Tag Archive: NEMA

EIA regulations and GMOs in South Africa

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has done considerable work with regard to the need for environmental impact assessments of GMOs and the limitations of current legislation. This work can be found on the ACB‘s website, www.biosafetyafrica.org.za

We have perused the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations, regulating procedures and criteria for conducting EIAs as set out in chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act no 107 of 1998 (NEMA), which came into effect on 2 August 2010.i

These have been changed in a number of respects, but the situation in respect of GMOs remain unchanged. The listing of GMOs as a schedule 1 activity under the National Environmental Management and Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA) is still the same, meaning that only a basic assessment needs to be conducted when GMOs are released into the environment.ii However, the new section 78 of NEMBA, amended in 2009, does give the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs the authority to call for an EIA when there is reason to believe that the release may pose a threat to any indigenous species or the environment. To date, the Minister has not used her Authority to do so.

Critical overview of South Africa’s Bioprospecting laws

In this booklet, we provide an overview of the core provisions of the legislative framework governing bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing in South Africa. In particular, we highlight the lack of opportunity for public participation by civil society in the bioprospecting permitting process, problems with accessing information, issues relating to the restricted appeal process, and the apparent conflict between the bioprospecting laws and apartheid provincial legislation. These themes are discussed against the backdrop of the ACB’s experiences as an NGO seeking to engage in bioprospecting permitting processes on its own behalf or on behalf of affected communities.

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Marine Bioprospecting – key challenges and the situation in South Africa

Marine bioprospecting, also known as marine natural products research, is concerned with the exploration and exploitation of the rich biological and chemical diversity found in marine organisms which inhabit the oceans. Marine bioprospecting is a relatively new endeavour, having its origins in the late 1940’s,8 when Werner Bergman ‘discovered’ arabinoside sugar in marine sponges, a substance which does not occur on land.9,10 This discovery led directly to the development of several anti-viral (ara-A) and anti-cancer (ara-C) compounds.11 Marine bioprospecting gained momentum in earnest during the 1970’s and 1980’s due to improved deep sea collection methods and analyses.12,13 Until then, marine bioprospecting was limited to places of high biodiversity and easy accessibility,such as the tropical seas and coral reefs.14

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Bt-Maize GA21 / Syngenta


ObjectionsSyngentaGA21.pdf Objections To The Application Made By Syngenta Seedco In Respect Of Event Ga21 To The National Department Of Agriculture, South Africa
Mariam Mayet and Shenaz Moola, 13 September 2004

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A scientific assessment was made of the available information. The main findings are:

  • 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 characterised 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 molecular characterisation information provided by the notifier indicates several irregularities including open reading frames and a truncated constructs which could give rise to unintended gene effects
  • The transfer of the herbicide-tolerant trait to weeds could result in increased herbicide application. The potential for economically important weeds developing herbicide tolerance is a cause for concern
  • Glyphosate use

BT-Cotton COT200-Cry1Ab, RRCotton, (Syngenta)

  • Bt-Cotton COT200-Cry1Ab / Syngenta
  • Bt-Cotton COT102-Cry1Ab / Syngenta
  • RoundupReady-Cotton / Syngenta
Objections to the Application made by Syngenta South Africa in Respect of the Following Events to the National Department of Agriculture, South Africa.

Mariam Mayet and Shenaz Moola, July 2004

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1. Provision of false and misleading information material to the approvals sought

The notifier claims that there are no wild relatives of cotton in South Africa (5.5 of the application). It has come to our attention that this is not the case and we have a concern that we have been misled by the notifier’s claims in this regard. There are about 39 species of Gossypium. They are found worldwide in the tropics and warm temperate regions with several species cultivated. There are three species in southern Africa, occurring in northern Namibia, Northern Botswana, Northern Province, Mpumulanga, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal. These three species of Gossypium are Gossypium anomalum subsp. anomalum which occurs in Namibia, Gossypium herbaceum subsp africanum which occurs in Namibia, Botswana, Limpopo, Mocambique, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal and Gossypium triphyllum which occurs in Namibia and Botswana. According to Cotton

BT-Maize 11 / Syngenta

  • Appeal against the decision of the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms, to authorise various activities of Syngenta Seed Co. (Pty) Ltd regarding maize event Bt11, under the Genetically Modified Organisms Act, 15 of 1997.
    Winstanley Smith & Cullinan Inc. on behalf of Biowatch, October 2003
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Appeal against the Bt11 decision of the Executive Council

The Biowatch Trust (“Biowatch”) is a national non-governmental organisation that acts in the public interest. It was established in response to, among other things, concerns arising from the widespread commercialisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in South Africa, and the absence of civil society involvement in the determination of policy and law, and in decision-making, regulating their use, control and release. Biowatch is aggrieved by the actions and decisions of the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms (“the Council”) and/or the Registrar: Genetically Modified Organisms (“the Registrar”), relating to an application made to the Directorate: Genetic Resources, Department of Agriculture, by Syngenta Seed Co. (Pty) Ltd (“Syngenta”), for the import of maize event Bt11 (“Bt11 maize“) seed and the commercial planting and general release of