As usual, we have only been furnished with information that the developers deem to be ‘non-confidential’, so crucial data required to make a thorough independent assessment is missing. Excluded information included details of test data specific to South African growing conditions.
The cauliflower mosaic virus 35s promoter (35S-CaMV) is present in GA21 x Bt11. There is a substantial body of evidence from both the laboratory and field studies pointing to the risks of using this particular promoter in genetic engineering. Bt11 secrets a toxin that is lethal to some plant pests. Claims that this leads to reduced applications of pesticides neglect to mention that the Bt11 toxin will be ever present in an environment where this is planted.
In China, where over 10 million small scale farmers grown Bt cotton, famers are now having to use nearly as much pesticides as before its introduction to combat secondary pests that have thrived since the introduction of Bt11. GA21 x Bt 11 is tolerant to glyphosate based herbicides (traded under the name Roundup Ready). In the United States the widespread planting of Roundup Ready crops has led to the emergence of ‘superweeds’ that are causing havoc for farmers.
In Argentina, their mass uptake has seen devastating consequences for food security and the environment. The proposed field trials are to assess agronomic performance only. They do not address risks to biodiversity nor are they accompanied by an adequate monitoring programme in order to detect transgene escape into the environment. These are both required under both South African and international law.