Biosafety Author­ity con­tin­ues to is­sue GMO im­por­ta­tion per­mits

Zambian Business Times - - BUSINESS REVIEW - By Grace Na­mun­y­ola

Na­tional Biosafety Author­ity - NBA has con­tin­ued to is­sue Ge­net­i­cally Mod­i­fied Or­gan­ism - GMO im­por­ta­tion per­mits. This was es­tab­lished through an ex­clu­sive interview with NBA Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fi­cer, San­dra Lombe.

Lombe said that the author­ity en­sures that any ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing the use of a prod­uct of or GMO is safe for hu­mans, an­i­mals and the en­vi­ron­ment as well as pro­mote pub­lic aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion con­cern­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties reg­u­lated un­der this Act, through the pub­li­ca­tion of guid­ance and other ma­te­ri­als that ex­plain and elab­o­rate on the risk as­sess­ment, risk man­age­ment and au­tho­riza­tion pro­cesses.

GMOs are only al­lowed in Zam­bia once they have un­der­gone risk as­sess­ment and have been autho­rized by the NBA and that per­mits have to be granted for prod­ucts made from or con­tain­ing GMOs, she said.

"Dis­trib­u­tors, sup­pli­ers and re­searchers are be­lieved to be bring­ing prod­ucts that may con­tain GMOs or are made from ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms," she said.

Lombe dis­closed that who­ever has to bring in GMOs in the coun­try needs a per­mit from the NBA and so far 23 per­mits have been is­sued since 2015 to var­i­ous com­pa­nies for the im­por­ta­tion and or plac­ing on the mar­ket of prod­ucts that may con­tain ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms. The im­port per­mits are valid for 5 years while per­mits for plac­ing on the mar­ket range be­tween three to six months to en­sure com­pli­ance and pre­vent com­pa­nies from con­tra­ven­ing the law.

African Su­per­mar­kets Lim­ited (trad­ing as Sho­prite), Zam­bian Brands, Cold Chain Lim­ited, Car­ni­val Foods, Pick n Pay, Chop­pies Su­per­stores, Co­mox Trad­ing and Hori­zon Dis­trib­u­tors are among those who have per­mits to port prod­ucts of GMOs.

"The NBA does not bring GMOs in the coun­try but reg­u­lates the use and de­vel­op­ment of GMOs in Zam­bia in a ju­di­cious way to max­i­mize the ben­e­fits of mod­ern biotech­nol­ogy whilst en­sur­ing safety for the an­i­mals, hu­mans and the en­vi­ron­ment,” Lombe em­pha­sized.

She said as an agency es­tab­lished through an Act of Par­lia­ment, the NBA serves the in­ter­ests of con­sumers, pro­duc­ers, stake­hold­ers in­volved in mod­ern biotech­nol­ogy and the gen­eral pub­lic.

NBA is a gov­ern­ment statu­tory body which falls un­der the Min­istry of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and is funded by the Min­istry of Fi­nance through the MOHE faces quite a num­ber of chal­lenges which in­clude the mis­in­for­ma­tion about GMOs ex­em­pli­fied by the no­tion that any huge agri­cul­tural prod­uct such as a big or­ange is said to be GMO when not and the low level of qual­i­fied per­son­nel to uti­lize and give sci­en­tific views on GMO in terms of ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages

"In or­der to as­sist in cre­at­ing aware­ness on GMOs, we have in­ten­si­fied sen­si­ti­sa­tions and aware­ness pro­grammes with stake­hold­ers, clients and the pub­lic" Lombe said.

Lombe fur­ther dis­closed that NBA has recorded two of­fences since last year 2017. One re­gard­ing prod­ucts not well la­belled and the other a su­per­store did not have per­mits to im­port and place on the mar­kets GMOs prod­ucts they were sell­ing which were con­fis­cated and de­stroyed.

"It is pro­hib­ited for a per­son to im­port ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms for use as food or feed pro­cess­ing or as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal un­less the im­por­ta­tion is duly autho­rized by the Author­ity. Per­mis­sion to im­port is only granted af­ter such prod­ucts have been as­sessed that they pose no risk to hu­man, an­i­mals and the en­vi­ron­ment, fail­ure to ob­tain a per­mit from NBA can at­tract a fine of 500,000 penalty units or 15 - years im­pris­on­ment or both", Lombe said.

Mean­while, ac­cord­ing to a press state­ment is­sued by the Author­ity's Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Of­fi­cer, stated that NBA has granted chain store Chop­pies su­per­stores a per­mit to im­port prod­ucts that may con­tain ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms (GMOs).

Chop­pies Su­per­stores made an ap­pli­ca­tion for the im­por­ta­tion of prod­ucts that are made from GMOs or may con­tain GMOs in May this year.

"Among the prod­ucts the chain store will im­port and place on the mar­ket in­clude In­stant Chop­pies Por­ridge (three dif­fer­ent flavours in­clud­ing Orig­i­nal and Straw­berry), Chilli Beef Flavoured Soup, Ox­tail Flavoured Soup, Chakalaka Flavoured Soup, Brown Onion Soup and Chop­pies Corn Flakes", she stated.

The NBA Board, dur­ing their last meet­ing held Fri­day July 6, 2018, ap­proved the ap­pli­ca­tion for a per­mit to im­port prod­ucts that may con­tain GMOs by Chop­pies Su­per­stores fol­low­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion from the Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (SAC).

The SAC of the NBA met in June this year, and among other is­sues, re­viewed and con­sid­ered the Chop­pies Su­per­stores per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion. The SAC, af­ter con­duct­ing a risk as­sess­ment, found that the prod­ucts that Chop­pies Su­per­stores sought to im­port did not con­tain tox­ins and al­ler­gens that might cause harm to the hu­mans, an­i­mals and the en­vi­ron­ment.

And in April this year the NBA ac­com­pa­nied by of­fi­cials from the Min­istry of Health, Lusaka City Coun­cil and the po­lice swung into ac­tion and pounced on the un­sus­pect­ing Lake Road and Ibex Chop­pies Su­per­stores con­fis­cat­ing food prod­ucts worth over ZMW21,000 which were brought in the coun­try and placed on the mar­ket with­out ob­tain­ing ap­proval from the Author­ity. The chain store was also di­rected to with­draw all prod­ucts con­tain­ing GMOs from the shelves across the coun­try that were be­ing sold with­out prior ap­proval from the Author­ity.

The NBA in the pres­ence of Chop­pies of­fi­cials and law en­force­ment agen­cies de­stroyed the prod­ucts which were con­fis­cated from Su­per­stores since they were not sub­jected to risk as­sess­ment, prior to their im­por­ta­tion, in or­der to as­cer­tain their safety as food or feed.

NBA fur­ther en­cour­aged and ad­vised whole­salers, dis­trib­u­tors and sup­pli­ers to en­sure that they give copies of per­mits for im­port or plac­ing on the mar­ket to re­tail­ers and traders they sup­ply ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied prod­ucts to avoid be­ing in­con­ve­nienced or pe­nal­ized.

The Na­tional Biosafety Author­ity (NBA) was es­tab­lished un­der the Biosafety Act N0. 10 of 2007 and its man­date is to reg­u­late the re­search, de­vel­op­ment, ap­pli­ca­tion, im­port, ex­port, tran­sit, con­tained use, re­lease or plac­ing on the mar­ket of any Ge­net­i­cally Mod­i­fied Or­gan­ism (GMO) whether in­tended for use as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, food, feed or pro­cess­ing, or a prod­uct of a GMO.

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