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 (GenØk) and the South African-based University of the Free State, University of Fort Hare and Northwest 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 for such effects, several of which are only now beginning to be understood within the broader scientific community. What the SANBI studies do indicate is how event specific the monitoring is and how a monitoring programme devised for Mon810 cannot be applied unaltered to another GM event. The proteomic data will differ between events, as will the specific modification and its target effects.

The framework developed by SANBI must be seen as a preliminary framework because on the current scale of the studies, only limited conclusions were possible. It is encouraging, however, to see that SANBI has taken this initiative towards the development of such a framework.

Read the critique here.