Press release: African Centre for Biosafety 12 August 2009 The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) is a South African NGO deeply concerned with biosafety in South Africa and on the African continent.

It campaigns against GMOs in food and agriculture. The ACB has today lodged a complaint to the Compliance Committee established under an international treaty, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on the grounds that the South African government has failed to comply with the Treaty’s obligations with regard to open sharing of information and transparency in regard to GMO decision-making.

The Biosafety Protocol is an international treaty seeking to protect biodiversity, health and society world-wide from the risks posed by GMOs. Its provisions became binding on South Africa as long ago as August 2003. The Protocol requires South Africa to make available to the public, and other Parties to the Protocol, specific information relating to GMO permit applications and decision-making via a web based information sharing mechanism, called the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH).

This includes posting information on GMO decisions in a timely manner, summaries of risk assessments, GMO permits issued and the reasons for their approval, conditions of approvals and so forth.

“The South African government has granted more than 15 000 GMO applications since the Protocol became binding on South Africa, yet it has refused to supply the barest minimum of the information required by the Protocol,” said ACB’s director Mariam Mayet.

According to Haidee Swanby of the ACB: “We have called upon government on countless occasions to be transparent and to comply with the Treaty’s obligations. It has chosen to ignore us, preferring rather to aggressively promote GMOs and corporate biotech interests in South Africa and the rest of the continent. Without access to information it is impossible to assert our right to participate in decision making regarding GMOs. The ACB has no choice but to seek the intervention of the Compliance Committee to bring South Africa to book.”


The ACB’s full complaint to the Compliance Committee of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety can be downloaded here.