environmental norms. The possibility of having to pay for any damage caused will ensure that greater care is taken when any activities are undertaken.
The key Guiding Principles included in the BBP and RP differ as indicated in Table 1. In the RP, the principles are merely listed and the intent behind some of these is not clear as no further discussion is included in the document about each of these principles. This is unlike in the BBP where each principle is discussed.
Importantly, the Precautionary Principle is the first Guiding Principle in the BBP whereas in the RP, the Precautionary Principle is listed last as a guiding principle and not mentioned further in the document. The Precautionary Principle is important in that it allows for the recognition of uncertainty, allowing countries to err on the side of caution when there is lack of scientific certainty about the possible harm genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may cause. It also requires communication of any uncertainty to the public.
Table 1: Guiding Principles in the BBP and RP. Where there is substantial overlap in the principles of each, the corresponding blocks have been shaded
|The Precautionary Principle||Innovativeness|
|Advanced Informed Agreement||Sustainability|
|Undesirable Effects of GMO(s) and Products Thereof||Participatory|
|Public Participation||Ethical principles|
|Liability and Redress||Access and benefit sharing to genetic resources and technology.|
|Conservation of the Biological Diversity and Trade||Precautionary principle|
|Rights over Genetic Resources and Technologies|
The Term “GMO”
Throughout the RP, the discussion focuses on Biotechnology and its application with minimal mention of the term GMO. “GMOS” are included in the definitions and mentioned again as part of the rationale for the revision of the policy. In the Situation Analysis, reference is made to “cotton to control weeds and prevent insect attack” and to research on other crops including “wheat, rice, bananas, cassava, potatoes, sorghum and cow peas. The on-going trials focus on traits of high relevance to challenges facing Africa, including drought, efficiency of nitrogen use, salt tolerance, nutritional enhancement, as well as resistance to tropical pests and diseases.” The informed reader may infer that within the context of modern biotechnology, that GMOs are what are being referred to here but the explicit omission of the term GMO, lends a degree of opacity to the document that makes a mockery of the avowed transparent and participatory approach.
The Vision of the RP may be intended to replace the Mission Statement of the 2003 policy which highlighted the “judicious use and regulation of modern biotechnology” with “minimum risks to human and animal health, the environment and biological diversity”. This Vision is silent on these aspects and promotes only the application of biotechnology, without providing a framework for such application.
In the Situational Analysis of the RP, the comment is made that of the 18 million farmers worldwide who planted biotech crops in 2015, 90% were small scale farmers, yet nowhere in the RP is there any indication of how small-scale farmers may benefit from the move to planting GMO crops or how they may be incorporated into the strategy for “promoting biotechnology”. It is not clear how useful GM crops may be to these farmers and what other opportunity cost may be involved in moving in this direction. An honest approach to the experiences of small scale farmers with GM crops would include the controversies in Burkina Faso, India and South Africa regarding the failure of Bt cotton in those countries and the indebtedness of small scale farmers, insect resistance, problems in the plant breeding and suicides. Already in Zambia, high-yield seeds, developed through traditional breeding techniques, have been available for decades, yet the adoption rate by small and medium farmers is estimated at 35 percent. More pressing needs for small-scale farmers include support for their seed and farming systems and a shift towards agro ecological approaches.
Research and Development
An important objective of the RP is to “undertake research and development in biotechnology in order to generate knowledge, products and services” as there is clearly a need to develop such capacity on a broad range of agricultural issues across the spectrum and particularly involving small-scale farmers, to enable meaningful, participative decision making. Developing scientists and researchers and an informed public who can effectively grapple with the challenges posed by GMOS and other emerging biotechnological applications is essential to enable the country to respond appropriately and advisedly to any challenges these may pose. It is not clear from the RP who the target beneficiaries for this are.
The proposed institutional arrangements are not clear and presented in an organogram with no clear hierarchy of responsibility. In fact, the RP proposes decentralizing the functions of the regulatory body, with no clear statement of how any of this may be achieved. Given the current capacity constraints and challenges being encountered in filling certain positions it is unclear how this may be achieved. This is in stark contrast to the BBP which defined an Implementation Strategy (Page 12 of the BBP) and defined responsibilities for the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) and Biosafety Advisory Committee (BAC) (Scientific Advisory Committee in the Act).
