PRESS RELEASE, 07/03/2019

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 Genetically Modified Organisms food stuffs (GMOs) is still in effect” in The National Assembly on 27 February 2019.

According to the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), by presence of the Biosafety Act 2010, imported food containing processed products of GM crops, are allowed into Zambia, as long as they go through a strict application and safety testing process by the NBA, full public consultation processes are upheld, and final products are labeled.
LIVE GMOs ARE NOT ALLOWED IN ZAMBIA – i.e. GENETIC MODIFICATION OF LIVING ORGANISMS, AND THE PRODUCTION OF GM CROPS REMAINS PROHIBITED.
The Minister of Health responded to questions in the National Assembly on the 27 February 2019, with some open-ended comments related to the safety of consuming food products containing GMOs (27.02.2019)1. 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.
Zambia’s NO-GMO position has not changed and no legislative changes have taken place. An initial Pro-GMO PR article was published internationally by The Genetic Literacy Project2 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 record of these dealings3). 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 (MoHE) and NBA, to draft the new guidelines for live release of GMOs.
31 CSOs, farmer and consumer groups wrote to the MoHE 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. CSOs, research institutions, concerned consumers, farmers and churches, continue to call on Government to protect Zambia’s people, their health, environment and the national economy.

END.
For more information contact: ZAAB Chairperson, Mr Emmanuel Mutamba
1 https://diggers.news/local/2019/03/01/gmos-safe-for-consumption-health-minister
2 https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/03/04/zambia-lifts-ban-on-gmo-imports-says-biotech-crops-are-safe-to-consume/
3 https://usrtk.org/tag/genetic-literacy-project/

Ongoing national concerns; consuming GMOs without consultation and changing policy spaces

PRESS RELEASE, 27/02/2019

The ZAAB has been engaging with the NBA and governing ministry regarding GMOs since 2010. Major concerns at the time were: unregulated and unlabeled imported food containing GMOs; the lack of institutional capacity and funding to adequately address the wide range of issues and challenges related to modern biotechnology use; and the increasing foreign lobby push for Zambia to change its non-GMO position. The NBA have worked hard to better regulate imported processed foods containing GMOs and enhance public communication. Given the difficult economic constraints as a publically funded agency, we applaud and are grateful for their concerted efforts. There  are two broader issues that the ZAAB remains concerned about. These have not been addressed properly, nor is the public adequately aware.
Our concerns relate to the two different aspects of GMO governance in Zambia:
1) The importation of processed GMO food products
2) The ongoing policy amendments to change the country position on production of LIVE GMO crops.
We deal with the first issue: The importation of processed GMO food products and the limitation to public participation
The NBA are working hard to ensure food products are regulated and go through the correct licensing processes.
The ability of the public to object to these imported products, as per their legislated rights, is however extremely constrained. In order for citizens to participate in the pubic consultation process and object to GMO food imports, they must physically visit the NBA offices in Lusaka, and are then allowed to view only the non-confidential elements of the application dossier. The application details may not be copied electronically or distributed to those not in the capital city. Objections based on scientific analysis, submitted within the 30 day window, are then considered by the NBA scientific advisory board. The admired position and legacy of Late president Mwanawasa was that all citizens, and the nation as a whole, have a right to be protected and fully engage in GMO decision making processes. This was not limited to those privileged and able to compile scientific objections. It also included consumers concerned about social, economic, cultural and ethical issues. It considered market gaps, or opportunities to instead protect Zambia’s market and enhance value addition and support local livelihoods. For importers to simply publish an advert in two newspapers and submit an application dossier to the NBA offices – that is only accessible to an elite minority in Lusaka – does not constitute public consultation. This argument is backed up by the fact that the NBA has never
received a scientifically considered objection to an application. Given public opinion, the lack of objections does not reflect the wishes of the Zambia public. It instead reflects the inaccessibility and limitations of the public consultation process. Many citizens have recently been horrified to find out that GMO processed products are
entering Zambia and that the ACT actually facilitates this. The public have a right to a broad and accessible consultation process, to effectively engage in decision making on GMO products. If public consultation processes cannot be duly filled, then perhaps the products should not be imported and Zambia’s non-GMO market protected and local diversified production and processes supported instead? The second issue we raise relates to: The ongoing policy review processes and national concerns, that are unaddressed by the Ministry of Higher Education and related authorities In September 2017, the NBA/MoHE held an exclusive initial consultation process on a new draft of the national biosafety policy, in collaboration with COMESA and NEPAD. In December 2018, another exclusive meeting was held, in collaboration with Gates funded ANBE, to develop regulations for the release of LIVE GMOs in Zambia. I.E. the production of GMO crops. ZAAB fully appreciates that ministries update policies from time to time and that stakeholders have been promised national consultation on this matter. HOWEVER, if the Ministry of Higher Education and the NBA are indeed neutral in their policy position, then why are they allowing pro-GMO institutions to help craft Zambia’s new national policy and regulations – that in draft are written to favour the promotion, of GMOs? The ABNE is funded by the Gates foundation that has spent millions of dollars trying to develop GM
crops and smooth the regulatory environment for the introduction of GMOs across Africa. The ABNE may be the advisory body to the Africa Union, of which Zambia is a part, but this does not mean that as citizens we should just accept their role in writing national policies that are meant to protect and uphold sovereign interest. The NBA has shot back at ZAAB and other CSOs for objecting to the ABNE and Gates influence in national policy development, arguing that it made economic sense to use experts available to it through the continental body, despite their well-known pro-GMO position. We remain opposed to this biased interference in national legislation drafting.
If the Ministry of Higher Education does not have the financial resources to draw on local expertise to craft its policy documents, then it does not have the financial resources to manage live production, adequate nation-wide testing, control export and imports, or contamination of seed and local food systems. It cannot deal with long term ecological, social and health impacts; loss of biodiversity, further malnutrition and soil infertility. It certainly
does not have financial resources to compensate the economic opportunity costs of changing Zambia’s advantageous NO-GMO position. The primary element within the current National Biosafety Policy of 2003, is its basis on the
precautionary principle, and directive for strong liability and redress. These are the two major aspects of the national legislation that will be weakened if amendments are approved.

