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AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE -
14 April 2003
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMO) CONFERENCE
Chair: Mr Neo Masithela (ANC)
Registrar of the Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically Modified Organisms Act 15 of 1997
GMO Act Regulations
Advisory Committee on GMO
Department of Science and Technology Presentation
Africa Bio Presentation
"Fact vs Fiction" [source unknown]
FEST Public Understanding of Biotechnology [offsite link]
Department of Agriculture Genetic Resources [offsite link]
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety [offsite link]
National BioTech Strategy DST Executive Summary (Appendix 1)
Syngenta Presentation (Appendix 2)
KwaZulu-Natal Small Scale Farmer Article (Appendix 3)
National Consumer Forum (Appendix 4)
The Portfolio Committee hosted a platform for debate on genetically modified (GM) products for the first time since the introduction of the GMO Act in 1997. Amongst those who attended were the committees on Environment, Health, Trade and Industry, Arts and Culture and Science and Technology, NGOs, farmers and companies (such as Monsanto and Syngenta) involved in biotechnology. Certain groups criticised the GMO Act as being inadequate in ensuring biosafety or transparency and public participation in the decision-making making process. Companies were candid in their pro stance for GMOs saying that those who expressed doubts about the safety of genetic engineering did not base their arguments on facts and were denying small-scale farmers their right to booming production.
The Chairperson of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Mr N.H. Masithela officially opened the conference by welcoming all those present to the first GMO conference since the passing of the GMO Act in 1997, and its implementation in 1999. He then thanked the four portfolio committees (PC), namely Agriculture and Land Affairs, Environment and Tourism, Health, and Trade and Industry for making this conference possible.
He noted that they were aware of the debates surrounding the GMO Act (1997). Mr Masithela said that this conference would enable information and awareness to be made available so that they would know how to deal with this issue. In addition, that the public was concerned about the fact that GM products were being marketed without identification labels and that labelling should be available for public awareness. He said that amongst the objectives of this conference, they would want to see that mechanisms are in place so that South Africa has the capacity to deal with GM products. He said that it was time for them to shape the new GM paradigm and that whilst challenges may lie ahead, he said that all the intellect and talent in the room would surely be able to come up with sufficient solutions to deal with the issues of food safety, environmental issues, existing legislation regarding intellectual property rights and biosafety. Mr Masithela then wished all a pleasant stay during the subsequent two day conference.
Mr T. Arendse (Deputy Chairperson for PC Environmental Affairs and Tourism) apologised on behalf of Ms Gwen Mahlangu (Chairperson for PC Environmental Affairs and Tourism) who was not able to attend the conference as she was attending a conference in Chile. </TBODY>
Department of Science and Technology
Ms. S. Pyoos (DST) thanked the Chair and said that she would be speaking on the National Biotechnology Strategy. She said that she would explain the progress they had made and the stage that they were at.
Ms Pyoos said that in 2001, the DST had set out to pool key stakeholders to focus on the Biotechnology strategy. She said they had set out to answer socio-economic problems, like food security, facilitating conservations and improving the quality of life in South Africa. Ms Pyoos said that cabinet had taken a position on whether South Africa should position itself on biotechnology. Further, they had examined the challenges such as human resource development, black economic development, infrastructure and rural development.
Ms Pyoos said that the cabinet had realised the need to understand the impacts of GMOs and decided to incorporate various professionals to ensure that government has a group of experts advising them as to the possible impacts of GMOs.
Ms Pyoos said that as far as the public consultation process was concerned, DST had conducted a public survey whereby only 14 out of 187 people interviewed were not in favour of GMO's. Ms Pyoos said that the DST was working in partnership with the Department of Labour as far as skills development was concerned.
She said that the challenges which they still faced are amongst others, the level of awareness of the South Africa population, labelling of GM products versus rigorous testing and poor resources to support such testing and research in the field. [For full details, please refer to attached document].
Foundation for Education, Science and Technology
Ms M. Joubert said that with every level of science and technology came opposition and support. She noted that with public understanding of science and technology comes trust, safety. Ms Joubert said that this was a challenging yet exciting field and that they were at the interface of science and technology.
She noted that there was a need to increase public awareness with a clear and balanced understanding of scientific principles, objective and factual information, dialogue and debate, scope and context of biotechnology etc.