The Policy makes the comment about strengthening legislation and plans to review the Biosafety Act with no explanation about what the drivers are for such an amendment and/or what the proposed amendments may be, though the suggestion is that there may be shortcomings. What is clear, is that if the RP is accepted in its current form, it is at odds with the Act as written as it excludes several provisions of the Act, importantly Liability and Redress.
The current Act has in place comprehensive measures that governs biotechnology from research and field testing to commercialization and imports of bioengineered crops, ensures that any activity involving the use of any genetically modified organism or a product of a genetically modified organism prevents any socio-economic impact or harm to human and animal health, or any damage to the environment, non-genetically modified crop and biological diversity; sets and implements standards for risk assessment, makes provision for the ; establishment of the National Biosafety Authority and Scientific Advisory Committee and prescribes its powers and functions; provides for public participation, includes a mechanism for liability and redress for any harm or damage caused; provides for the formation and registration of institutional biosafety committees; and provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing. If any, there may be a case to be made to amend the Act to make provisions to take account of new Biosafety, Biosecurity and Bioethical concerns arising from newer technologies and possible associated threats.
The current Policy (BBP) has a strong emphasis on the Precautionary Principle which were developed during the negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety because of the recognition that precautionary approaches can help manage the fast‑changing, multiple, systemic challenges that we currently face. It derives from lessons learned in the application of other technologies, such as the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane (DDT) in the global malaria eradication programme, and its subsequent total ban in the USA, which have shown how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be. The Precautionary Principle is scarcely mentioned in the RP.
Mr Emmanuel Mutamba
 Republic of Zambia. Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy. 2003
 World Food Summit, 1996
Zambia has been a pillar of strength and model on biosafety in the region. Many people remember famously the firm stand taken by our government against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the early 2000s. Since then, health conscious and environmentally responsible citizens throughout Africa have seen Zambia as a shining example of good leadership in sustainability and social justice.
In the last decades, biotechnology and agro-chemical corporations (Monsanto/Bayer and Syngenta/ChemChina predominately), have made exorbitant profits. They now hold global lobbying power to influence national scale policies. Working hand in hand with trade promoting institutions (including COMESA, ACETESA, ARIPO, NEPAD, and supporting agencies USAID, The Gates Foundation, amongst many others), they facilitate the expansion of neo-colonial industrial agriculture systems and extraction of Africa’s natural, economic and social resources.
Numerous countries around the world have been pressured into altering their agriculture frameworks – particularly pertaining to seed trade and biosafety – ultimately about citizen livelihoods, nutrition and economic justice. Across Africa, national biosafety legislation intended to uphold public interest, is being manipulated to facilitate the growing and consumption of GMO crops.
It now seems that Zambia is the next target. Our internationally acclaimed Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003 is set to be reviewed today – in Livingstone – by a very small select group of invited participants. Considering the contentious nature of a new draft national policy on Biotechnology, the short notice and limited nature of the consultation process, there is reason for serious concern and question of due process.
Once the National Policy is re-written, the current Biosafety Act of 2007, will also be repealed and replaced. There has been considerable demand from foreign profit oriented corporations for this process to go head – in order to remove in particular – the essential “Liability and Redress Clause”. The clause ensures that the technology manufacturer is held responsible for the negative consequences caused by their product. The standard practice in any industry ensures that if a product is defective or causes harm to humanity or the environment at large, then the manufacturer is held accountable.
The developers of GMO technology do not want to be held liable for the negative consequences of their products: including contamination of farmers own seed and agro-biodiversity; herbicide and pesticide resistance build up and poisoning of natural agro-ecosystems (pollinators, soil, water courses etc.); and the multiple health problems, particularly cancers, allergies and reproductive problems associated with GMOs and Glyphosate (RoundUp poison) use.
The pressure for Zambia to change its National Biosafety legislation comes the same year that 1) Monsanto was held on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and charged with crimes against humanity; 2) Court action in the US forced Monsanto to reveal the documentation it has deliberately covered up that gives evidence of the toxicity of its GM associated poison product, RoundUp. A recent report, The Toxic Story of RoundUp, “describes the origins and growth of the Poison Cartel and the ways in which these giant agri-business companies (Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Chem China, Dow, Dupont, Basf) gain and keep control of their empires, in collusion with governmental agencies; undermining independent science and our democracies”. Close to 1000 court cases have been taken out in the last year against Monsanto by people affected personally or through loss of family members from the Glyphosate caused cancer Non Hodgekins Lymphoma.