Until then, GMO producers (biotech industry) will not apply for license in Zambia, because they do not want to be held accountable for the negative consequences or contamination arising from their technology. Industry have made this clear and hence why they want policy changed.

The ABNE is a key service provider within the Programme for Biosafety Systems and the Agriculture Biosafety Support Project, launched by the United States to fight back against the strong precautionary stance taken by African countries in the development of the Cartagena Protocol (something that Zambia proudly stood by). These high profile projects of the US aim to align African and Asian policy environments with the USA goals: the widespread adoption and acceptance of GM food from the US, enabling dumping of GM food onto local markets and control of African agriculture production. The International Services for the Acquisition of Agriculture-biotech Applications (ISAAA), recently quoted in media and known for their unsubstantiated statistics to boast of adoption of GMOs around the world, are part of this same US backed project, funded also by private sector itself. ZAAB wants policy makers to recall where Zambia’s GMO history comes from. As far as the people of Zambia are concerned, Zambia remains a NO-GMO country. The NBA mentioned that this was the ‘old position’. For this position to change though, requires the citizens of Zambia to firstly, demand for this change. It is not for multinational seed and agro-chemical
companies or pro-GMO policy lobby bodies to enable this change.

ZAAB appreciates that the NBA are working hard to increase public communication mechanisms despite minimal public funding. We recognise that the MoHE has assured the public of consultation prior to policy changes; and applaud decision makers working to ensure this happens in a genuine manner. However, we remain with extremely concerned citizens who ask why given economic constraints, the Ministry is going ahead with developing regulations that will fundamentally change Zambia’s GMO position, and accepting support from pro-GMO policy lobby groups in the policy re-drafting phases. It is well documented that global GM crop production has primarily benefited transnational corporations and the wealthy, rather than the poor and hungry of the world. We again appeal to the Ministry of Higher Education, the NBA and related decision makers to uphold the best interests of Zambia’s people, as well as its economy; to implement commitments to diversify the agriculture sector and enable the realisation human rights for all.

END.

For more information contact:
ZAAB Chairperson, Mr Emmanuel Mutamba
network@zambianagroecology.org

Notes to Editors: ‘Modern Biotechnology’ and the resultant Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) are defined
as different to ‘Conventional Biotechnology’ or traditional breeding, as the application of the “Fusion
of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or
recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection”
(IAASTD, 2008).

