In 2007 Monsanto South Africa applied for and was granted a trial release permit to conduct field trials with maize event MON87460, which has been genetically engineered for drought tolerance. Earlier this year the African Centre for Biosafety objected to a Monsanto application to import 35 hybrids for the continuation of these trials. Monsanto submitted a response to some of our concerns to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which we have been able to view. Monsanto’s response, and its latest application still leaves much cause for concern. We reiterate Monsanto’s own expressions of doubt as to potential yield benefits of MON87460, and ask again how these meagre benefits can be justified when considering the considerable risk that the MON87460’s introduction into the environment would entail? Information crucial to a thorough and independent assessment of the transgenic event is again missing, kept out of the public realm under the dubious moniker of being ‘confidential business information’. As such, their application is littered with claims of yield performance and apparent safety which cannot be corroborated. The consultation process is not sufficiently long enough to enable full and meaningful public participation. The fact that the South African regulatory authorities have failed to make public through the Biosafety Clearing House its original decision, in direct contravention of its obligations as a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, is indicative of the cavalier attitude of the South African authorities towards biosafety in the country.
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The ACB is not alone in its objections to the continuation of these field trials. Submissions to the GMO registrar have also been made by Lutzville community in the Western Cape (where the field trials have been taking place), the Surplus People’s Project and the Food Sovereignty Campaign.