The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Zambia has assured the nation that the mealie meal being imported from South Africa produced from genetically modified maize is safe for consumption.
NBA Scientific Advisory Committee Chairperson Dr. Sody Munsaka has said the authority is working with other Government institutions to ensure that mealie meal that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be imported and transited through the country is from the maize varieties that have been authorized by the NBA.
The Authority, working together with the Ministry of Agriculture, has been notifying anyone importing mealie meal or any other products which may contain GMOs on the need to obtain authorization from the NBA.
The NBA has conducted risk assessments on maize and soya varieties from South Africa and have been found to be safe for human and animal consumption.
The Authority has previously granted permits for products made from GMO maize or which may contain GMOs to various distributors and traders in the country.
“We have conducted risk assessments on soya beans and all maize varieties from South Africa and these have been found to be safe for humans, animals and the environment.
Therefore, all products including mealie meal produced from the assessed maize varieties are safe for human and animal consumption,” Dr. Munsaka said.
“Among the products containing GMO maize or Soya beans from South Africa that the Authority has permitted into the country include cornflakes, some soups such as Bisto, premixes, spices, some biscuits, Starch, maize grit and dog food.”
Risk Assessment is the process through which the Scientific Advisory Committee ascertains the safety of products before the Authority grants a permit or rejects an application.”
“Therefore, we would like to assure the general public that the mealie meal from the assessed maize by the Scientific Advisory Committee is safe, even if it is spilled or dropped in the country or people accidentally consumed it, it cannot cause any harm based on the comfort ascertained through risk assessment,” he said.
Some of the functions of the NBA include processing notifications and applications of GMOs or products of GMOs into the country, in accordance with the requirements of the Biosafety Act, promoting public awareness and education concerning the activities regulated under the Act such as risk assessment, risk management and authorization processes; keeping any GMO or any product of a genetically modified organism under review and to ban its handling or release in Zambia.
The Government last week implemented a statutory instrument that suspends the duty on imported mealie meal, when imported by a holder of an import permit issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The measure is aimed at addressing the shortage of mealie meal in some parts of the country and is expected to increase the availability of the commodity.
The suspension of duty on imported mealie meal is part of the Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Maize (Corn) Flour) Regulations, 2023, which were gazetted and came into operation on 6th April, 2023. This measure is expected to stabilize mealie meal prices and ensure that citizens have access to affordable food.
In recent months, citizens have been queuing for hours to buy a bag of mealie meal.
The shortage has led to high prices, with a bag of mealie meal fetching a minimum of K250. Many citizens are frustrated and angry over the situation, which they believe is due to government officials and aligned ruling party businessmen engaging in smuggling activities.
The NBA was established under the Biosafety Act No. 10 of 2007.
Through the Act the NBA regulates the research, development, application, importation, export, transit, contained use, release or placing on the market of any GMO/LMO whether intended for use as a pharmaceutical, food, feed or processing, or a product of a GMO also to ensure that any activity involving the use or a product of GMO prevents any socio-economic impact or harm to human, animal health and the environment in the country.