The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has directed all chain stores, wholesalers, retailers and traders dealing in products that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a one week ultimatum to get copies of permits from their suppliers for them to sell the products.

The directive follows the spot and compliance checks that the Authority has been conducting in the last three weeks. NBA Registrar Mr Lackson Tonga says all traders who will not have copies of permits for placing on the market products that may contain GMOs will be dealt with according to the provisions of the law.

The Authority conducts risk assessment to ascertain the safety of the processed food made from genetically modified organisms and thereafter issue an appropriate permit. Two different kinds of permits are issued in relation to food, feed or processing. One permit is for importation of products that may or contain GMOs and is valid for about five years and another for placing on the market, to enable one to sell products that may contain GMOs, and is valid for a maximum of about six months.

Wholesalers and distributors (importers) are required to get import permits to bring in the country products containing GMOs and further get a permit for the products to be sold on the Zambian Market.

“We are happy that most wholesalers, chain stores and retailers are getting products from distributors who have permits to import products that may contain GMOs. However, we are concerned that most of them do not have the copies of permits to place on the market. In almost all the places we visited, retailers did not have copies of such permits and when asked to produce a permit they had to refer us to the distributor or call the distributor for verification,” Mr Tonga explained.

“It is just imperative that they have such important documents, as a permit to place on the market, in their shops or files. As such we are giving all shop owners, traders, wholesalers and retailers seven days in which to get these permits from their distributors to avoid being inconvenienced when we visit them next time soon.”