Zimbabwe has made a huge step towards establishing genetically modified (GM) labelling laws which seek to improve access to information for consumers keen to know the status of food they are eating.
Experts drawn from various sectors met recently in the country’s capital, Harare, to input into the process of developing a comprehensive Statutory Instrument on Labelling of Food and Feed That Are and Are Not Products of Genetic Modification.
Stakeholders who took part at the workshop organised by the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe were upbeat that the GM labelling laws will eventually support efforts aimed at establishing mechanisms for spearheading bio-safety issues in the country.
Broadly, the laws aim to prescribe that goods that are produced, supplied, imported or packaged must display a notice disclosing the presence of any GM ingredients or components of these goods.
Once approved, the new draft laws will compel industry to label food containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
This comes after a protracted row between big food producers and consumer organisations over the issue of labelling, with anti-GM activists accusing food processing companies of failing to label their products, something which they argue violated the rights of consumers.
Despite the ban, GM products continue to infiltrate into Zimbabwe and the rest of the SADC region through porous borders from South Africa.
Zimbabwe requires all imported GM grain to be milled at the port of entry especially when there is a serious drought that threatens the survival of humans and livestock.
The draft SI of GM food labelling will put the NBA in charge of overseeing the labelling of foods with genetically modified ingredients.
The regulations will require the NBA, in collaboration with other strategic government agencies to review the safety of a product before it enters the marketplace.
In addition, the regulations will require mandatory labelling on food with genetically modified ingredients if they are found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without biotech ingredients.