Under the Biosafety Act No. 13 of 2002, the Minister responsible for environment is the licensing authority responsible for the granting, renewal, variation, suspension and revocation of licences.
In 2012, Bunda College in partnership with Monsanto Company applied for a licence to conduct Confined Field Trials (CFTs) of genetically modified cotton at the Technology Demonstration Village at Bunda College Campus. The objective of the trials was to assess the efficacy of the cotton in providing resistance against the cotton bollworm. The licence was granted and Bunda College conducted the trials for the three year validity period of the issued licence.
Following a successful completion of the first year of the trials at Bunda College campus, in 2013 Bunda College submitted an application to conduct multi-location on-farm confined field trials of the genetically modified cotton at Chitala Agricultural Research Station in Salima, Kasinthula Agricultural Research Station in Chikhwawa, and Toleza Farm in Balaka, which are traditional cotton growing areas in Malawi and also at Makoka Agricultural Research Station in Zomba. The licence was granted and the trials were done also for a period of three years.
At present, Monsanto Company has applied for the general release of the genetically modified cotton in Malawi. This is the processes where the cotton will be released from strict regulatory control with only minimal supervision required by relevant authorities. Monsanto Company intends to make the genetically modified cotton variety available on the market in Malawi. If approved, the genetically modified cotton will be available to farmers in Malawi in the same way as other conventional cotton varieties.
Bunda College was also recently issued a licence to conduct confined field trials (CFTs) of genetically modified cowpea. The trial is intended to evaluate the agronomic performance and test the efficacy of genetically modified cowpea in inferring resistance against the maruca pod borer which is a common pest in cowpea. It is hoped that the trial will demonstrate that use of the genetically modified variety will improve yield of cowpea leading to increased production of the crop. The trial will run for a period of 3 years, from 2015 to 2017. The trial is being conducted at the Technology Demonstration Village at Bunda College Campus.
Each permit or licence granted is issued with appropriate or relevant conditions that mandate the licence holder to conduct their operations in accordance with provisions of the Biosafety Act No. 13 of 2002, the Biosafety (Genetically Modified Organisms) Regulations of 2007 and relevant standard operating procedures to ensure the health and safety of people and safeguarding of the environment.