Joint CSO statement on the weakening of Zambia’s bio-safety standards-11/01/2019

ATT:

P.S Ministry of Higher Education

Maxwell house, Los Angeles Boulevard

P.O Box 50464,

Lusaka, Zambia

C.C:

P.S. Ministry of Agriculture

P.S Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries

P.S Ministry of Justice

P.S Ministry of Commerce

P.S Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources

Honorable Members of Parliament

House of Chiefs

Dear Sir / Madam,

 Zambia Must Continue To Uphold The Highest Biosafety Standards 

Zambia’s approach to the use Modern Biotechnology[1] and the use of genetic engineering in the food and agriculture system has rested on the Precautionary Principle. The objective is to maintain the highest biosafety standards, thereby ensuring Human Rights are upheld, national sovereignty maintained, economic market interests protected and the health and well being of people and the environment prioritised.

In the past 14 months, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has developed  a new draft of the National Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy, and is now forging ahead with the process of developing regulations for live Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Zambia. We  are witnessing how the NBA is being influenced by, and prioritising  international and regional trade and policy lobbyist, whilst minimising the policy opinion of national stakeholders.

Recent collaboration with the African Biodiversity Network of Experts (ABNE) to develop the regulations for the updated new draft National Policy, allowing for works on Live Modified Organisms (LMOs) is seen as particularly problematic. The ABNE has a clear objective to promote the use Modern Biotechnology, including new technologies under the broad umbrella of Synthetic Biology[2]. This  is a biased influence in the National Policy formation process. The NBA are required to hold a neutral position. Their recent collaboration and deliberate exclusion of local actors brings their position and actions into serious question.

The NBA is a public institution mandated by the people of Zambia and maintained through tax payer money. The NBA has a directive to work for the peoples’ best interest and to ensure that their rights to prior information and public consultation are duly fulfilled.

We the undersigned strongly object to the recent moves by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to radically change the national position on genetic engineering in the food and agriculture sector.

Acknowledging this, we:

  • Demand that the NBA consult the people of Zambia if indeed they actually want the National Position of No-GMOs revoked, before continuing to forge ahead with proposed new policy and regulations that are incongruous with current national opinion;
  • Reject the influence of the African Biodiversity Network of Experts (ABNE) in the formation of our policy and law and call on the governing Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) to intervene appropriately;
  • Call on the NBA to stop prioritising the interests and policy stance of international and regional institutions over and above national interest groups and policy experts;
  • Call on the MOHE to explain how the country will compensate financially for the opportunity costs of export market losses after Zambia loses its GMO free reputation; how they will finance the required international standards for regulatory systems to be effectively institutionalised, and expand regulatory testing and monitoring facilities country wide; respond to downstream ecological effects, contamination and loss of livelihoods; finance the long term public health bill, especially resulting from increased use and consumption of GMO associated systemic agro-chemicals.

Therefore – as people of faith, in agriculture training institutions, civil society, farmers and consumers alike, we raise our voice of concern at the NBAs determined attempts to weaken biosafety standards regardless of public opinion and interests.

We support our leaders in their efforts to prioritise the interests of Zambia’s farmers and diversify the agriculture sector to enable sustainable and healthy production systems.

Presented and signed:

  1. Action Aid Zambia
  2. Africa Consumer Union (ACU)
  3. Birdlife Zambia
  4. Caritas Zambia
  5. Centre for Environment Justice
  6. Chimwemwe Farmers Association
  7. Chongwe Organic Produces Association
  8. Civil Society for Poverty Reduction
  9. Community Technology Development Trust
  10. Consumer Unity Trust Society – CUTS Lusaka
  11. ESAFF Zambia
  12. Grassroots Trust
  13. Green Living Movement
  14. Greener World Alliance
  15. GreenFox Organics
  16. Kaluli Development Foundation
  17. Kanyongoloka Multipurpose Cooperative
  18. Kanuseka Cooperative
  19. Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre
  20. Katuba Livelihood Project (KLP)
  21. Luumuno Farmers Association
  22. Luili Farmers Club
  23. Mumbwa Cooperative Union
  24. Mumbwa Seed Growers
  25. Mwange Women farmers’ Association.
  26. Nyausenga Farmers’ Association
  27. Rural Women’s Assembly Zambia
  28. SCOPE Zambia
  29. Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA)
  30. Zambia Land Alliance
  31. ZNFU Mumbwa


[1] ‘Modern Biotechnology’ (as opposed to ‘Conventional Biotechnology’ or breeding) means the application of the “Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection” (IAASTD, 2008).