Ms Joubert said that they were examining a range of tactics in order to raise public awareness. They were utilising the media, schools, and events such as the upcoming Rand Easter Show in order to raise public awareness about biotechnology.
[For full details see the FEST website on Biotechnogy and her presentation document.]
Registrar of the Genetically Modified Organisms Act
Dr S Moephuli reported that as the registrar he is responsible for the implementation of the Act. He told the conference that the Act came into being in 1997 but it became operational in 1999. There were no structures to implement the Act.
He spoke about many challenges. These challenges include changes in agriculture and agricultural research. The green revolution was also noted as an area of importance. There needs to be an enabling situation for the implementation of the act. There was a scientific process in South Africa that led to the development of the Biotechnology Strategy. The policy options available to the department are the IPR, Biosafety and the trade issue. He told the conference that 16% of the land in South Africa is arable and that the poor majority is marginalised from the ownership of the land. The other issue he raised was the increasing population which makes the challenges of land ownership relevant. He told the conference that the GMO Act and other Acts are pieces of legislation on how to manage environment. The aims of the Act are to promote responsible development use of GMO's. It looks at the question of importation. The other issue that the act is addressing is to limit harmful consequences to environment and effective management of waste.
The Act calls for an executive council composed of various government departments to take final decisions on GMO's. There is a set of people who are technical experts, medical and environmental experts who are now government employees. Their role is the scientific evaluation of GMO's. There is an advisory committee which evaluates health concerns. After evaluation, they make a recommendation. Information from advisory committees goes to executive council who do their own assessment, and make a decision. The government inspectors inspect insects and permits. The appeals process includes experimental field trial and if the executive council refuses the permit, a person can appeal to the minister concerned.
There are regulations which accompanied the act. Before anyone can plant a GMO, that person should put an advert to allow the public to comment through Registrar. From here, it goes to advisory committee and executive council. The advisory committee advises (on request) the executive council, Minister or ministry about the GMO Act.
The application of the Act looks at access, sustainability, benefit sharing, safety (human and animal), environmental safety and its impact on biodiversity. The general approach is that the risk assessment is based on science and done case by case. It also accommodates research. There are conditions that should be fulfilled for the permit to be granted. Monitoring and evaluation may require studies for 6 to 10 years. In summary, he told the committee that the GMO Act combines public input, input from application, socio - economic impact analysis and research.
Advisory Committee on GMO Act
Prof. P van Helden representing the Advisory Committee of the Department of Agriculture, explained the machinery and the working of the advisory committee.
Prof. van Helden said that the committee constituted of 10 persons, of which 8 had been appointed based on their knowledge and expertise in various fields. The other 2 individuals were from the public sector with knowledge on GMO and ecological matters. He explained how their decision-making process with a reviewing committee, registrar, advisory committee and an executive committee.
Prof. van Helden told those present that the function of the advisory committee was to conduct safety assessments on GMOs in order to ensure that the products are safe for the public's health and environment. He explained that they assess digestibility, allerginicity, nutrition, stability as well as the environmental impact on living organisms. Prof van Helden said that the report of the advisory committee served only to guide and make recommendations to the council about their assessments - they did not make decisions themselves. The advisory committee serves merely an advisory body on issues such as health, food safety, environment etc. [For full details, please refer to attached document].
Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety
Ms Mayett thanked the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism for giving her the opportunity to speak at this conference. She explained that she would be speaking on the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and the measures which they would need to take for the protection of biodiversity and the environment.
Ms Mayett said that caution would need to be exercised when releasing GMOs into the environment. Also, that genetically engineered products were owned and patented by big companies. She said that the Cartegena Protocol explicitly recognised the importance to human life and the need for environmental protection. She said that she was astonished at Dr Moephuli's failure to mention the precautionary measures needed to be taken when releasing GMOs into the environment as well as the socio-economic impacts of this.
Ms Mayett noted that she had written extensively on the GMO Act and commented that it needed to be amended and that the legislation was lacking in many respects. She said that the GMO Act was not holistic in that it still needed the implementation of international obligations including the operationalization of public participation in decision-making with regards to GMOs. She commented further that certain provisions were unconstitutional especially with regards to public participation because the public had the right to know.
