The South African government has granted a large number of commodity
import permits over the years, enabling millions of tons of GM maize,
soya and canola to be imported into South Africa. However, during
September/October 2005, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), a
member of the Executive Council (EC): GMO Act, raised several concerns
about price distortions involving GM maize and its concomitant
negative impact on South Africa’s trade in maize and maize
products. These concerns prompted the EC to take a decision not to
grant any permits for applications involving new GM varieties, pending
the outcome of investigations.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has no knowledge of the extent
of these investigations but has been able to ascertain that at least
one study was conducted by the DTI itself. The minutes of the EC’s
meetings reveal that the DTI study has been available since March
2007, and that the DTI’s World Trade Organisation desk has been
involved in the process since October of the same year. The DTI
report has not been placed in the public domain. The ACB’s numerous
attempts to obtain the report have fallen on deaf ears. ACB’s formal
application for access to information has been refused by the
Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF), on the
grounds that the study is unavailable to the general public as it
“contains sensitive commercial information.”
Nevertheless, in the interim, a steady stream of commodity import
applications for GM maize continue to be lodged with the EC; including
several stacked varieties, as well as an application by Bayer for
approval of GM rice LL62. See annexure 1 below.
The only way in which the ACB is able to obtain any information is
through the minutes of meetings of the EC. These are often posted on
DAFF’s website several good months after the actual meeting had
already taken place. Recent minutes indicate that the commodity import
applications placed on hold had begun to be processed almost as if in
anticipation of the lifting of the moratorium.
When questioned by the ACB, industryappears to be unaware when
its outstanding applications would be finalized. Nevertheless, we have
been advised by the Registrar: GMO Act that these applications had
already been reviewed and tabled at EC meetings and final decisions
are pending decision making by the EC on the commodity clearance
Unfortunately to date, the minutes from the EC meetings held on the
1st September and 27th October have yet to be posted by DAFF,
making it extremely difficult to follow the decision making process.
In the meanwhile, the DTI report remains firmly under-wraps.
Swanby, H (2008). GMOs in South Africa: 2008 overview. African
Centre for Biosafety. Biosafety, biopiracy and biopolitics series.
Booklet 11. Johannesburg
EC minutes, 13th March 2007. Department of Agriculture,
fisheries and food.
EC minutes, 23rd October 2007. Department of Agriculture,
fisheries and food.
Personal communication, Marion Van Rooyen, senior administration
officer, office of director general, department of agriculture,
forestry and fisheries. 21/10/2009
Personal communication, Kualani Machaba, Pioneer-Hi Bred South
Personal communication. Michelle Vosges, regulatory affairs
specialist, Monsanto South Africa. 25/11/2009
Personal communication, Gillian Christians, the registrar, GMO
Act. Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries. 08/12/2009
Meeting dates with regard to Executive council 2009.
Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
http://www.daff.gov.za/ (accessed 03/12/2009)
The document can be viewed on our website:
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