[2]The umbrella term, Synthetic Biology, (i.e. artificial / unnatural) describes next generation genetic engineering tools that facilitate and accelerate the “design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems” (CBD operational definition). Techniques incorporate DNA/RNA synthesis (building DNA/RNA from scratch in the lab), sequencing, Genome Editing and Gene Drives. The results enable designing and making biological components or ‘parts’, altering organisms’ genetic sequences and modifying living organisms with new synthetic traits for agricultural or ecosystem changes. Gene Drives are artificial genetic traits inserted into the DNA of a sexually reproducing organism. This creates a new Gene Drive Organism (GDOs). GDOs are designed to pass on a specific engineered trait to all their offspring. By releasing a few organisms, an artificial trait can be deliberately spread throughout an entire population, either to alter the population or cause it to crash (die out).

Zambia supports the global call for a moratorium on Gene Drive releases- Press Release 15/11/2018

The citizens of Zambia, have repeatedly stated their absolute objection to Modern Biotechnology and the production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Today, this position is reiterated as we support the global call for a moratorium on Gene Drive releases, including applied research such as open field trial releases, until there is further understanding of the potential risks and technical issues. We request our National Representatives to do the same at the upcoming 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity due to take place in Sharm El -Sheikh, Egypt 17-29 November 2018.

The global meeting in Egypt will discuss new and highly controversial genetic engineering technologies. Extreme and invasive forms of Genetic Modification (next generation GMOs) under the umbrella term of Synthetic Biology, are being rapidly developed and commercialised. Significant economic disruption is expected especially on the economies, livelihoods and biodiversity of countries in the Global South[i]

Synthetic Biology is currently globally unregulated and categorically undermines the Precautionary Principle and Human Rights for free, prior and informed consent. Proponents of Synthetic Biology –  big agro-food and pharmaceutical corporations, together with philanthropic capital – are pushing for African countries to accept this new technology. The premature push absolutely disregards the unknown risks and long term effects on whole ecosystems and human populations.

Today, ZAAB has released an open letter to the delegates who will represent the people of Zambia at the upcoming global meetings (The Convention on Biological Diversity COP 14 and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety COP-MOP 9). The open letter calls for the Zambian representatives to uphold the best interests of the people of Zambia, who have continually stated their outright objection to the use of genetic engineering.

“We raise our concern regarding the considerable unknown risks associated with new SynBio technologies; the inability to contain organisms following both field trial and commercial releases, the inability to regulate trans-boundary movement of Gene Drive Organisms (GDOs); the issues surrounding monitoring, assessment and liability; and the need for free, prior and informed consent.

We therefore call on you to uphold the best interests of Zambia, her citizens and her environment and future generations. Africa has been the site of foreign and corporate exploitation for many years, and synthetic biology poses an extreme new era of manipulation and control”[ii].

Further information:

What is Synthetic Biology?

The umbrella term, Synthetic Biology, (i.e. artificial / unnatural) describes next generation genetic engineering tools that facilitate and accelerate the “design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems” (CBD operational definition)[iii].

Techniques incorporate DNA/RNA synthesis (building DNA/RNA from scratch in the lab), sequencing, Genome Editing and Gene Drives. The results enable designing and making biological components or ‘parts’, altering organisms’ genetic sequences and modifying living organisms with new synthetic traits for agricultural or ecosystem changes.

What are Gene Drives?

Gene Drives are artificial genetic traits inserted into the DNA of a sexually reproducing organism. This creates a new Gene Drive Organism (GDOs). GDOs are designed to pass on a specific engineered trait to all their offspring. By releasing a few organisms, an artificial trait can be deliberately spread throughout an entire population, either to alter the population or cause it to crash (die out).

The logic behind new technologies? 

The logic of synthetic biology, gene drive or genetically modified organisms, in agriculture relies on the continued deception that exceedingly complex problems in the food system can be resolved simply by new high-tech innovations.

