IPPC/South Africa/Uganda/Serbia (26/8/2003)

"[Uganda's President] Museveni said George Bush, the US president, had urged him to take on GMOs during his visit." His comments came as he was "presiding over the launch of a multi-million biotech lab". (from item 3)

1.LMOs and International Plant Protection Convention
2.South Africa to Accede to Groundbreaking Treaty for Safety on GMOs
4.Serbian minister announces destruction of GM soyabean crop
1.Public Meeting Set to Discuss Biotech Risks
8/25/02003, Edited by Willie Vogt, E-Content Director, Farm Progress

There's a new international acronym that may get wider use in coming years - LMO for living modified organism - instead of GMO. That's the language that's part of a new International Plant Protection Convention draft standard on plant pest risks. The document outlines methods for dealing with crops that pose specific risks to the environment. The standards sets down the triggers that would initiate pest risk assessments for new biotech products and outlines sanitary and phytosanitary issues surrounding these crops. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - APHIS - will hold a public meeting Sept. 18 to discuss the draft standard and to provide a forum for the submission of comments from representatives of non-governmental organizations on the format and content of the draft IPPC standard. IPPC is recognized as the standard-setting body for international phytosanitary (plant health) issues by the World Trade Organization.

You can check out the draft standard online by visiting
2. South Africa to Accede to Groundbreaking Treaty for Safety on GMOs
Biowatch South Africa
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEAT) has announced that it will accede to an international treaty which allows South Africa to ban imports of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) from entering our borders if we have good reason to believe that they may cause danger to environment, health or socio-economic conditions.  The treaty, called the Cartagena Protocol, sets out minimum standards for dealing with cross-border movement of GMOs and has already been ratified by 51 countries, two thirds of which are developing countries. The Department of Agriculture (DoA) will now have to revisit the controversial GMO Act to meet the new requirements, and contrary to what has gone before, this will have to happen in an open and transparent manner.

The current GMO Act came into force in 1999, 2 years after the first genetically engineered (GE) crops were grown in this country. Civil society groups have long been calling for a moratorium on all environmental releases of GMOs as well as all imports and exports of GE food and seeds under the banner of SAFeAGE - the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering. SAFeAGE spokesperson, Peter Komane said, "the history of GMOs in South Africa has been characterised by the protection of corporate interests over the rights of the public, for example, GE foods don't have to labelled, the GMO Act places liability for damages arising from GMOs on farmers and consumers rather than the corporations which develop and own them, and the public hasn't been given access to information about how risks associated with GMOs are assessed. There is now an opportunity to reiterate the call for a moratorium, bring more rigorous safety procedures into the GMO Act and to ensure that corporations are held responsible for this highly controversial technology".

At present, when a corporation applies for a permit for a new GE crop, they are the ones who compile the risk assessments and to date, the public has not been allowed to scrutinise these documents. An environmental lawyer who has criticised the regulatory failures of the South African biosafety legislation since it was developed, Mariam Mayet, advises that "the revised Act must ensure that mandatory risk assessments are carried out for all imports and releases of GE food, feed and seeds and must be independent, peer reviewed and open to public scrutiny. Of course all genetically engineered products must be labelled as such to give consumers the right to choose what they eat, and all GE products should be segregated and be subject to traceability from farm to plate". Haidee Swanby, spokesperson for watchdog organisation Biowatch South Africa adds, "contrary to how things currently stand, corporations must be held liable for any harm arising from their technology. They patent and own the technology so they must take responsibility for damages that may arise. It's also important that those who choose to grow GE crops must be responsible for segregation and labelling rather than those who are growing GE free crops, which is what is currently being proposed".

The Department of Environmental Affairs is to be congratulated for their efforts to ensure that GMOs are safely handled in this country by acceding to the Biosafety Treaty. Now it is time for the Department of Agriculture to show their will to protect the environment and the public, rather than corporate interests, as is currently the case, by incorporating the principles of precaution, transparency and corporate responsibility into our GMO Act.


Haidee Swanby
Biowatch South Africa
Tel: (021) 447 5939
[email protected]

Further Information

Biowatch South Africa has launched a case against the Department of Agriculture for access to information about GMOs to find out on what basis the Department bases its decisions on GMOs, and how those decisions are made. Giant multinational, Monsanto, has joined in the case to assert their rights to keep their corporate information confidential. The case will be heard in May 2004.

The Cartagena Protocol will enter into force on 11 September 2003. Text and signatories can be viewed at

The United States will take a case of unfair trade practice to the WTO against the European Union over their strict GMO legislation. It will be mediated at the next WTO meeting in Cancun in September. The Cartagena Protocol will boost the European Union's case as it is on a legal par with the WTO rules and allows countries to ban or severely restrict GMO imports based on the "Precautionary Principle".
BBC Monitoring International Reports
August 25, 2003

President Yoweri Museveni has allowed the importation of non-contestable forms of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

He said foods that have been processed could be brought into the country because they cannot contaminate native plants.

(passage omitted)

Museveni was presiding over the launch of a multi-million biotech lab at the Kawanda Research Institute last Saturday (23 August).

Museveni, who was speaking publicly about the controversial GMOs for the first time, said studies and debate on the living GMOs should go ahead.

He said experts should isolate characters from wild plants through biotechnology (manipulation of genes) to make crops with high yields and disease resistance.

He cited clonal coffee, which gives five times as much yield as the traditional coffee, as a breakthrough which has increased production and incomes of farmers.

Kisamba Mugerwa, the Minister of Agriculture, said commercial releases of GMOs had become controversial because of their potential risks.

Mugerwa said biotechnology would enhance food security, especially in the poor countries.

He said there were suspicions that biotechnology applications had potential threats to biodiversity.

Museveni said George Bush, the US president, had urged him to take on GMOs during his visit.  Museveni said he pointed out to Bush that he had to study the GMOs more before he took a position.

"I am now fully mobilized to accept biotechnology,'' Museveni said amid applause from the staff of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).

Museveni lauded NARO for making over 600 crop varieties including sorghum, which has replaced barley in the making of beer.  But he warned against abuse of biotechnology, saying the government was against GMOs becoming a problem.

Mugerwa said the government was in the process of formulating a policy to regulate biotechnology and address biosafety concerns.

Mugerwa, while quoting Maxwell Mauder, a researcher, said genetically modified crops, which cover 52.6 million hectares of land globally, were fast becoming a major component of agriculture.

"The reality is that biotechnology cannot be wished away or ignored,'' Mugerwa said.

(passage omitted)

Source: The New Vision web site, Kampala, in English 25 Aug 03

BBC Monitoring
4.Serbian minister announces destruction of GM soyabean crop
Date Posted: 8/25/2003

[Passage omitted]

Provincial [Vojvodina] Agriculture Minister Igor Kurjacki said that genetically modified [GM] soya bean had been discovered on 104 fields in Vojvodina. He announced that this soya bean would be destroyed over the next 10 days, knowing that its sowing is prohibited and liable to criminal prosecution. [Passage omitted]

Source: Beta news agency, Belgrade, in Serbian 1133 gmt 23 Aug 03

BBC Monitoring

Publication: BBC Monitoring International Reports

Distributed by Financial Times Information Limited - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire

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