Citizens of Africa are familiar with the myths profit orientated companies use to promote GMOs. The same falsehoods will be increasingly used in Zambia. Particularly the misrepresentation that GMOs are needed to feed an increasing world population, and that GMOs are beneficial in a changing climate.
Modern biotechnology does not alter the performance of a crop nor its productivity. Change is made through the insertion of specific traits that the modified genes are designed to express. Either to be a living pesticide (e.g. Bt maize that makes its own poison) or to withstand excessive amount of toxic weed killers (e.g. the herbicide Glyphosate that is linked to causing cancer) – or a combination of both of these traits. In the modification process, gene segments are inserted into hybrid varieties of crops that are already being grown commercially. These hybrids were developed from crops originally bred over hundreds of years by famers themselves and are instead now licenced to corporations.
Productivity of a plant is dependent on a wide range of factors. Unlike local varieties that are diverse and thus still produce something even without expensive fertilizer and mechanised irrigation. Hybrid and GM varieties are bred and tested in very specific conditions. If water and fertilizers are not applied at the exact time in farmers’ fields, productivity ‘potential’ (that is what makes commercial seed so expensive), is effectively made redundant. These seeds are therefore a complete waste of money for farmers. GMOs instead lock farmers into a cycle of debt and dependency on foreign agri-businesses, whilst poisoning the soil and ground water systems, and undermining rural farming community resilience.
The modified traits in modern biotechnology are “novel”. The process does not exist in nature and this allows companies to “patent” (become the exclusive owners) of the GMO. Patents of genetic resources facilitate royalty claims and profit, as opposed to ‘development’.
Once farmers use GM crops, there is widespread contamination through cross pollination and in storage facilities. The organic market is critically constrained by this contamination. To lessen contamination the GM scientists still talk of “terminator genes” that are designed to switch off the reproductive capacity of seeds. There is always a percentage of escape and malfunction of any technology. The concern worldwide is the spread of ‘terminator genes’ through cross pollination of crops into the wild. The consequence of its eventual effect on food availability and biodiversity is too terrible to imagine.
It is for these and numerous other reasons that Zambia has maintained the globally acclaimed ‘Precautionary Principle’ in its guiding policies.
Faith leaders, agriculture training institutions, civil society organisations, farmers and consumers alike, raise our voices in concern and distress. We support our President Mr Edgar Lungu, in his efforts to prioritise the rights of small holder farmers in Zambia, over and above foreign neo-colonial agriculture systems that extract wealth from the poor and from the country, and undermine the health of our families, our farming systems and our environment. We ask Zambia’s leaders to remain strong; to resist and reject the unjust and unethical efforts of foreign pressure to weaken national laws for the benefit of corporate profits.
Article prepared by Ms Bridget O’Connor of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, a member of ZAAB
There has been debate among scientists, extension staff and farmers about the invasive worm that is attacking Zambian maize this year. It is not like anything seen before in Zambia. Stalk borer? African armyworm? Bollworm?
It is now confirmed by many scientific quarters that it is the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), an alien invasive moth native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. According to Dr Georg Goergen of IITA in Benin, it was detected for the first time on the African continent last year in January 2016 and caused devastation in several West African countries. This year S. frugiperda is also in Burundi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Its name “Fall” comes from the fact that it cannot survive the cold winters in North America and the moths return to tropical habitat on storm winds in the “autumn”, which Americans call “fall”.
The S. frugiperda is known to have a remarkable dispersal capacity and is observed to migrate every year from its endemic area in the warmer parts of Central and South America over more than 2000km crossing the USA up to Canada in the North and reaching Argentina and Chile in the South. How it came to West Africa last year is not yet known. Amongst speculation is that the introduction is accidental, that easy air travel has increased phytosanitary risk, that climate change variations in high-altitude wind streams may have favoured the shift from one continent to another.
The Fall Armyworm prefers to feed on graminaceous plants (including maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat and sugar cane) but can also attack crops like cowpea, groundnuts, potato, soyabean and cotton. More than 80 host plants have been recorded and there can be host specific variations of S. frugiperda. However the larva (caterpillar) always has a distinctive upside-down Y marked on its face.
In climatic regions allowing constant generations such as Brazil, the third largest maize producer in the world, S. frugiperda is considered the most important pest on this crop and causes damage estimated at more than $600m annually. The economic consequences may not be limited to its direct effects on agricultural production but also has the potential to adversely affect access to foreign markets. In recent years, quarantine interceptions have significantly increased at European entry points and, in 2015, S. frugiperda was reassessed and ranked as A1 quarantine pest on the European and Mediterranean list.
