Zambia's GMO ban stands, eyes elsewhere for food security

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- Zambia has reaffirmed its stand against the importation of GMO food, even at a time when the country is facing a severe drought which could force it to import food.
The current drought is reminiscent of 2000 and 2002, which caused a strain on food security in Zambia following drought and crop failure.
Due to this, there is strong pressure on the country to review its position and legalise the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within its borders.
However, instead of following the GMO route, Zambia, like several other African countries, is currently in the process of developing a biosafety legislation to regulate GM products.
Instead, the Zambian government has effectively reaffirmed its position to ban GMOs in the country until it is satisfied with safety reports on humans and animals alike.
Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana said in an interview to mark the 2005 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) that Zambia will continue with the ban until the country is satisfied with issues of safety.
Sikatana said the country would acquire and set up equipment that would be used to detect GMOs at all Zambian entry border points so as to enhance the country's capacity to detect and regulate GM crops.
The minister underscored the fact that Zambia has a sustainable food production system.
"The food system in Zambia is sustainable provided we adopt irrigation throughout the year so that we can overcome periods of drought.
"We have suffered extremely heavy crop losses because of the unprecedented drought which compels us to adopt other programmes which use irrigation such as cultivation of winter maize and utilising wetlands," said Sikatana.
Currently, Zambia fears that it may have a very low crop harvest because of the drought that has hit the country.
Due to the poor rains, even optimistic forecasts say that Zambia will only harvest enough for local consumption, according to the minister.
He then urged Zambians to diversify their diet and consume alternatives like the drought-resistant cassava, and not depend on maize only for their diet.
Food security and agricultural biotechnology are very contentious and controversial issues in Zambia and Africa today among scientists, farmers, government officials and the public.
In 2002 Zambia experienced hunger following a severe drought.
The US government offered GMOs for relief assistance but Zambian President Mwanawasa rejected the offer, citing health, environmental, trade and market- share concerns.
His decision came after a team of scientists and economists was sent on a fact-finding mission to South Africa, Europe and the United States.
On their return, they gave a report to Mwanawasa who reaffirmed his position and rejected distribution of the GMO maize.

23 مارس 2005 11:40:00

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