Publications SA

Publications SA

Critique of SANBI’s Studies on Monsanto’s MON 810

During early in 2011, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) published a report titled ?Monitoring the Environmental Impacts of GM Maize in South Africa?. The report was a culmination of a study by the Environmental Biosafety Cooperation Project (EBCP) aimed at developing a framework for monitoring of insect resistant maize, Mon810, belonging to Monsanto.

The project, coordinated jointly by SANBI and the Directorate of Nature Management (DNI) in Norway, included contributions by the Norway based Centre for Biosafety (Gen?k) and the South African based, University of the Free Sate, University of Fort Hare and North West University.

The assessments were carried out over two planting maize seasons, 2008/2209 and 2009/2010 and were based upon a series of scientific studies that included field, glasshouse and laboratory assessments. The primary areas of interest included impacts on target and non-target organisms, impacts on soil organism biodiversity, as well as the impact of gene flow and its subsequent contribution to the development of insect resistance.

In this document, we take a critical look at the SANBI studies, and conclude that the SANBI studies for the most part only describe observed effects with no real or in-depth discussion of the causes

Alert to anti-GM activists in Egypt, India, Mexico and South Korea

South Africa’s GM maize flooding into your countries!!!

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has been monitoring the GMO landscape in South Africa since 2004. As recently as three years ago South Africa was importing millions of tons of GM maize from Argentina, used mainly in the animal feed industry. During 2010, South African maize farmers produced a 6 million ton maize surplus, which included a large percentage of GM maize. With the threat of financial ruin looming large, industry has been scouring the globe in search of new export markets. Last February, nearly 300,000 tons of GM maize was earmarked for export to Kenya. However, this evoked a huge scandal because the GM maize had not been approved in Kenya, resulting in many of the shipments being held up in Mombasa harbor, amid a flurry of contrary statements issued by the Kenyan and South African governments.

Further shipments that fell through regulatory cracks were dispatched to Swaziland, Mozambique and even Somalia. The really lucrative markets for commodity grains are found beyond Africa’s shores in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia (making a mockery of the idea that GM crops have been developed to alleviate global hunger).

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

Biosafety Protocol: Ten years on and lagging far behind

Biosafety Protocol: Ten years on and lagging far behind

Mariam Mayet attended COP MOP 5 in Nagoya Japan. Indeed, she has been following the Biosafety Protocol discussions since 1999. In this brief, she argues that the Biosafety Protocol lags far behind the biosafety challenges faced by developing countries such as South Africa. She also expresses deep disappointment with the loss of a international civil liability regime for GMOs. In its place, Parties to the Biosafety Protocol have adopted the Nagoya Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a set of administrative measures for clean up by the state/responsible persons in the event of damage being caused to biodiversity.

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The dirty politics of the global grain trade – GM maize farmers face ruin in SA

Recently, the South African press reported on the possible bankruptcy faced by maize farmers. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released a new report titled “The dirty politics of the global grain trade – GM maize farmers face ruin in SA” which provides an analysis of why South Africa’s record 13 million ton harvest of maize, at least half of which is GM, has threatened financial ruin for up to 30% of its maize farmers. The paper addresses the following issues: the political economy of maize in South Africa; new GM markets for South Africa; the real beneficiaries of the maize mountains; and regulatory issues, including the extent to which South Africa’s GMO permit system contributes towards speculation in the GM maize trade and the price of food. The paper can be found on the website of the ACB at

South Africa’s maize farmers recorded a bumper harvest in 2010, yet now they face ruin. The price of maize has fallen precipitously in the last 12 months owing to a crisis of over-production of both GM and non-GM maize. A mass exodus from the maize sector is anticipated, with as many as 30% of farmers

EIA regulations and GMOs in South Africa

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has done considerable work with regard to the need for environmental impact assessments of GMOs and the limitations of current legislation. This work can be found on the ACB‘s website,

We have perused the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations, regulating procedures and criteria for conducting EIAs as set out in chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act no 107 of 1998 (NEMA), which came into effect on 2 August 2010.i

These have been changed in a number of respects, but the situation in respect of GMOs remain unchanged. The listing of GMOs as a schedule 1 activity under the National Environmental Management and Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA) is still the same, meaning that only a basic assessment needs to be conducted when GMOs are released into the environment.ii However, the new section 78 of NEMBA, amended in 2009, does give the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs the authority to call for an EIA when there is reason to believe that the release may pose a threat to any indigenous species or the environment. To date, the Minister has not used her Authority to do so.

Who is Biosafety South Africa

In this briefing, we present an overview of a new organisation called Biosafety South Africa. Biosafety South Africa was launched early this year, receives funding from the South African government through the Department of Science and Technology. Biosafety South Africa has no legislative mandate to influence GMO decision making but appears set to carve its niche in the arena of assisting GMO permit applicants in the preparation of their applications.

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By the end of the year, the South African National Biosviersity Institute (SANBI), will conclude a three year, R14 million rand research project on the impact of Monsanto‘s GM maize variety MON810 on the South African environment. The research project is the first of its kind in South Africa, and will focus on the impacts on target and non-taget pest organisms, soil microbes, plant toxin levels produced and gene flow. The results are due to be published in December 2010

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A good neighbour? South Africa forcing GM maize onto African markets and policy makers

Since the beginning of 2010, South Africa’s Executive Council responsible for GMO permit approvals has granted export permits for almost 300,000 Metric Tons (MT) of GM maize to be exported to Kenya, Mozambique, and Swaziland collectively, and 35,000 MT of GM soybean to Mozambique.1 Despite South Africa being Africa’s largest producer of maize, and a regular exporter of non-GM maize or maize containing only adventitiousi GM maize to African countries, these export permits are the first cases of outright commodity exports of GM maize from South Africa to other African countries.

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GM Sugarcane: A long way from commercialisation?

Despite the best part of a decade of research and field trials, genetically modified sugar cane in South Africa remains a long way from commercial cultivation. Numerous research projects are currently under way at a number of publicly and privately funded research bodies, most of which are concentrating on increased sucrose and biomass content. Late last year the Department of Science and Technology announced the creation of a strategic sugar research platform to be overseen by the PlantBio Trust, a branch of the Department of Trade and Industry that focuses on plant biotechnology.

Internationally, both Brazil and Australia lead the way in GM sugar cane research, and both countries believe they can bring it to market commercially within the next 5 years. Under the guise of south ? south co-operation, Brazil has been particularly active in extending its influence as the world’s largest sugarcane producer into the African continent. Huge sugarcane for ethanol investment deals have been signed with Mozambique, while a steady succession of research partnerships have been undertaken between Brazilian and South African institutions.

The biotech industry, either through direct research and acquisitions or indirectly via a number of lobby groups, has been very active in both GM