Tag Archive: Executive Council

Overview of GMO Regulatory Regime in South Africa

Following the promulgation of the Genetically Modified Organisms Act in 1997, numerous Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) applications have been approved in SA. As of 2007, GMOs commercially available in South Africa included insect resistant maize and cotton, herbicide tolerant cotton, maize and soybean, and herbicide tolerant and insect resistant cotton and maize, making up 62% of the total maize crop, 80% of the total soybean crop and 90% of the total cotton crop in South Africa comprised of GMOs.

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) concurs with the emerging groundswell of civil society and scientific opinion that GMOs pose a grave threat to human health, the environment and the establishment of an equitable global food system.

Public interest groups such as the ACB have, over many years, attempted to engage with the government on the regulation of GMOs in South Africa, and to participate in GMO permitting processes. While a valuable contribution to the biosafety debate has been made, these efforts have often been frustrated by a lack of transparency in the decision-making process, and in particular the lack of information made available to the public. The GMO Registrar has consistently insisted on interested and

Objection to applications made by the South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI) for trial releases of GM sugarcane

The South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) has applied to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for permission to conduct field trials for 4 varieties of GM sugarcane. Having viewed SASRI’s applications in terms of the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA), it is our opinion that the information provided is so inadequate that it is virtually impossible to conduct any meaningful independent assessment of the applications. Further, throughout the application runs the assumption that the genetically modified lines under discussion are ‘equivalent’ to their conventional counterparts. This is a view not supported by the published literature.

The African Centre for Biosafety hopes that the Executive Council considers our very real concerns when deciding over this application. In the interests of the biosafety debate in South Africa, we also respectfully request that the Executive Council establishes a formal process whereby it, rather than the developers of GMOs, decides what constitutes ‘confidential business information’, and what constitutes information for the public interest.

read more

The Gates Foundation and Cargill push Soya onto Africa

Cape Town – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to grant US$8 million to develop a soya value chain in Africa, in partnership with US non-profit organisation TechnoServe and agricultural commodity trading giant Cargill. The announcement was made at the Soy Innovation Africa Conference held in Cape Town 26th and 27th August 2010.

The project is meant to run for four years, commencing initially in Mozambique and Zambia where it is aimed at 37 000 small-scale farmers. The model will be replicated in other regions at a later time.

The ACB has released a report titled “The Gates Foundation and Cargill push Soya onto Africa” wherein it argues that the Gates project is aimed at enabling commodities giant, Cargill, to capture a hitherto untapped African soya market and eventually introduce GM soya onto the continent where reception to GMOs remains chilly.

Soya is sought after by the rapidly expanding global livestock and agrofuels sectors. Currently Africa produces less than 1% of global soya, while the USA, Brazil and Argentina dominate the market. Cargill is the biggest global player in the production and trade in soya, with heavy investments in Latin America where genetically modified (GM)

Soya – Gates Foundation & Cargill Paper

The SOYA MODEL implies a war against the population, the emptying of the countryside,
and the elimination of our collective memory in order to shoehorn people into towns
and convert them into faithful consumers of whatever the market provides.
The impacts of this model go beyond the borders of the new Soya Republics.
The dehumanisation of agriculture and the depopulation
of rural areas for the benefit of the corporations is
increasing in the North and in the South.
Javiera Ruli in United Soya Republics. The Truth about Soya Production in Latin America
?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a new project to develop the soya value chain in Africa in partnership with American NGO, TechnoServe and agricultural commodity trading giant Cargill. The US$8 million project will be implemented as a four year pilot in Mozambique and Zambia with the intention of spreading the model to other regions in the future.

The Gates Foundation continues to back agricultural strategies that open new markets for strong corporate interests while assisting in the creation of policy environments to support foreign agribusiness‘ interests. The programme will yoke African farmers into the soya

Letter to Minister of Agriculture regarding South Africa’s non-compliance with information sharing requirements of the Cartagena Protocol. 6 July 2010

This is our third appeal to the Minister of Agriculture to comply with obligations under the Cartagena Protocol. This document lays out our concerns to the Minister and details the minimum requirements for information on GMOs that must be posted to the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) according to the Protocol. It highlights the shortfalls in the South African information posted to date and includes an overview of GMO permits issued in South Africa since 2003.