Industry claim is that new technologies could make some agricultural or human pests go extinct, reduce pesticide use, and speed up plant breeding and synthetic production of food. The risks associated with this new and rapidly developing technology have not been measured nor the public consulted.

The potential for the creation of invasive GDOs capable of spreading engineered genes in the wild takes one of the worst scenarios envisaged for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and turns it into a deliberate industrial strategy. While first generation GMOs mostly spread engineered genes by accident, GDOs will be designed to do their own engineering among wild populations out in the real world. Their spread to those populations would be deliberate. Scientists behind gene drives have only just begun to ask what would happen if the genes aren’t quite as well behaved as their Mendelian models intended. What if genes for female sterility, for instance, which have been shown to eliminate mosquito populations in the lab, transferred to species that pollinate our crops or are a food source for birds, reptiles, even humans? What if genes that were beneficial became disabled, or if genetic disruption increased the prevalence or altered patterns of diseases? (ETC Group, Forcing the Farm, 2018).

 The ongoing undermining of Zambia’s ‘no-GMO’ position

Citizens of Zambia have always been strongly opposed to the use of modern biotechnology to produce GMOs. Government leaders have supported this position. In 2017 however, the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) called an initial review meeting of the National Biosafety Policy, that is in-fact recognised as a model policy by countries around the world. The initial proposed amendments were specifically in interest of weakening the Precautionary Principle and removing clauses related to liability and redress (i.e. owner pays for problems incurred). The original, alarmingly small and exclusive meeting held by the NBA in September 2017, Livingstone, was dominated by NEPAD/ AU and COMESA representatives.

The AU has recently released a very premature endorsement of Gene Drive technology and the imminent release of GM mosquitoes in Burkina Faso. The first Live Modified Organisms (LMOs) to be realised on the Africa continent, despite the significant public outcry.

The ZAAB is highly alarmed by the close relationship between the Zambian NBA, the AU and other regional trade groups, who seem to be driving our Zambian agenda. The AU / NEPAD and COMESA have a clear bias towards the promotion of genetic engineering and facilitating increased corporate concentration in African food systems, that disregard public demands, local livelihoods and the long term economic interest of African states.

Citizens around the world have fought for decades against powerful corporations that dominate public discussion and sway regulations to favour profit over people’s best interest.

Up until this last year, Zambia has remained strong in upholding its citizens’ position that Zambia is a No-GMO country. The ongoing review process by the National Biosafety Policy is extremely concerning, especially given the very biased pro-GMO agenda that has been the undercurrent of discussions thus far and seemingly aimed at completely altering the national position.

The public still awaits further communication from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, that is overseeing the National Policy review process.

We, the members to the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity, and citizens of Zambia, call on our National representatives to uphold the best interests of the people and not be swayed by the powers of multinational corporations and their foreign policy allies.

[i] www.synbiogovernance.org (ACB, TWN and ETC Group)

[ii] ZAAB, Open Letter to the Zambian Delegation to The Convention on Biological Diversity COP 14 and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety COP-MOP 9, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 17 – 29 November 2018)

[iii] www.synbiogovernance.org (ACB, TWN and ETC Group)

ATT: Representatives of the people of Zambia to the Convention of Biological Diversity-14/11/2018

 

Dear representatives of the people of Zambia to the Convention of Biological Diversity,

We wish you well in your travels to Egypt and the critical negotiations you will undertake on behalf of the citizens of Zambia.

We understand the nature of the discussions at this year’s CBD COP will be highly controversial and critical in determining the future course of humanity’s use and manipulation of genetic resources – and in turn –  the impact of nature on humanity.

Of particular concern to us, are the discussions related to synthetic biology and gene drive technologies, digital sequencing, and their overarching biosafety standards.

The current proponents of synthetic biology are proceeding under the false assertions of experiments in the interest of public health. However, the developers of new SynBio technology themselves state that the real use and profits from the technologies are to found in the food and agriculture system. The strong push for the unregulated expansion in the use of these new technologies is driven by foreign corporations and philanthropic capital that facilitate the further control of global pharmaceutical and agro-food chains.

The establishment of the Convention of Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol, were in recognition of need to take a precautionary stance when dealing to new unknown technologies and regulate the capital exploitation of genetic resources and living organisms; to protect biodiversity – and thus humanity – from harm.

