We are grateful to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for allowing us the opporunity to attend the stakeholder workshop on the 22nd of May 2013 and for inviting us to submit our comments on the Plant Breeders? Rights Bill. We are also pleased to note that the DAFF has indeed taken on board several comments and contributions made by the ACB in previous submissions and consultations on the previous version of the Plant Breeders? Rights Bill.
The Department of Agriculture is in the process of developing a Strategy for Agroecology for South Africa, with the aim of achieving ?an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable agro-ecology sector that contributes towards poverty alleviation, job creation, food security, economic development, climate change mitigation and adaptation?. It is not clear where the drive for this Strategy emerges from, given that South Africa did not support the findings of the IAASTD when it was up for signature in Johannesburg in 2008. However, the proposed Strategy seems to posit agroecology as another production technology, an add-on to our current system, rather than a transformation of our deeply entrenched industrial agricultural system, which is based on the privatization of agricultural resources and knowledge to deploy an environmentally destructive production system, ever at the mercy of skewed global trade relations.
Explosive results from a new French study conducted on the long-term health impacts of genetically modified (GM) foods published in the peer reviewed journal ‘Food and Toxicology’ last week, suggest that consumers in South Africa face a very serious threat from one of their staple foods.
The results have the biotechnology industry spin doctors, and those of Monsanto in particular, on high alert to refute evidence that GMOs could cause cancer and have serious impacts on liver and kidney functioning. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) supported by several organisations and members of the South African public are calling for an immediate ban on the import and cultivation of the maize in question: Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready Maize NK603. The South African government stands alone in the international community in allowing its populations’ staple food to be genetically modified, placing South African consumers at particular risk from this GM maize.
Typically, studies to test the impact of consuming GM foods are carried out over a very short period of time-a mere 90 day period-by the developers of GMOs, on laboratory animals. These industry tests always show that GMOs are safe. What is different about this new French study is that
Letter to Minister of Health requesting investigation into GM maize and associated pesticides as a result of French study.
South Africa is the only country that has allowed the genetic modification (GM) of its staple food – maize.
Elsewhere in the world this crop is grown primarily for the global livestock sector. However, in South Africa some 77% of our maize production is genetically modified and provides the nation with their daily intake of carbohydrates. The debate on the long term health impacts of GM foods has raged around the globe for almost 2 decades now and to date there is no scientific agreement on their safety. The United Nation’s Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is based on the Precautionary Principle in recognition of this lack of scientific knowledge and agreement. Our own GMO regulations, paraphrasing the Precautionary Principle set out in the 1992 Rio Declaration on the environment and development, stipulate that a lack of scientific knowledge or scientific consensus shall not be indicative of an absence of risk. Our GMO Act also allows the Executive Council to revise any decisions made in the light of new scientific evidence.
Open letter to Minister of Agriculture, SA for Immediate banning of all Roundup Ready maize from cultivation and import in South Africa
The ACB and several organisations and individuals have sent an open letter to
Ms. Tina Joemat-Pettersson Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for
the immediate banning of all RR maize in SA following the release of the
Seralini NK603 study (“French Study of GMOs on rats”)
Independent scientific biosafety assessment of the application for commodity clearance of transgenic soybean, DAS-68416-4
This is ACB’s objection to the application by Dow Chemicals for approval for import into SA of its GM soyabean 2,4 D and glufosinate ammonium (DAS-68416-4).
Download additional information in a briefing paper “The new generation of GM herbicide crops – poison cocktail for ailing agriculture“.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released its new study titled, “How much glyphosate is on your dinner plate? SA’s food safety compromised by lack of testing.” This study highlights numerous risks posed by the herbicide glyphosate to human and animal health as well as worrying regulatory failures, particularly in relation to the monitoring, inspection and testing of food for glyphosate residues.
South Africans consume glyphosatei ridden food on a daily basis: currently, 77% of maize grown in South Africa is genetically modified (GM) and of this 54% (about 1 million hectares) is modified to be glyphosate tolerant. Soya products on our market suffer the same fate: all of the GM soya planted in South Africa is tolerant to glyphosate, planted on 480 000 ha. South Africa also imports bulk shipments of GM grain from countries growing herbicide tolerant crops.
According to Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB, “the ACB was desirous of testing food samples for glyphosate residues. In the course of trying to get these samples tested, the ACB learnt that while there are numerous private testing laboratories throughout South Africa, nine of which are ISO 17025
This briefing paper forms part of a series of briefing papers on glyphosate to be released later this year by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB). In this paper, we focus principally on food safety issues, highlighting our grave concerns about the utter regulatory failure concerning particularly, the monitoring, inspection and testing of food for glyphosate residues.
This situation is extremely worrying, given the dramatic increase in the use of glyphosate in food production in South Africa and the risks it poses to human and animal health.
During May 2012, the South African GMO authorities1 approved Dow Chemical’s highly controversial GM maize variety, DAS-40278-9 for import into South Africa for direct use as food, feed and processing. This GM variety has been genetically engineered to withstand liberal applications of Dow’s toxic chemical herbicide 2,4-D and has yet to be approved for growing anywhere in the world. An application for commercial cultivation has been lodged by Dow in the United States, where it is pending approval, amid a maelstrom of protest from diverse sectors of US society, ranging from public health professionals to US farmers.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) is deeply dismayed and shocked that the GMO decision-making body has given the green light for the importation of Dow Chemical’s highly controversial 2,4-D tolerant GM maize (variety DAS 40278-9) into South Africa, where it will be used as food. The variety has yet to be approved in the US, where it continues to face vociferous opposition by civil society groups.
2,4-D was one of two active ingredients in the infamous chemical weapon, ‘Agent Orange‘, used to devastating effect during the Vietnam war. Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
Epidemiologists from the National Cancer Institute in the USA regard this link as the strongest association yet found between a pesticide and a disease. Dozens of human and animal studies have shown 2,4-D to cause birth defects, neurological damage, and interference with reproductive function. The use of 2,4-D in Sweden, Norway and Denmark is banned because of these well publicised links.
The environmental risks of 2,4-D are no less acute, and will increase manifold with the introduction of 2,4-D tolerant maize; the use of 2,4-D in maize farming is expected to increase 30