In terms of the Cartagena Protocol, to which South Africa became a party in 2003, the South African government is obliged to provide open access to state-held information about GMOs. The Protocol obliges its Parties to post information regarding GMOs to the international Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) to ensure transparency and information sharing with the international community and South African citizens. The minimum required information to be posted to the BCH is also incorporated in the South African Geneticallly Modified Organisms Act (1997) Regulations of 26 February 2010, which obliges the GMO registrar to communicate this information to the BCH. However, to date, this minimum required information has not been posted to the international Biosafety Clearing House in contravention with international and domestic law.

ACB’s Objection to Pioneer Hi-Bred’s commodity clearance application for GMSoya 305423 x 40-3-2

The ACB has come to the following conclusions about Syngenta’s application:

In terms of the molecular characterisation of the event:

  • It indicates several irregularities including open reading frames and a truncated constructs which could give rise to unintended gene effects
  • The transfer of the herbicide-tolerant trait to weeds could result in increased herbicide application. The potential for economically important weeds developing herbicide tolerance is a cause for concern
  • Glyphosate use has resulted in several unwanted effects on aquatic systems and terrestrial organisms and ecosystems
  • The US experience of Roundup Ready field trials has shown a marked increase in herbicide usage, particularly glyphosate
  • In the Argentinean experience, the large scale uptake of Roundup Ready Soya has had devastating impacts on food security and the environment

Furthermore, it is our contention that:

 

  • Reliance on the assessments of EFSA is fraught with problems given the criticisms and contradictions inherent within EFSA especially in respect of its methodologies and perceived pro-industry stance, which it is itself grappling with
  • The claims of the increased yield performance of GM crops are unsubstantiated
  • GMO plantings contribute to increased rather than reduced pesticide use
  • It is disingenuous to suggest that planting of GM crops will contribute to

ACB’s objection to Monsanto’s commodity clearance application for Smartstax

In the 20th of April the Business Day newspaper carried a public notice of Monsanto‘s application to the South African GMO registrar for permission to import Smartstax maize, arguably the world’s most controversial and risky commercially grown GMO. While the majority of commercially grown genetically engineered crops contain at most 3 foreign genes, Smartstax contains eight, 6 of which are for insect resistance and a further 2 for resistance to chemical herbicides. Smartstax was granted approval in the US and Canada on the basis that the parent GM maize lines that were cross bred to create it were previously classified as safe, meaning that Smartstax has not even been subject to proper risk assessment! Several prominent biosafety experts at the United Nations have already expressed their dismay at this assumption of safety, while the issue of stacked GMOs is set to be a major area of contention at the upcoming Convention on Biodiversity meeting in Japan later this year. Having viewed Monsanto‘s application (in accordance with our constitutional rights), the African Centre for Biosafety has written to the GMO registrar expressing our grave concerns over several risks we were able to identify from the limited information

Support our appeal to the minister for Environmental Impact Assessment of GM maize GA21

On the13th of December 2009, Syngenta published a public notice of their intent to apply to the GMO Registrar for a permit for the general release of genetically modified maize, GA21. Having obtained a ‘non-confidential-business-information’ version of Syngenta’s application, it is our contention that the application cannot be adequately assessed. The information provided is sketchy at best, key information required for a full and thorough assessment of the event in question is designated confidential business information and therefore not made available to the very public who are expected to consume the product. Claims made regarding gene stability are by reference to information provided by the developer of the GMO and not to any independent, objective source. Additionally, assertions made as to the socio-economic benefits pertaining from a general release of GA21 are grossly misleading and do not hold up to objective scrutiny.

Please support us in our request to the Minsiter of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, to have Syngenta’s application for the general release of genetically modified maize GA21 subject to a full, independent environmental impact assessment.

http://www.activist.co.za/campaigns/2010/eia.php