In the past decade, the topic of new genetic engineering techniques (‘synthetic biology’) has risen up the agenda of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). New technological approaches such as genome editing and rapid DNA synthesis are being commercially applied with significant economic disruption expected, especially on the economies, livelihoods and biodiversity of countries in the Global South.

Zambia citizens repeatedly state their absolute objection to Genetic Modification, and now its extreme versions found in Synthetic Biology. Africa has been the site of foreign and corporate exploitation for many years, and synthetic biology poses an extreme new era of manipulation and control.

We reiterate our public position that Zambia remains a No-GMO country. We raise our serious concern regarding

the considerable unknown risks associated with new SynBio technologies and their disruptive effect on local livelihoods and ecosystems;

the inability to contain gene drive organisms following both field trial and commercial releases,

the inability to regulate trans-boundary movement of GDOs;

the issues surrounding monitoring, assessment and liability;

and the need for free, prior and informed consent, particularly with regards to lands and territories of indigenous and local communities as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 The advances in synthetic biology present clear risks to the environment, health and biodiversity of the African region, and threaten livelihoods. The current regulatory environment needs to be updated and reviewed to stay abreast of these advances, with particular attention to the environmental release of synthetic biology organisms. Of especial concern is the potential deployment of gene drive systems, where even regulations pertaining to contained use should be reviewed with extreme precaution. Benefits sharing, with regards to digital sequences, should also be reviewed, since open access to digital sequences is likely to facilitate further biopiracy and profit extraction of African plant resources.

We support the global civil society call for a moratorium on gene drive releases, including applied research such as open field trial releases, until there is further understanding of the potential risks and technical issues.

Together with our international civil society partners, we ask you to put precautionary governance ahead of this fast-moving and disruptive field and ensure Parties:

  • urgently agree to not release gene drive organisms;
  • implement stringent contained-use standards to prevent accidental releases;
  • put in place the means to detect, identify, monitor, track and test for the presence of synthetic biology components, organisms and products; and,
  • establish the means for rapid horizon scanning of new developments
  • Synthetic Biology could also be formally identified as “a new and emerging issue,” reflecting its substantive and recurrent presence in the CBD’s programme of work.

We therefore call on you, our national representatives to the Convention on Biological Diversity COP 14 and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety COP-MOP 9 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to uphold the wishes and best interests of Zambia, her citizens and her environment and future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zambia’s Position on GMOs and the Revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003 March 2018-7/03/2018

Zambia must continue to uphold the highest biosafety standards

Zambia’s approach to biosafety since the development of the Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003 has been cautious and aimed at ensuring high standards of human, environmental and socio-economic well-being. We are alarmed that the biotech industry is eroding this approach in favour of promoting and protecting the interests of that industry. We reject this shift.

Key concerns in the revised policy include:

  • Abandoning the precautionary principle in favour of creating incentives for innovation for industry. This shift means moving from the aim of protecting against harm to promoting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by reducing safety procedures;
  • Shifting focus from “GMOs” to “biotechnology” thereby wrongly implying that GMOs are as safe as other forms of biotechnology such as conventional breeding or tissue culture;
  • Removing provisions on liability and redress. These made producers of GMOs responsible for paying for and cleaning up damages arising from GMOs;
  • Increasing the focus on intellectual property rights that are skewed in favour of corporations and away from communities;
  • Broadly promoting the benefits of GMOs as described by the producers of GMOs, without interrogating the many problems associated with the technology, such as increased indebtedness of farmers, quality issues in Bt cotton, development of insect and weed resistance, loss of markets due to consumer rejection and many more;
  • Falsely asserting that GMOs will benefit smallholders; and
  • Dismantling current institutional arrangements with no clear replacement structure that clearly outlines new responsibilities, hierarchies and procedural pathways.

Potential risks of GMOs must be recognised:

Governments around the world retain a precautionary stance to GMOs. There is an extensive body of literature that highlights many risks associated with GMOs, these include that:

  • GMOs and related pesticides and herbicides pose health risks
  • GMOs pose environmental risks
  • GMOs are not appropriate for smallholders
  • GMOs contribute to corporate control of the food system
  • GMOs restrict access to markets thereby threatening livelihoods

Real solutions to hunger, poverty and degraded environment must be sought

The fact remains that Zambia is facing a series of crisis level challenges currently – socially, economically and ecologically. Poverty and inequality has risen exponentially. We are now ranked as one of the most malnourished countries in Africa. Women are affected the worst across the board.  These are long term developmental crises.