Dr Georgen warns that S. frugiperda is likely to become more damaging to maize than other species of the same genus occurring in Africa because: a) S. frugiperda also actively feeds during the daytime, b) adult female moths lay their eggs directly on the maize plants, c) older larvae become cannibalistic tolerating only few congeners on the same host plant, d) the mandibles have serrated cutting edges easing feeding on plants with high silica content. Damage on maize may be observed on all plant parts depending on development stage of the larvae. On grown maize plants larvae also attack reproductive organs feeding on tassels or boring into the cobs. Following hatching the neonates usually bore into the host plant and develop under protected conditions. Hence control with contact insecticides is often ineffective although is still the most widely practiced management measure.
According to Dr Goergen of IITA, long use of synthetic pesticides and the use of the Cry1F GM (genetically modified) maize in the Americas has led to the emergence of resistant populations of this pest. According to Dr Gilson Chipabika of ZARI, in Zambia it seems that this population is not responding to most insecticides especially the fourth and fifth instars. Some crops in Zambia have been scorched by the chemicals and many farmers do not have the correct protective clothing to apply strong chemicals. Some farmer families complain of the strong smell and have experienced respiration problems. Many farmers grow maize close to the homestead. Apart from the health problems that chemicals can cause, they also negatively impact on non-target organisms such as beneficial insects (both pest predators and pollinators), birds, livestock and other wildlife. A number of predators can be observed on affected plants here in Chongwe where chemicals have not been used.
Farmers who practice agroecological/organic methods with a lot of diversity and legume intercrops have had less attack than conventional farmers. Some have had no attack at all, some only had a small amount of attack on the early planted maize. On these farms there has already been build-up of a wide diversity of predators which are able to control the armyworm. When African armyworm attacked 4 years ago one of these farmers found that whereas his neighbours on all sides had huge problems, he only had a bit of damage on his boundaries when the armyworms had finished all the grass on the other side. Some farmers are putting sandy soil into the maize funnels which is abrasive to the skin of the fall armyworm and can kill it. It is recommended by these farmers that there be regular scouting and application of sand at first sight of damage. Even better would be to put sand in every funnel of maize at knee height as is recommended at KATC against the bollworm and now it will be even more important against the Fall Armyworm. Some farmers find applying ash or detergent powder is successful. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a microbial pesticide permitted in organic farming and effective against the Fall Armyworm. Liquid Bt Looper Kill is available in the country as well as a powder Bt Halt. Neem oil or crushed Neem seed extract is also effective.
According to Dr. Goergen, in its native range numerous parasitic wasps, flies and other predators have been recorded as natural enemies of the fall armyworm. And that some species, in particular egg and larval parasitoids, are frequently introduced, resulting in noticeable levels of control. We would like to know how the ZARI programme to breed up such pest predators for release is faring.
Dr Goergen also reports in the IAPPS newsletter of October 2016 that there has been detection of promising isolates of nucleopolyhedroviruses (NPV) for the Fall armyworm. These are natural viral diseases specific to the pest and one has already been produced for the African armyworm, SpexNPV. However, according to Professor Ken Wilson, the process of registration for use in Zambia of these biological pesticides has unfortunately not yet started. According to Dr Goergen the development of biopesticides including the use of endophytic entomopathogenic fungi is in its infancy and needs increasing attention for providing viable alternatives to conventional insecticides. He says there is an urgent need for developing ecologically sustainable, economically profitable and socially acceptable IPM programs to fight the fall armyworm in Africa.
According to a University of Florida publication, the most important cultural practice, employed widely in southern states of USA, is early planting and/or early maturing varieties. Early harvest allows many maize ears to escape the higher armyworm densities that develop later in the season (Mitchell 1978). Reduced tillage seems to have little effect on fall armyworm populations (All 1988), although delayed invasion by moths of fields with extensive crop residue has been observed, thus delaying and reducing the need for chemical suppression (Roberts and All 1993).
