ZAMBIA – The National Biosafety Authority of Zambia has called on butcheries using spices which may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to clearly label their products so that consumers make informed decisions.
The Authority has also directed bakery owners using ingredients made from or which may contain genetically modified organisms to like-wise label them as failure to do so will result in the Authority enforcing provisions of the Biosafety Act reports Newsday.
NBA Chief Executive Officer Lackson Tonga stated, “It is a requirement by law that all products which are made from genetically modified organisms or which contain ingredients of GMOs are clearly labelled so that consumers make an informed choice or decision when buying such food products.”
He added that consumers have the right to know what ingredients are in the products they are buying hence labeling them does not indicate that products are dangerous but inform consumers of what they are eating.
According to NBA Communications Officer Sandra Lombe, GMO products or products which may contain GMOs which have been permitted on the Zambian market have been found to be safe for the humans, animals and the environment, after risk assessment was conducted on them.
She said that NBA is pleased that distributors are giving their clients copies of permits to place on the market, “The shops that we inspected on the Copperbelt we found that they had copies of the permits for placing on the market from their suppliers.”
“This is good because some time back we have issued an ultimatum that they should have such documents in their shops, otherwise we would seize their products,” She added.
The Authority is pleased with the compliance levels to biosafety standards by the laboratories dealing with GMO products as during its spot and compliance checks observed that most of the laboratories handling GMO products were adhering to good biosafety standards.
GMO products have been a controversial topic in Zambia with some sections of society stating that Zambia may not have the technical expertise and equipment that is capable of detecting the medium to long term side effects of the consumption.
In may Zambia’s Health Minister, Dr Chitalu Chilufya, backed utilisation of GM foodstuffs saying that they have been tested and proven to have no adverse effects on human health hence assuring safety to consumers in the country.
Dr Chilufya said that the ministry had undertaken relevant studies on the safety of GM food stuffs imported into the country and was confident of their safety.
This comes amid concerns on increased importation and sale of GM food stuffs across some stores in the country as well as longstanding concerns on their safety.
NBA has so far issued over 20 permits 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.