The majority of the our population rely on agriculture and local food system related livelihood activities – from production through to formal and informal retailing in both urban and rural areas. Very well-known problems farmers face in Zambia are lack of market, late delivery of and cost of inputs, lack of accessible land, soil infertility, erratic rainfall and lack of irrigation, lack of infrastructure, lack of extension services, lack of social and infrastructural support to retailers and traders (exemplified by the recent chlorella and trader dislocations). None of these problems that keep our population poor – and our youth malnourished and restless – are going to be solved by GMO proposed solutions.

Therefore we state:

If we are to face climate change and deal effectively with environmental degradation, poverty, hunger and the extensive malnutrition due to lack of diverse diets in Zambia, it is vital to invest in farming systems that are designed to create resilience and social equity.

We fully agree with the findings of the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) that GMOs have primarily benefited transnational corporations and the wealthy, rather than the poor and hungry of the world. The IAASTD found little solid evidence to support claims that GMOs have contributed to equitable or sustainable development or will do so in the future, but instead raised substantial questions about their social, health and environmental impacts. This is same stand that Late President Mwanawansa stood for years before, and the same principled stand that all subsequent Presidents have remained steadfast in upholding.

We have been assured by the New Minister of Agriculture that Government position on GMOs has not changed. Zambia as a nation remains opposed to GMOs – and citizens have a right to say no to GMOs if they so wish. Therefore – as people of Faith, in agriculture training institutions, civil society, farmers and consumers alike, we raise our voice of concern and distress about the attempts to amend the exemplary National Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy. We support our leaders in their 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.

Signed: Emmanuel Mutamba, ZAAB Chairperson,

7 March 2018

Download PDF  ZAAB postiion statement 7 March 2018 2

Position on GMOs and the Revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003 March 2018

  

Position on GMOs and the Revised Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003
March 2018

Zambia must continue to uphold the highest biosafety standards

Zambia’s approach to biosafety since the development of the Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy of 2003 has been cautious and aimed at ensuring high standards of human, environmental and socio-economic well-being. We are alarmed that the biotech industry is eroding this approach in favour of promoting and protecting the interests of that industry. We reject this shift.

Key concerns in the revised policy include:

• Abandoning the precautionary principle in favour of creating incentives for innovation for industry. This shift means moving from the aim of protecting against harm to promoting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by reducing safety procedures;
• Shifting focus from “GMOs” to “biotechnology” thereby wrongly implying that GMOs are as safe as other forms of biotechnology such as conventional breeding or tissue culture;
• Removing provisions on liability and redress. These made producers of GMOs responsible for paying for and cleaning up damages arising from GMOs;
• Increasing the focus on intellectual property rights that are skewed in favour of corporations and away from communities;
• Broadly promoting the benefits of GMOs as described by the producers of GMOs, without interrogating the many problems associated with the technology, such as increased indebtedness of farmers, quality issues in Bt cotton, development of insect and weed resistance, loss of markets due to consumer rejection and many more;
• Falsely asserting that GMOs will benefit smallholders; and
• Dismantling current institutional arrangements with no clear replacement structure that clearly outlines new responsibilities, hierarchies and procedural pathways.

Potential risks of GMOs must be recognised:

Governments around the world retain a precautionary stance to GMOs. There is an extensive body of literature that highlights many risks associated with GMOs, these include that:
• GMOs and related pesticides and herbicides pose health risks
• GMOs pose environmental risks
• GMOs are not appropriate for smallholders
• GMOs contribute to corporate control of the food system
• GMOs restrict access to markets thereby threatening livelihoods

Real solutions to hunger, poverty and degraded environment must be sought

The fact remains that Zambia is facing a series of crisis level challenges currently – socially, economically and ecologically. Poverty and inequality has risen exponentially. We are now ranked as one of the most malnourished countries in Africa. Women are affected the worst across the board. These are long term developmental crises.