Prof Wilson suggests that to effectively and sustainably assure food security in the midst of African armyworm migrations, a robust, country-wide surveillance and early warning system using pheromone traps that attract male armyworm moths by using the artificial scent of mating female armyworms is needed so that farmers are alerted in good time about impending outbreaks. These are used in combination with local weather reports to forecast armyworm outbreaks at a local level – so called ‘community based armyworm forecasting’. The same traps that are used to check for African armyworm could also be used for Fall armyworm – you just need to change the pheromone septum. Investment in an extensive network of pheromone traps in Zambia could pay dividends and be cost-effective. Knowing if there will be an invasion of a pest will allow the country to be prepared for controlling the pest. Also correct identification of the moth caught in these pheromone traps is crucial.
There is a regional organization ‘Red Locust’ that has the mandate for monitoring African armyworm and giving early warning but the warnings have not been forthcoming.
Information for this article has been collected from:
Professor Ken Wilson, Lancaster University (working on African armyworm for the past 25 years) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Donald Zulu, researcher/lecturer at Copperbelt University (currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Reading, UK) email@example.com
Dr Gilson Chipabika, ZARI firstname.lastname@example.org
Sebastian Scott, Agricultural Advisor, Grassroots Trust email@example.com
Dr. Georg Goergen, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Biodiversity Resource Center, Cotonou, Benin firstname.lastname@example.org. (IAPPS newsletter October 2016.)
Mrs Gloria Musowa Mwanza, Chongwe Organic Producers & Processors Association (CHOPPA)
Mr Vincent Choongo and Mr Deadricks Hadunka, Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre email@example.com
Sand technology – Mr Moses Mulenga and Mr Kelly Kalolo, Farmers in Chinkuli, Chongwe
University of Florida http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/field/fall_armyworm.htm
Zambia’s long held position of ‘No GMOs’ is under threat. The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) is deeply concerned over the statements made by our National Biosafety Authority (NBA) board chairperson, Dr Paul Zambezi, quoted in the Zambia Daily Mail on 7 December 2015. The statements were clearly biased towards the promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) within Zambia.
Zambia’s longstanding ‘No GMO’ position gives the country significant economic advantage. Globally more and more countries are banning genetically engineered (GE) crops and the importation of food products containing GMOs. Zambia is in a unique and strategic position to take advantage of this growing market. Zambia has been applauded for upholding its ‘No GMO’ position, by both the international community and Zambia’s citizens – consumers, farmers, religious and political leadership alike.
According to the above referred media article, “Dr Zambezi said there is a need to amend some of the clauses in the Biosafety Act, which inhibit growing GMO crops, including Bt cotton”. He is further quoted as stating that: “At least non-edible crops can be allowed to be grown under proper regulatory regime”. Cotton, however, IS a food. Cotton seed oil is used for cooking. Cotton cake is fed to livestock and we drink the milk and eat the meat of this livestock. In this way, Bt would be introduced into our food chain.
The NBA chairperson went on to say: “we need to embark on a nationwide public awareness programme to educate the people about biotechnology and its GMO products. There is a lot of misinformation going on, not only in Zambia, but also in the whole world”. The ZAAB applauds the chairperson’s recognition of the need for accurate awareness creation. However, it is imperative that this information is unbiased and that decisions made by the NBA are in the best interests of Zambia’s citizens, future generations and the environment.
Biotech companies who produce GE seeds are pushing for Zambia to change its biosafety laws so that they can profit from increased sales. GMO seeds are patented and cost far more than conventional seeds. Farmers are required to sign contracts when they purchase GMO seeds stating that they will not save seed for re-growing. Farmers are forced to repurchase seeds every year. Multi-national companies like Monsanto and Syngenta who hold the monopoly over patented seeds have made billions in profit off their sales to struggling farmers.
The Biotech industry claims that GM crops like Bt cotton will give farmers higher yields and require less pesticides use. This is not true. No GM crop is modified to increase yield. No GM crop can resist drought. Yield and drought tolerance are inherent characteristics of seed breeding, not of the GM inserts that make seeds patentable by the biotech industry. In all places where Bt cotton has been grown: India, China, South Africa, South America – after two or three years the dreaded boll worm develops resistance and returns, often together with new pests that were never a problem before. More and more pesticides have to be used every year to control the pests. Farmers all over the world have been left with higher debts due to growing GE crops. The overwhelming debts have been blamed for the high rates of suicide among farmers growing Bt cotton in India.
Monsanto has long claimed that Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Round Up and the most commonly used herbicide in GE crops, is safe. This is not true. The World Health Organisation has declared that Glyphosate is probably linked to cancer. There are significant negative effects of Glyphosate to biodiversity and agricultural production, including immune suppression in crops and resistance build up in weeds. The resultant ‘superweeds’ have become a huge agricultural threat and financial challenge in places like the USA and South Africa. Monsanto’s herbicide is already sold widely in Zambia, threatening the environment and the health of farmers and consumers alike.
