GUEST ARTICLE: GMOs – is it a question of eating Pork but not the pig’s offals

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By Siphiwe Zulu

In “Ma Offals”, his smash hit of a few years ago, popular local musician Mundia Mukubesa aka Petersen, laments the attitude of a certain race in Zambia that likes to date black Zambian women yet refuses to marry them, purportedly because of “religious reasons”.

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Petersen metaphorically paints a picture of a certain “Yusuf” from this religion whom he confronts to explain why having affairs with Zambian women is okay yet marrying them is forbidden.

According to the song, Yusuf’s answer is that “we eat pork but not offals”.

Why, you may ask, am I talking about “Ma Offals” and “Yusuf”?

The irony of eating pork but not offals is reminiscent of people literally swearing on how dangerous genetically modified maize or mealie meal is yet eating fruits or products of animals fed on GMO feed to enhance their growth, isn’t it?

Which brings me to the question: why are Zambian politicians – including those that possibly sell GMO pork sausages and fruits countrywide – are so emotive about the issue of GMO maize and not the other foodstuffs they sell themselves?

What’s so bad and dangerous about GMO maize that even in the face of famine, people should be left to starve?

According to an article on everydayhealth.com, a GMO is a food or crop with genetic material that has been altered using biotechnology instead of selective breeding.

The article quotes Diane Beckles, a plant sciences professor and researcher at the University of California, who makes an interesting observation that is hard to disagree with:

“Everything we buy in a supermarket has been genetically modified.

“Humans have been changing the genetic makeup of plants for thousands of years.”

Critics express concern about the potential effect of GMOs on the environment and their safety for human consumption, particularly that they may cause cancer.

In Zambia, known politicians have jumped on the bandwagon and somewhat used the issue to attack their foes; even claiming that the Zambia National Service is importing GMO food from South Africa – an allegation that has been rubbished by ZNS.

What makes such claims laughable is that some of these politicians have been in government before and have never pushed for a ban on GMO foods.

Some of them are farmers who keep pigs that they probably artificially inseminate and feed with GMOs before making sausages that they sell to us.

Chances are very high that the preservatives they use may actually be harmful to human beings yet they have never opened doors to the public to tell us the minutest of details of what makes their yield so high.

Point is that GMOs are here to stay and whether we like it or not, we consume them everyday.

This is something that even the comedian Thomas Sipalo, aka Komboni president agrees with.

“Any seed or animal that has undergone any genetic engineering change is GMO. This includes broilers, maize seeds, nuts, oranges, etc,” he recently posted on Facebook.

“And 99.9 % of the maize we plant today passes through the lab for engineering purposes, making it a GMO. In short, most foods we plant are not natural but genetically modified.”

“Palibe na nkani apa [there’s no issue here] we eat GMOs every day!”

Indeed, if we want to have an objective discussion, let’s not politicize the issue and make it exclusive to maize.

Let’s open it up to all foodstuffs in supermarkets and also provide tangible solutions to what happens if our maize harvests are bad.

Otherwise we will be like that Yusuf in Petersen’s song – hypocrites.

Kalemba February 5, 2024

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