The majority of the our population rely on agriculture and local food system related livelihood activities – from production through to formal and informal retailing in both urban and rural areas. Very well-known problems farmers face in Zambia are lack of market, late delivery of and cost of inputs, lack of accessible land, soil infertility, erratic rainfall and lack of irrigation, lack of infrastructure, lack of extension services, lack of social and infrastructural support to retailers and traders (exemplified by the recent chlorella and trader dislocations). None of these problems that keep our population poor - and our youth malnourished and restless - are going to be solved by GMO proposed solutions.

Therefore we state:

If we are to face climate change and deal effectively with environmental degradation, poverty, hunger and the extensive malnutrition due to lack of diverse diets in Zambia, it is vital to invest in farming systems that are designed to create resilience and social equity.

We fully agree with the findings of the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) that GMOs have primarily benefited transnational corporations and the wealthy, rather than the poor and hungry of the world. The IAASTD found little solid evidence to support claims that GMOs have contributed to equitable or sustainable development or will do so in the future, but instead raised substantial questions about their social, health and environmental impacts. This is same stand that Late President Mwanawansa stood for years before, and the same principled stand that all subsequent Presidents have remained steadfast in upholding.

We have been assured by the New Minister of Agriculture that Government position on GMOs has not changed. Zambia as a nation remains opposed to GMOs – and citizens have a right to say no to GMOs if they so wish. Therefore - as people of Faith, in agriculture training institutions, civil society, farmers and consumers alike, we raise our voice of concern and distress about the attempts to amend the exemplary National Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy. We support our leaders in their 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.

Signed: Emmanuel Mutamba, ZAAB Chairperson,
7 March 2018

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Welcome to the new ZAAB website!

We have walked a celebrated journey together to come to this point today. Seven years ago, four organisations and concerned individuals came together in common concern: the weakening of the Zambian biosafety legislation and an equitable food and agriculture future for all in Zambia.

From our 2010 roots in a common advocacy voice, the civil society alliance has grown in membership and scope of work. Today the ZAAB network has 16 organisational members, local and regional associates and a broad individual membership base. The launch of our website is timely as civil society comes together in 2018 to raise common voice of concern that once again Zambia’s acclaimed biosafety position is being threatened.

We are grateful to our members, individual citizenry efforts, our technical partners and The Seed and Knowledge Initiative for your ongoing support and collaborative actions.

CSO’s comments on the proposed revision of the 2003 Zambian Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy- 4/12/2017

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.

Introduction

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.

2003 BBP

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.[1]

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”.[2] 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.

Guiding Principles

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

 

BBP RP
The Precautionary Principle Innovativeness
Advanced Informed Agreement Sustainability
Undesirable Effects of GMO(s) and Products Thereof Participatory
Risk Assessment Partnership
Socio-Economic Impact Responsibility;
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.

Mission Statement/Vision

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.

 Small-scale Farmers

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.

Institutional Arrangements

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).

Legal Framework

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.

Sincerely

Mr Emmanuel Mutamba

ZAAB Chairperson

Notes/Timeline

  1. Zambia signed the CBD on 11th June, 1992 and ratified it on 28th May, 1993
  2. Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy – August 2003
  3. On 7th April, 2004, Zambia acceded to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) and the CPB came into force on 25th July, 2004
  4. Biosafety Bill – 2006
  5. Biosafety Act (No 10. of 2007) – Date of Assent: 24th April, 2007. The Biosafety Act has provisions for socio-economic consideration (Article 19 1(c)) as part of other issues to be considered in addition to scientific risk assessment. No regulations to support this.
  6. Statutory Instrument (No. 42 of 2010): Biosafety Regulation on Genetically Modified Organisms for food, feed and processing – 2010
  7. National Biosafety Authority inducted on July 24, 2013.
  8. SIs in the pipeline
  • Regulations: The Biosafety (importation of Genetically Modified Organisms for field testing, propagation and contained) use;
  • Regulations: The Biosafety (Exemption of Genetically Modified Organisms)
  1. Approved Guidelines:
  • Public participation, information sharing and access to justice with respect to Genetically Modified Organisms and products of Genetically Modified Organisms;
  • Field work and planned release of Genetically Modified Organisms

[1] Republic of Zambia. Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy. 2003

[2] World Food Summit, 1996

Biosafety Policy Amendments: In Whose Interest?-25/09/2017

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.