The livelihoods of Zambia’s farmers and the seeds belonging to them, are at dire risk from contamination if Zambia allows GE crop production. GM crops can cross pollinate (particularly maize but also possible in cotton). If this happens and a GMO gene is found in a farmer’s crop, the biotech company can take farmers to court, for so called ‘infringing’ on their patent rights. Few farmers can afford or win a court battle against multibillion dollar companies.
Zambia’s Biosafety Act is founded on the Cartagena Protocol under the Convention of Biological Diversity. Zambia is a signatory of this internationally acclaimed protocol. A clear priority within the Cartagena Protocol refers to the need to ‘protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse effects of the products of modern biotechnology’.
A key element in the Zambia Biosafety Act is the ‘Liability and Redress Clause’. This clause ensures that those who bring GMOs into Zambia will be liable for any resulting health, economic and environmental damage. This is a precautionary action to protect the nation and its people. The Biotech industry is trying to persuade Zambia to change this clause. It is clear that this industry is motivated by profits and not by health and welfare of Zambia as a nation.
Once Zambia lets in one GMO, it will be more difficult to say no to other GMOs. We need to guard our rights and refuse to be seduced by the false claims of the GMO industry and its beneficiaries. The NBA is in place to protect the rights of Zambia’s citizens and uphold their best interests – their seeds, their farms and our health. It is not its place to promote the sales for multibillion dollar biotech companies. Zambia has said, and should continue to say NO to all GMOs.
The ZAAB commends the government of past presidents; Dr Levy Mwanawasa, Mr Michael Sata and the present government of His Excellency President Edgar Lungu for their courageous stand against GMOs and for protecting Zambia’s ‘NO to GMO’ stand. This has been an envy of many nations around the globe. We urge the NBA to infact advocate for further strengthening of the Zambian Biosafety Act which in it’s current form stands out as one of the most progressive in the world.
Date: 12 January, 2016
Chairperson – ZAAB
Member organisations of the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity include:
Not many of us have never even heard about ARIPO – The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation. Yet the decisions made by this regional organisation will affect all Zambian citizens.
Seeds are a source of life, and the basis of our food systems. For generations farmers have been carefully selecting and developing seeds to suit each particular and different farming context.
Today, multinational seed companies, with the backing of their foreign governments, see the money to be made in controlling and owning seeds. Once seeds are controlled, much of the rest of the food system can be controlled.
The ARIPO Arusha Protocol on the Protection of New varieties of Plants (adopted by member states in July 2015), aims at providing such control for multinational seed companies. Worse, are the regulations for the implementation of the Arusha Protocol, that discriminate against small scale farmers, targeting them unnecessarily with substantial fees and policing mechanisms.
Our own Zambian ARIPO representatives, together with regional governments, will meet on 5th – 8th December in Harare to adopt the regulations. All farmers and civil society representatives have been blocked from entry to this secretive and decisive meeting.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has expressed deep concern regarding the “considerable negative impacts that the Protocol and its Draft Regulations may have in relation to fulfilling the right to food in ARIPO Member State countries”.
“The Protocol will negatively impact on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular freely using, saving, exchanging and selling farm-saved seed and propagating material. These practices, which are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, have ensured access to and the maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves. Such diversity is key to ensuring food security, long-term sustainability and providing farmers with resilience to natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change”.
In Zambia, civil society organisations and farmers have continuously expressed serious objections to the Arusha Protocol, and requested our leaders oppose this discriminatory process that will negatively affect the majority of Zambian citizens. We are very distressed to learn that instead, Zambia has been strongly involved in the process, through its position of Chair of the negotiations for the 2016 period.
ZAAB’s specific concerns include;
At this critical stage, Zambian civil society and farmers call out to His Excellency, President of the Republic of Zambia, newly appointed Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Members of Parliament, to stand up for the farmers and consumers of Zambia, and NOT sign or ratify the ARIPO Arusha Protocol. We secondly call for our Zambian representatives at the ARIPO meeting to object to the adoption of the Regulations for its Implementation.
Signed by civil society members of ZAABC:
Chairperson MR Emmanuel Mutamba: 097 7891826 / 096 1879415