The Zambian government has drafted biosafety legislation to build technological capacity to ensure the country is not consuming genetically modified food.
"The legislation, which will help us regulate and monitor GMOs [genetically modified organisms] will also establish the National Biosafety Authority," said Paul Zambezi, permanent secretary for the Zambian ministry of science, technology and vocational training.
The proposed legislation, currently with the ministry of justice, is part of the country's five-year National Biosafety and Biotechnology Strategy Plan to initiate biosafety research and the protection of biodiversity, Zambezi told IRIN.
The bill, expected to be submitted to parliament between January and March next year for approval, will make Zambia one of the few African countries to have biosafety legislation in place.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has issued guidelines on handling GMOs, and has asked its member states to develop national biotechnology policy and establish biosafety regulatory systems.
"We also need the legislation to penalise [organisations, companies] who do not meet biosafety requirements. At the moment we are following the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety," said Felix Mwangala of the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research. The global protocol establishes international procedures for managing the transboundary movement and handling of GMOs.
"Our intention is to make Zambia GMO-free, but we have not got there yet - we need to build the capacity of our scientists. A substantial portion of our strategy plan will focus on human resource development," Zambezi said.
Zambia was among several southern African countries which banned GM food relief in 2002, at a time when it was facing critical food shortages.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions