New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs? (4/8/2007)

1.The New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs?
2.South Africa: Public Interest Drives Debate On Modified Crops?


1.New report from Africa Centre for Biosafety

The New Green Revolution in Africa:
Trojan Horse for GMOs?
By Mariam Mayet

[EXTRACTS FROM INTRODUCTION] After more than 10 years of genetically modified (GM) crop plants being grown in the world, only South Africa out of 53 countries on the African continent have commercial plantings of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) [but]... a multitude of genetic engineering and biosafety projects have been initiated in Africa, with the aim of introducing GMOs into Africa's agricultural systems.

[EXTRACT FROM CONCLUSION] As the Makhathini GM cotton project shows, technological fixes such as improved seeds, pesticides, herbicides, inorganic artificial and GM crops merely serve as 'stop-gap' measures that deflect attention away from the structural problems facing small scale farmers. The Green and Gene revolutions are nothing more than red herrings to avoid sustainable development interventions that address historical inequalities and give farmers real choices within an ecologically sustainable framework built on people centred and traditional and cultural value systems.



2.South Africa: Public Interest Drives Debate On Modified Crops
Linda Ensor Business Day (Johannesburg), 1 August 2007

Cape Town: SA had to adopt a "cautious" approach to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to protect the public interest, Parliament's environmental and tourism committee chairman Langa Zita stressed yesterday.

Zita opened the committee's public hearings on the safety of GMOs and the lack of mandatory labelling of GMO foods.

The hearing provided a public platform for a renewed outbreak of the raging debate between proponents and opponents of the use of GMO products.

Proponents included biotechnology and agricultural research institutes and GM crop production companies, while a host of NGOs voiced their opposition.

Zita stressed that Parliament would ultimately adopt a resolution arising out of the public hearings which were not, therefore, simply an "academic exercise".

SA's GMO legislation, which dates back to 1997, was amended this year.

Biowatch director Leslie Liddell said SA's regulation of GM crops or products "fell far short of the caution required in dealing with a new technology with unknown long-term risks for humans and the environment".

The GMO Amendment Act promulgated this year was deficient, Biowatch said, because it perpetuated the weak regulation of genetically modified crops.

"The act continues to make it discretionary -- not obligatory -- for the regulator to take account of public objections and input when permitting GM crops.

"The regulator is also not obliged to consider environmental impact assessments or the potential socio-economic impact of GM crops."

Another shortcoming of the current legislation was that it did not address the compulsory labelling and traceability of GM crops and ingredients.

This undermined consumer choice and prevented users from protecting themselves against liability.

No GM food in SA met the criteria for mandatory labelling.

"Existing legislation favours the GM industry at the expense of consumers and farmers who choose the non-GM or organic option," Liddell argued.

Several organisations, such as the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering, called for "mandatory and meaningful labelling of foods containing or derived from genetically modified techniques".

It should also be possible to track the use of GMO goods "from farm to fork" and environmental impact assessments should be mandatory for GM crops.

On the other hand, agricultural analyst Hans Lombard dismissed the "fear-mongering" campaign of anti-GMO activists.

He noted that GM production was expanding at an unprecedented rate.

He said last year SA planted 1,4-million hectares of GM crops, 180% more than in the previous year.

Already 50% of the maize crop, 92% of cotton and 75% of soya was genetically modified.

Environmental affairs and tourism deputy director-general Fundisile Mketeni said the department was assessing the environmental risk of the contained use of GMOs and was monitoring GMOs released into the environment.

The department was also actively participating in a process to develop standards to preserve the identity of GMOs produced in SA. Mketeni stressed that developing an effective management framework for GMOs was the "main priority for building public confidence".

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