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South Africa: GMO bill put on hold

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Biowatch South Africa has welcomed the decision of Parliament’s Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs to delay passing the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Amendment Bill. At a meeting on the Bill in June the Select Committee told the Department of Agriculture that it could not pass the Bill until key concerns were addressed.


The Committee was concerned that the Bill does not:


a) Oblige the regulator to take into consideration public concerns when it makes decisions about permit applications for GMO crops.
b) Adequately specify who will be liable should damage arise from GM crops. Currently, the Bill makes any person who conducts an activity with a GM crop liable. This wide definition meant that farmers who use the seed could be held liable, instead of the multinational seed companies which produce the GM seed and own the patents to them.
c) Adequately specify how costs for harmful impacts of GM crops would be recovered, especially if their impacts only became apparent some years later.


In its submission on the Bill in January this year, Biowatch South Africa raised the same concerns. The organisation also showed that the Bill fails to remedy deficiencies in South Africa’s current regulatory system for GMOs. After public hearings on the Bill, the Department of Agriculture made a number of changes. But these suggest a continued uncritical acceptance of a new technology which has yet to prove that its benefits outweigh its potential risks. It is an approach which seems to be at odds with other government initiatives.


It is also seems at odds with new Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture Lulama Xingwana’s sentiments about organic agriculture. A weekly magazine recently quoted her as saying: “My ideal is that they (South Africa’s rural areas) should look like rural areas in England. Prince Charles is doing wonderful work on his farms; he doesn’t use chemical fertilisers, he applies crop rotation …in Africa we have the greatest opportunity to get into organic farming. I’m sure we’ll beat the Europeans.”


Like the Minister, Biowatch South Africa believes Africa and South Africa can lead the way in sustainable organic farming. But not if the GM crop industry continues to be given free rein.


Genetic Engineering


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