The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) condemns the decision by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to allow GM cassava field trials to go ahead in South Africa.

This despite SA’s GMO regulatory body rejecting such trials more than three years ago. The field trials involve cassava genetically modified to control starch content. On the 19th of March, 2007, GMO body, the Executive Council (EC) rejected an application by the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) to conduct field trials in the South African environment and instead, proposed experiments in greenhouses only.[i]

The main ground for the rejection was the EC’s concern that the ARC had not provided sufficient information to enable an informed risk assessment to take place. On the 18th April 2007, the ARC submitted an appeal against the decision. The ACB was invited by the EC to make submissions in respect thereto, which the ACB duly did, on the 5 October 2007. These submissions are available on the website of the ACB.

An appeal board was duly appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs and the hearing was held 8-9 October 2007. A board decision was apparently arrived at and sent to the Minister, during October 2007, for final approval. Cassava originates in Latin America and introduced in Africa in the 16th century. Cassava is a vital staple food for many millions of Africans. Interest in cassava by the biotech machinery is to feed industrial society’s ever- increasing needs for fuel and animal feed. Grounds for the granting of the appeal/ the Minister’s reasons are not yet publicly available.

Contact Mariam Mayet 083 269 4309

[i] EC minutes, 13th March, 2007. Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

[ii] Personal communication, Gillian Christians, Registrar, GMO Act. Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries. 08/12/2009