From James MuyanwaNairobi, Kenya -
ZAMBIA must engage the public and other stakeholders before deciding whether to start accepting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or not, the country’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has said.
NBA registrar Alfred Sumani said here yesterday that the Zambian public and stakeholders need to be given balanced information on the merits and demerits of accepting GMOs into the country.
Dr Sumani who is leading a team of Zambian scientists, journalists and other stakeholders to the local NBA here on an exchange programme said the issue of GMOs was an emotive one, hence the need for the country to thoroughly debate.
Speaking during the introductory meeting at Kenya’s NBA offices, he said that the authority was there to ensure biosafety in Zambia but it was still growing the capacity to effectively achieve that.
He said since inception Zambia’s NBA had not handled any application from applicants wanting to either import or transport across genetically modified materials.
Dr Sumani noted that as more neighbouring countries embraced the GMO technology, it was important for Zambia to strengthen the NBA and the entire regulatory system to be able to brace for subsequent challenges.
The week-long programme has been sponsored by Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), an organisation under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Dr Sumani said while Zambia could continue rejecting GMO materials, its efforts could be frustrated by the influx of genetically modified items from other countries hence the need to strengthen the capacity to detect and control imports.
As a regulator, he said, the NBA was preoccupied with the biosafety and was not championing for or against the use of GMOs in that southern African country.
During the same occasion the Zambian delegation learnt that the Kenyan NBA had received 29 applications for conducting research on or importing GMO materials out of which 26 were approved and three are still pending.
NBA – Kenya director for technical services, Dorington Ogoyi said that the researches which were underway include on drought resistant maize, bio-fortified sorghum, cassava, cotton and others.
The resultants of most of the researches are expected to be released to the natural environment in 2014 after a strenuous process.
Professor Ogoyi said in bio-safety there was need to ensure that the consumers were aware that what was being sold contained genetically modified materials.
The Kenyan law, therefore, requires that such products are clearly labeled as containing GMO elements so that the consumers could make informed choices on whether to use them or not.
Prof Ogoyi said where it was impossible to label the products, the traders of such products should display information advising the consumers that the product contained GMO.