An Analysis of the Biosafety System in Zambia -Regulatory framework, policies and procedures

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Musonda, Martha Bwile
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University of Zambia
In 2002, the republican President of Zambia declined a donation of Genetically Modified (GM) maize from the United States of America citing a lack of regulation and technical capacity. Consequently, in 2003 and 2007, the country passed the Biosafety Policy and Biosafety Act respectively. In 2018, government stated that Zambia is a GM food free country. However, by July 2018, the National Biosafety Authority had authorised 24 applications regarding the placements of GM food products on the market. In addition, three applications for medical research using Genetically Modified Organisms were approved. This was a departure from government’s earlier precautionary stance on GM food and has led to a public outcry. The status of Biosafety in Zambia remains unclear to most members of the public. Internationally, the debate on the safety of GM food is rife, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) stating that there are no known health risks posed by the consumption of GM products. Biotechnology has been identified as one of the viable solutions to improve agriculture productivity. Unfortunately, the technology is still under developed in Zambia. The objective of the study was to analyse the Biosafety System in Zambia. The study used a conceptual framework developed by International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNR) to review the Biosafety System. The study was qualitative in nature. Secondary data was obtained from desk top reviews of relevant documents including the biotechnology and biosafety policy act. Primary data was obtained by conducting expert interviews with twelve purposely sampled experts. In addition, semi structured questionnaires were administered to thirty purposely sampled institutions. A computer assisted qualitative data analysis software, Nvivo 10, was used to aid in the data management and analysis process. The software was also used to query key words for comparison with manually coded categories and themes. The major findings of the study are that the policy is non exhaustive, and the regulatory framework takes a severe precautionary stance which does not support the development of Biotechnology. It is recommended that the policy be revised if the country is to benefit from the technology. Key words: Biosafety, Biotechnology, Genetically Modified Organism, Precautionary
Genetically Modified Organism , Biosafety , Biotechnology