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Zambia Should Maintain the NO GMOS stance

ColumnsZambia Should Maintain the NO GMOS stance

1. GPL Farming

Zambia’s long held position of ‘No GMOs’ is under threat. The Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation (ZAABC) 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 ZAABC 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 ZAABC 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 in fact advocate for further strengthening the Zambian Biosafety Act which in its current form stands out as one of the most progressive in the world.

Date: 12 January, 2016
Emmanuel Mutamba
Chairperson – ZAABC

Member organisations of the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation include:
1. Green Living Movement (GLM)
2. Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation – Trust (CRHC-Trust)
3. Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC)
4. Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT)
5. Grassroots Trust
6. Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management – Association (PELUM Association)
7. Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management – Zambia (PELUM Zambia)
8. Council of Churches Zambia (CCZ)
9. Chongwe District Women Development Alliance (CDWDA)
10. Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR)
11. Caritas Zambia
12. Organic Producers and Processors Alliance of Zambia (OPPAZ)
13. CUTS Lusaka
14. East and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)
15. Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN)
16. Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum (CBNRM Forum)
17. Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA)
18. Zambia Relief and Development Foundation (ZRDF)
19. Zambia Rural Women’s Assembly


  1. First step is to shut down companies like Monsanto in Zambia. Their money is good but their product is gradually killing Zambians with or without their knowledge. Please take up this challenge seriously.

  2. Some people still believe that the Earth is FLAT!

    Anyone that understands that humans have been modifying the genetics of plants and animals ever since the first crops were domesticated and animals tamed will realise GMOs are nothing new.

    It is simply a much more efficient and faster technology to do exactly the same job as plant variety improvement.

    Like any technology it can be used for good or misused and abused, just like nuclear power.

    Those that reject it are on the wrong side of history and will be remembered as ignoramuses and Fools.

    • It is true that selective breeding has been used for thousands of years to improve organisms for farming, but that power resided in the hands of the farmers who were allowed to save the crop seed and control their own livestock. Are they fools to be opposed to handing this power and more to foreign multinationals whose only motive is more and more profit for themselves?

      You are right that genetic engineering is a potentially more efficient way of doing the same thing, but there are also many unknown dangers associated with tinkering with genes that cannot be anticipated. Selective breeding uses natural processes of reproduction to favour certain characteristics. Genetic engineering really is genetic tinkering because genes can be introduced that never belonged in that organism. Aren’t…

    • You are absolutely correct that selective breeding (as documented by Gregor Mendel) has for thousands of years allowed farmers to adapt organisms by changing them genetically. But there is a huge difference between using natural processes of plant or animal reproduction to favour certain characteristics and the genetic tinkering GMOs entail through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering can introduce genes that never belonged in an organism, with unexpected consequences that are hard to predict.

      Are farmers fools to oppose the control over the plants and animals they grow or rear to be taken out of their hands and given to foreign multinationals whose only motive is more and more profit? You mention nuclear power, but has the developed world never had a nuclear accident? And nobody…

    • Are African farmers fools to hand over their control over the plants and animals they grow and rear to foreign corporations whose only motive is more and more profit for themselves?

      GMOs, unlike traditional selective breeding, can introduce genes that never belonged in these organisms, and the results cannot always be predicted. You mention nuclear power. Has there never been a nuclear accident in the west?

      I suggest documenting traditional farming methods and heritage varieties, then empower the farmers with methods that help them do their job better, through for example seed banks.

  3. I beg to agree and disagree at the same time. It is indeed true that times have evolved and new ways have been developed in line with the modern world but that does not mean we go along with all new inventions especially where the healthy aspect of the people and the environmental concern is at stake.

    What is worth to note is that in countries where the GMO were embraced at first sight are now grappling with different issues as picked from the writers script-

    ” 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…

    • The use of glyphosate is not GMO technology. This is one of many different kinds of chemical used in agriculture, even in conventional crops.

    • You are absolutely right, glyphosphate itself is not a GMO technology, but Monsanto wants to sell GM crop strains that are resistant to this herbicide so that these GMOs provide leverage to favour their Round Up product.

  4. GMOs should be allowed in Zambia, however, they should be clearly labeled. With the changing weather phenomena, it would be folly to bury our heads in the sands and pretend that all is well. Nevertheless, I doubt if any of us has not tasted gmo foods.

  5. Thank you for this informative article. I am proud my Gov,t is ahead of reckless revolutionists in Biofoods.

    Please consider this. In the West, people against GMO’s are forced to spend far much more in us modified foods sold through health shops like Holland and Barratt, WholeFoods. The price on these guaranteed foods is so shocking and it has gone up million fold so that only the wealthy can protect themselves from modified foods. Imagine, having to pay insane money to eat natural food, God made for you, because some humans have usurped the power to grow food naturally. Don,t empower Monsanto et al, support Zambia’s position. We can also have bumper crops in time of good rains with us modified foods. UPND and it’s pseudo intellectuals will be piling in comments shortly…

  6. People in the USA have been eating GMO foods for over 30 years now and there is not even ONE documented case of anyone dying from that.

    Those advocating stopping the use of GMOs are coming from a basis of ignorance and prejudice. If used wisely this technology has great potential to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by making healthy food affordable to everyone.

  7. I tend to wonder as person who have studied biotec that some people will urge the coming of GMOs in Zambia..people let us wake up…

    Here at CBU we have started sensitising our fellow students about dangers associated with these engineered foods we buy in shops like Pick n pay and many others.

    So if your knowledge is limited please be eager to learn first before you put your mouth in motion.

  8. I agree we don’t want Zambian farmers to be equal to the US farmers. We want them to make as little profit from their crops as possible. Why should they have the best seed and get the types of yields that they just dream about but which have been in the US for 20 years, They don’t deserve it, do they. I think they should continue to spread chemical insecticides onto their crops by hand rather than use Bt. I think they should be required to hand weed and make their kids do it instead of going to school. It is only fair they wait a few centuries before they get equal opportunities. They should be forced to eat the aflatoxin0riddled corn instead of the low aflatoxin corn from GM corn. They also shouldn’t be allowed to use the new drought tolerant corn developed by WEMA with the Gates…

  9. its true,Zambian farmers will not afford the cost of herbicides two to three years after planting GMO seed.
    Ask RSA who have had GMO seed whether their crop has ever been better after a few years NO.Most can do zero has they have signed contracts with MOSANTO and when crops fail?…..

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