GM Sorghum Threat to Local Varieties Across Africa (11/8/2006)

as to Dr Wambugu's much hyped previous GM project, see the New Scientist article: 'Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails' http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=2561


GM Sorghum Threat to Local Varieties Across Africa
Biosafety Mailout, 11 August 2006
From Teresa Anderson, Gaia Foundation -

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The application to do research on the modestly named GM "Super Sorghum" was turned down in South Africa due to the risk presented to indigenous African varieties of the crop. The decision by the South African GMO regulatory body has been applauded by organisations such as the African Centre for Biosafety, who point to this as the first instance of the regulators recognising the importance of protecting indigenous crops and acknowledging the risks from cross-pollination with transgenic plants.

According to Dr Florence Wambugu, who led the project, the South African GMO regulatory body apparently refused the application by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to carry out transgenic sorghum experiments in greenhouses because of inadequate containment plans.

This leaves us pondering some critical questions. Wambugu suggests that once the application is re-written with stricter biosafety measures, it will be approved. However, if the purpose of the GM sorghum is ultimately for field trials and commercial release, the potential for contamination and destruction of local varieties will still stand. It therefore makes no sense for any future GM sorghum applications by CSIR to be approved. It's possible that Wambugu's positive spin may be a response to the pressures from the the high-profile consortium of international and African groups and the millions of dollars backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The "Super Sorghum" project planned to do the research in South Africa where regulations on GM crops are the most relaxed in Africa. For the infamously permissive South African GMO regulatory body to ask questions about the wisdom about allowing a GM crop to contaminate local varieties, signals the seriousness of the threat.

Best wishes,

1. Regulatory Red Light Fuels GM-Research Debate
Article from Engineering News, South Africa. Date: 10 August 2006

2. GM Sorghum Project Halted by South Africa Due to Concerns Article from the Nation, Kenya. Date: 18 July 2006 Gakuu Mathenge 3. South Africa: SA's Biosafety Regime Article from Business Day. Date: 20 July 2006 http://allafrica.com/stories/200607200253.html

4. South Africa Halts "Super Sorghum" Study
Article from SciDev.Net. Date: 20 July 2006
Ochieng Ogodo

5. South Africa May Reconsider GM Sorghum Permit if Proper Containment is Assured Article from SeedQuest. Date: 3 August 2006 http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2006/august/16508.htm

6. Cautiously Sowing the Seeds of Change
Article from Business Day. Date: 02 August 2006
Derek Hanekom

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