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


P.S Ministry of Higher Education

Maxwell house, Los Angeles Boulevard

P.O Box 50464,

Lusaka, Zambia


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).