Objections to the Applications made by the South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI) in Respect of Permits for Activities with GMOs, specifically sugarcane, to the National Department of Agriculture in South Africa African Centre for Biosafety, February 2005

Read the objection here.

Read the press release here.


A legal and scientific assessment was made of the information obtained from the National Department of Agriculture in terms of the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA). The legal objections centre around concerns that that Bayer CropScience is bankrolling the South African Association-Sugarcane Research Institute field trials and hopes to make inroads here because lax biosafety legislation and political climate that favours the interests of multinational corporations.

The EC has a statutory duty to protect the environment and not promote the interests of gene giants. The information supplied by the applicant is very scant does not allow for a full and fair public participatory process. Further, we contend that EC has failed to comply with the provisions of PAJA and the ECA read together with the EIA regulations currently in force. We are concerned that SASRI is carrying out transgene development utilising gene fragments for which it does not have complete sequence information.

We believe that this compromises the ability to make informed and educated conclusions regarding the impacts of these transgenes. A full assessment of the scientific data could not be made because of the designation of sections of the application as Confidential Business Information. Genetic modification by the application of recombinant DNA technology is characterized by scientific uncertainty.

This stems from several factors including the inherent imprecision of currently employed recombinant DNA techniques, the use of powerful promoter sequences in genetic constructs, and the generation, as a result of genetic modification, of novel proteins to which humans and animals have never previously been exposed. The impression gained from the notifiers responses is that any possible impacts of the release of the transgene are negligible and that the transgenic line is equivalent to the conventional type. This is a view not supported by the published literature.