BLOW FOR FIRST AFRICAN TRIALS OF GM CASSAVA
PRESS RELEASE, AFRICAN CENTRE FOR BIOSAFETY & GRAIN
South Africa 20 March 2007 - The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and GRAIN, congratulate the South African GMO regulatory authority, the Executive Council, for refusing to allow the experimentation of open field trials of GM cassava.
The Executive Council (EC), comprising of ten officials from diverse government departments, denied an application brought by the Agriculture Research Council (ARC), to release GM cassava into the South African environment. ARC's interest in the GM Cassava is to genetically improve its starch content to be used as feedstock for a burgeoning biofuels market.
According to the EC, it found that ARC provided inadequate information regarding the stability of the traits involved as well as the potential for gene flow and thus could not conduct a proper assessment of the risks posed by the GM cassava to the environment.
Cassava is one of the oldest cultivated crops and provides the primary source of calories for 600 million people in the tropics, especially tropical Africa.
"It is appropriate that the South African government should be concerned about gene flow of GM cassava as it has a responsibility to small-holder farmers all over Africa that depend on cassava to feed their families. The narrow and misguided focus on GM cassava and biofuels will exacerbate the destruction of biodiversity, loss of local markets, and the contamination of farmers' varieties and wild species of cassava," said Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss of GRAIN.
Late last year, the EC also rejected an application to conduct experiments involving GM Sorghum. Currently, South Africa also has a de facto moratorium on the approval of all new GM varieties for the purposes of import into South Africa.
"We are cautiously watching a small but significant change taking place in South Africa with regard to GM regulation and we will continue to exert pressure on the South African authorities," said Mariam Mayet of the ACB.
Contact details: Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, GRAIN, 082 413 0502 Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety, 083 269 4309
1.For information about the GM sorghum rejection and the de facto moratorium, see 'Africa's Sorghum Saved: Applause for Second GM rejection' and 'Is SA in the US WTO Sights Over GM Import Ban?'
2.The ACB and GRAIN have submitted comprehensive objections to the field trials, supported by NGOs and individuals, and these can be viewed at www.biosafetyafrica.net
3.Last year the Donald Danfoth Centre's GM virus-resistant varieties of cassava, developed seven years ago, failed dismally when it lost resistance to the African Cassava Mosaic Virus Disease (CMVD), see 'GM Cassava Fails in Africa'.
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