Dr. Brian Mushimba, Zambia’s Minister of Higher Education, said there is nothing today that has not been modified in one way or another.
“The perception out there is that GMOs (genetically modified organisims) were banned by the late President Levy Mwanawasa and there are no GMOs in Zambia,” he said. “I have struggled to understand that line of thinking because today there is nothing that is not modified in one way or another. Even the drought-resistant crops have been modified conventionally to increase productivity in an effort to feed the world population of about 7 billion people.”
The Minister made his comments during his recent tour of Zambia’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), according to a statement by the agency’s communications officer. He urged the agency to enhance its public awareness and operations as it ensures the safety of humans, animals and the environment.
The NBA regulates the research, development, application, importation, export, transit, contained use, release and commercial distribution of any GMO or living modified organism (LMO), whether intended for use as a pharmaceutical, food, feed or processing, as well as any product of a GMO.
The NBA also ensures that any activity involving the use or product of a GMO causes no socio-economic impact or harm to humans, animal health and the natural environment.
Mushimba pledged to support the NBA in familiarizing government officials and members of Parliament on the current status of GMOs in Zambia.
“We live in an engineering world where technologies are advancing every day,” he said. “Therefore, we cannot ignore what is happening. It’s the time we are in.”
Mushimba also urged the Ministry of Higher Education to come up with a roadmap for reviewing the country’s biotechnology and biosafety policy and subsequent regulations.
He assured the NBA of his support and help in improving its infrastructure development and staff recruitment and congratulated the agency for identifying ways to collaborate with other Zambian government agencies to ensure compliance on all activities relating to GMOs.
Lenganji Sikapizye is a journalist from Zambia and a 2019 Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow.