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
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 15000 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.”
According to Swanby, “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 from its website at:
Haidee Swanby, African Centre for Biosafety 082 459 8548
Mariam Mayet 083 269 4309 firstname.lastname@example.org