Evidently influenced by the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Project, the Biosafety Bill has been drafted principally to implement the Biosafety Protocol verbatim, and in so doing, perpetuates some of the weaknesses and deficiencies of the Biosafety Protocol.
For instance, the scope of the Biosafety Bill is predicated on the scope of the Biosafety Protocol where the risks to human health are not central to the biosafety enquiry, but are ancillary to the protection of biological diversity in the use of the terms “taking also into account risks to human health.” (Section 2(1) of the Biosafety Bill; Article 4 of the Biosafety Protocol).
The Biosafety Bill also excludes as does the Biosafety Protocol, the transboundary movement of GMOs that are pharmaceuticals for humans that are addressed by relevant international agreements and organisations. In fact the entire Biosafety Bill is littered with examples of the extent to which the sole imperative underpinning the drafting of the Bill appears to be to implement the basic minimum standards of the Biosafety Protocol. This is dealt with in more detail below, but a striking further example to this effect, is the way in which the documentation to accompany bulk shipments of GMOs has been dealt with: exactly as stipulated in Article 18(2)(a), notwithstanding that these provisions merely mirror interim arrangements, pending the finalisation of this yet unresolved issue.
The Biosafety Bill in its slavish attempt to emulate the Biosafety Protocol has failed dismally to live up to its objective to develop “state-of-art biosafety frameworks”. (P.4 of the Draft National Biosafety Policy). Although the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol is an important imperative, biosafety regulatory frameworks must of necessity be comprehensive and holistic, going well beyond the scope of the Biosafety Protocol, the Protocol is essentially, an international environmental agreement designed to regulate the cross border movement of GMOs with the objective of avoiding harm to biodiversity.
Government officials run the risk of being misled into believing that once they have implemented the minimum standards of the Biosafety Protocol, their Biosafety Frameworks would thus be complete. This is not the case because issues regarding labelling, traceability, access to administrative justice, ethical and cultural issues, transparency in decisionmaking, and decision-making generally, that does not involve imports and exports, also require careful attention and consideration. The approach taken in the drafting of the Lesotho Biosafety Bill is consistent for instance with the approach taken by USAID when it made extensive comments throughout the text of the draft Zambian biosafety legislation, when it urged Zambia to use the specific wording of the Biosafety Protocol in regard to definitions, socioeconomic impacts, risk assessments, the precautionary principle and so forth.
We repeat here, our response to USAID’s comments in the Zambian bill regarding the rights and obligations vesting in Parties to the Biosafety Protocol regarding its implementation by way of national legislation.
Read the National Biosafety Policy For Lesotho Government of Lesotho here.
Read the Comments on Lesotho’s Biosafety Bill by Mariam Mayet here.