Policy Submissions

Policy Submissions

Comments on COMESA’s Draft Policy on GMOs

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) was very recently handed a copy of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa‘s (COMESA) ‘Draft policy statements and guidelines for commercial planting of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food aid with GMO content’. Having perused the policy we are alarmed and outraged that COMESA appears to support the undermining and displacing of more than a decade’s worth of international, regional and national biosafety policies and legislation. It is the ACB‘s opinion that a small group of experts closely aligned to the Biotechnology, seed and agrochemical industry, frustrated by the lack of GMO adoption in African markets, drafted the policy behind closed doors. Stakeholders whose interests will be adversely affected by the far reaching proposals within the policy have been completely excluded from the process.

Further, it seeks to usurp the biosafety policy space of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (the pre-eminent international treaty on the cross border movement of GMOs), regional policies on food aid and the sovereign rights of COMESA member states. We implore COMESA members to reject the policy out of hand at their next meeting, scheduled to take place from the 12th

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.

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.


Comments on Nigeria’s Draft Biosafety Bill

An Act to Provide for the Management of Biosafety and other related matters, 2007
By Mariam Mayet
July 2009

Environmental Rights Action (ERA) (Friends of the Earth, Nigeria) has approached the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) to provide them with our comments on the latest draft of their country’s biosafety bill. The ACB has in the past, provided formal and informal advice on various drafts of Nigeria’s Biosafety Bill. ERA has been actively engaged in the anti-GM struggle in Nigeria and several parts of Africa and has done a great deal of advocacy and lobby work on biosafety issues. These comments are a small contribution to the exemplary work of ERA.

Key Findings

Nigeria’s Biosafety Bill is unique and embodies a great deal of originality and authenticity, sorely missing in other African Biosafety laws. It does appear to have travelled a truly Nigerian journey and does not exhibit the traits of US interference found in other Biosafety Bills we have worked on earlier this year.

The Bill is extremely fond of creating institutions and ?over-regulation by institutions?- so that a great many responsibilities, biosafety over-sight and monitoring functions are carried out by a range of players. The


JUNE 2009

By Mariam Mayet

We have in the past, commented on several drafts of Uganda‘s biosafety law and will not repeat the issues canvassed therein regarding the role and influence of the United States. We have been requested by civil society groups to comment on the National Biotechnology Safety Bill, 2008, approved by Uganda‘s Cabinet during April 2008.

Uganda has steadily been drawn into the GM debate over the past years. In June 2008, two short months after the cabinet approved the 2008 Bill, news broke that the first ever field trials involving GMOs in Uganda had failed dismally. The GMOs in question were GM bananas developed by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in collaboration with the Katholic University of Leuven (KUL/Belguim) from genes isolated from rice, to increase resistance to black Sigatoka disease. The trials were supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Indeed, USAID has been extremely active in Uganda over the years, aggressively promoting the adoption of GM technology in that country. It has trained several Ugandan scientists, supplied state- of- the- art equipment and installed a level- two Biosafety Greenhouse at Kawanda.[i] USAID is also funding

Kenyan Biosafety Bill – May 2009

Genetically Modified crop plants continue to be offered to Africa as a solution to alleviate poverty and stave off hunger. It is a trite observation that hunger has little to do with how efficiently food is produced or how much food is available for consumption. Indeed, hunger is rooted in socio-economic realities which limit the ability of people to access food on the market or land; the means to acquire food and other resources to produce food; access to a clean and healthy environment’ health care and education and so forth. Nevertheless, several countries in Africa, especially Kenya, are hell bent on adopting GMOs into their agricultural systems. During February 2009, Kenya‘s President Mwai Kibaki signed the country’s heavily contested Biosafety Bill.[i] A year earlier, the NGO ‘Africa Nature Stream’ approached the Kenyan courts to intervene and stop the promulgation of a previous version of the Bill (Biosafety Bill 2007), on the grounds that GMOs cause unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.[ii] However, this legal intervention proved to be futile as did other forms of resistance on the part of Kenyan activists. Indeed, no amount of opposition by activists in Kenya could have changed the

Liability with clipped wings cannot fly

Representatives of civil society bear in mind the impacts of international regimes at the national and local levels. Will they help or will they harm? Bearing in mind biodiversity and people on the ground CSOs discussed the Co-Chair?s Core Elements Paper in conjunction with the proposals on the table in the Subworking Groups.
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Public Participation in context of Patent Laws in South Africa

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has only recently commenced its work in the fi eld of bioprospecting and biopiracy. A booklet as part of our Biosafety, Biopiracy and Biopolitics series titled, ?Bioprospecting, Biopiracy and Indigenous Knowledge: two case studies from the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa? by Koyama and Mayet, has been published. In addition, the ACB acting on the instructions of a community in the Eastern Cape Province, and supported by a Swiss based NGO, the Berne Declaration, has formally challenged two patents granted to German based Schwabe Pharmaceuticals on the grounds that the patents are illegal as they duplicate and misappropriate the traditional knowledge of communities in South Africa. The ACB is committed to the protection of South Africa’s astonishingly rich biodiversity and traditional knowledge of its communities. Part of this interest is expressed by our interrogation of the regulations that promote the exploitation and privatisation of biodiversity and knowledge.

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ACB Submission on IPRs from Publicaly Funded Research Bill, 2007

Currently, South African intellectual property legislation is highly fragmented, a situation that gives rise to a number of gaps and anomalies that undermine the rights of indigenous people. “Indigenous people” is not clearly defined by NEMBA or it Draft Regulations except to refer to such people as residing in a defined geographical area to which indigenous knowledge is found.

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