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Livelihoods of many farmers at stake – ZNFU

THE Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) says it expects that swift action will follow as prescribed by the law so that the maize industry non-GMO status is protected.

ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said the union had followed press reports on the discovery of GMO maize seed by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) after sampling and testing seed maize at some selected farms and warehouses.

Zimba said this had raised a lot of anxiety and concerns among farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector which includes seed growers, seed companies, and downstream value adding industries.

He said while the matter was still under investigation, the ZNFU was inundated with queries seeking reassurance that the maize industry GMO free reputation would remain untainted, and that growing maize would remain a booming business and access to markets would not be affected negatively.

“At this juncture, the union’s focus is on action that will be undertaken by the regulators, the NBA. We expect that swift action will follow as prescribed by the law so that the maize industry non-GMO status is protected. Zambia has maintained its non-GMO status for many years, and this has been good for the country in penetrating niche markets not just for grain exports but for value added products,” he said. “We also want to appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture to be proactive in invoking damage control measures by engaging in free flow of information to farmers by experts on this subject for sensitisation so that farmers get to know the ramifications of buying or being gifted GMO maize seed.”

Zimba said such proactive action can in turn lead to farmers practicing self-protection and help to control the possible spread of the discovered GMO maize seed to other growers.

He said it was a known fact that in the farming areas pilfering of seed from seed growers and selling or sharing seed with friends was very common.

“Therefore, to contain what has happened, the NBA should consider immediate quarantine of the farms where the GMO maize seed has been detected and the surrounding communities should be sensitised to lower the risk of GMO seed being passed on unknowingly,” he said. “So far, the press reports have only mentioned the provinces where sampling of farms was done and not the provinces where the farms with GMO maize seed were found.”

Zimba said there was need for unity in efforts to restore confidence to all the players in the maize industry hence all actions should be publicised.

“To the perpetrators, the law of the land should be applied as this was a wanton and destructive act by a few if not one. Growing a commodity which is illegal is an illegal act and as earlier stated it should attract the necessary sanction measures as prescribed in the law,” he said.

Zimba said the livelihoods of many farmers were at stake.

“Farmers have so many questions which need answers because growing seed maize in the country is highly regulated and so we ask; how did this happen and where was the Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) for this to happen? If I have a farm next to a farm where the GMO seed maize was grown, I need to know and get assurance that contamination on my farm has not happened” said Zimba. “In short, we need answers and information from the NBA, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture like yesterday.”

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