Report on Biosafety Bill , 2022


    National Assembly Phone: +266 22323035 P. O. Box 190 Fax: + 266 22310434
    Maseru 100
    The Biosafety Bill, 2022 was tabled before the House by the Hon. Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture on Tuesday, 17th May, 2022. The Bill was referred to the Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism and Land Cluster for consideration (Annex1) in terms of the National Assembly Standing Order No. 51(5). The Ministry responsible for the Bill was subsequently invited to provide the Committee with the policy context, financial implications, contents and effects of the Bill as per the National Assembly Standing Order No. 54 (2).
    Following the tabling and referral of the above-mentioned Bill, the Minister and officials held a briefing session on the Bill for the Committee on Thursday 19th May, 2022.
    This report therefore, presents before the House, the findings of the Committee that transpired during deliberations on the Bill.
  3. MINISTERIAL BRIEF The Ministry explained that the main purpose of the Bill is to:
     Establish the National Biosafety Council as the advisory body to the Minister on the application of this law;
     Establish the National Biosafety Tribunal to consider any grievances raised by an applicant or permit holder or any aggrieved person;
     Provide for control and management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their release into the environment;
     Regulate application of modern biotechnology;
     Protect human health, biodiversity and the environment from harmful effects of GMOs;
     Regulate importation and exportation of GMOs;
     Prohibit engagement of genetic modification activity by any person without a permit;
     Impose obtainment of insurance cover by the applicant to cover for liability and redress in an event of accident;
     Impose strict measures for risk management in the application of genetic modification;
     Set out a procedure for emergency and unintentional release of GMOs;
     Impose continuous monitoring and evaluation of risk for life cycle of GMOs;
     Provide for suspension and revocation of permit if required;
     Make a register of GMO applications a requirement;
     Provide for public opinion on any activity on GMO and make information dissemination (awareness) and education to the public on genetic modification mandatory;
     Stipulate information and documentation required for exportation and importation of GMOs;
     Provide for consultation and collaboration between the minister and line ministries;
     Hold the applicant liable for any accidental release of GMOs and its redress;
     Give environmental inspectors enforcement powers without warrant; and
     Place liability and redress on the permit holders.
    The Ministry further informed the Committee that Lesotho is a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which is a legally binding global protocol that seeks to contribute to3
    ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) created through modern biotechnology. This protocol also created an Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) procedure that requires exporters and importers to seek consent from importing countries before the first shipment of LMOs is introduced into an environment.
    The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety has also established the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH), as an international mechanism that exchanges information about the movement of GMOs. This Bill will therefore, enable the government to acquire the necessary information through the Secretariat which will be assisting the government to implement the protocol’s provisions and facilitate sharing of information on LMOs. The Secretariat will also play a pivotal role in the making of informed decisions regarding the importation or exportation of GMOs.
    The Committee was also made aware that there is a rapid increase of GMOs in the country, which have been imported without following Advanced Informed Agreement.
    The Ministry also briefed the Committee that the Bill is informed by a number of policies that include inter-alia:
    Seed Policy; National Plant Health Policy 2011; Environment Policy 1998; Lesotho Food and Nutrition Policy 2016 – 2025; Lesotho Food Security Policy 2005; National Biosafety Policy 2005; Environmental Health Policy (draft); and Food Safety Policy (draft),
    It is also in alignment with the National Strategic Development Plan II, National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and Sustainable Development Goal 1, 2 and 15. It is anticipated that the following financial costs will be incurred during the implementation of this Bill:
     Sitting allowances for the National Biosafety Council and National Biosafety Tribunal members;  Field inspections; and  Administrative costs for attending national and international obligations. Although costs and revenue related to the implementation of this Bill have not been budgeted for in the 2022/23 financial year; the Bill intends to assist in future generation of the Ministry’s revenue.
    The Committee went through the Bill clause by clause and proposes the following amendments: 1. Under the interpretation of “biological diversity”, delete the whole sentence and substitute it with the following: “means the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia terrestrial ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological habitants of which they are part and includes genetic diversity within species, between species and ecosystems; 2. Under the interpretation of “environment”, delete the whole sentence and substitute it with the following: “means the physical factors of the surroundings of the human beings including land, water, atmosphere, climate, sound, odour, taste, biological factors of animals and plants and the social factors of the aesthetics and includes both natural and the built environment” 3. In Clause 16 sub-clause (2), line 2, insert the words “seven days” before the word “written”. 4. In Clause 20, add new sub-clause (6) as follows:
    “(6) A person who contravenes section 20 (1)(2)(3) and (4) commits an offence and is liable on conviction where such a person is- a) an individual, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand Maloti , or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Maloti for each day during which the offence continues; and b) a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding five million Maloti, and in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding one million Maloti for each day during which the offence continues. 4. RECOMMENDATIONS After a thorough scrutiny of the Bill, the Committee recommends that the Bill be passed as amended (Annex2). 5. CONCLUSION Having considered the Bill, the Committee resolved to submit this Report to the House for adoption.
  5. Hon. K. Mathaba (Chairperson) 2. Hon. M. Moletsane 3. Hon. M. Tsatsanyane 4. Hon. P. S. Molefi 5. Hon. T. Kholumo 6. Hon. K. Mokhethi 7. Hon. S. S. Sekhamane 8. Hon. T. Tsolo 9. Hon. M. M. N. Moremoholo 10. Hon. T. Ramatla 11. Hon. K. Rants’o 12. Hon. N. Makoae 13. Hon. L. D. Kompi 14. Hon. S. Ntsekele 15. Hon. M. ‘Muso 16. Hon. M. Sello 17. Hon. M. ‘Molotsi 18. Hon. T. G. Manyooko 19. Hon. M. Mahapa 20. Hon. M. Ntlama 21. Hon. C. Phori 22. Hon. L. Hlalele