Ms Mayett voiced her concerns asking whether this was a desktop study or an independent risk assessment study. She expressed great dissatisfaction with regards to the limitation to access to information with regards to GMOs. She said that the public needed this information in order to make informed choices.
She said that whilst the Cartegena Protocol has not been ratified, it would be ratified soon. She appealed for a review of the Act, since they could not address issues of biodiversity without GMO's. Ms Mayett noted that the DEAT should understand its obligations by realising that what was at stake was the GMOs impact on the environment and its operational precautionary principles.
Ms Mayett appealed to the DEAT to reconsider its stance on GMOs with regards to the Cartegena Protocol. She described the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was an all-embracing body which limited the rights to risk assessment. In addition, Ms Mayett appealed for the ratification of the protocol and to give civil society an opportunity to interact with government to bring about adequate bio safety. </TBODY>
CSIR - on behalf of the Department of Health
Prof. J Morris said that all food products presented risks to consumers, both GM and non- GM products. She said that non - GM risks included:Â·Food allergensÂ·Toxic agrochemicalsÂ·Microbial chemicalsÂ·Mycotoxin ContaminationÂ·Food ToxinsÂ·BSE
Prof Morris noted that GM products had been on the market for ten years with no ill effects. In addition, she said that the EU project had looked at GM versus non-GM products. Further, Prof. Morris said that GM foods were subject to more stringent safety testing than non-GM foods. She explained that South African food controls were exercised through 3 departments, namely, Agriculture, Health and the SABS. She said that general information should be made available to the public in a reasonable and balanced manner.
In the absence of consensus from the CODEC negotiations with regards to labelling in terms of the FCD Act (1992), the Department of Health drafted regulations, which were published for comments in the government on the 4th May 2001. She said that these should only be regarded as interim regulations, and that the final regulations are still to be submitted to the Department of Health.
Prof. Morris noted that the contents of the proposed regulations under the FCD Act (1972) indicated the presence of allergen. She said that Mandatory labelling of all GM foods would present a huge cost for government and consumers. Whilst consumers had a right to know, the increase in the cost of GM food due to labelling would be huge, therefore they would have to consider the consumer's right to know versus the consumer's right to eat. Prof. Morris suggested a pragmatic approach by looking at costs versus benefits. She said finally that South Africa needed to provide leadership and direction in its approach to GM products.
Ms E Strauss thanked the committee for the opportunity to present and expressed her dissatisfaction regarding the polarisation of anti - GMOs versus pro GMOs at the conference. She said that consumers have the right to choose before seeds are genetically modified. Ms Strauss said that global food production had outstripped the growing population in the last 30 years thus people were not starving because of a lack of food but rather a lack of resources.
Also that South Africa was the first country to put GM products on the market without informing the public of doing so. In addition, she noted that Biowatch had taken legal action against the government due to lack of access to information regarding GMOs. She mentioned the fact that multinational companies had pushed to control food and medicines and knowledge had become increasingly privatised.
Small Scale Farmer
Mr P Komane said that South Africa would not be able to achieve food security without achieving seed security first. He said that small-scale farmers were threatened by the reproduction of seeds, and that S.A. should own and control its own seed production. Mr Komane accused big businesses of not serving the needs of the poor. He said that small scale farmers in S.A. are knowledgable about seed production, environment, soil and food security. Also that GMOs is not the only solution for S.A's food production problems. By promoting organic farming would prove to be a more healthy solution to the nutritional and starvation problems in S.A.
Prof van Helden criticised the previous speakers for their lack of facts. He said that GMOs were not only used in plants but also in animals, and that genetic transfer has been taking place for centuries, however biotechnology just hastened the process. Prof van Helden said that BT had been used for decades with no ill-effects, and that plants, animals and medicines alike needed GMOs.
National Association of Cotton Production in South Africa (NACP)
Mr H Schultz said that cotton production was one of the most important cash crops in the world, and that cotton was produced globally. Further, that cotton contributed to food security and improved life expectancy in rural areas of developing countries. Mr Shultz noted that Africa produced 8% of international cotton production, and that South Africa's cotton production was world class in the textile industry.
Mr Schultz gave a brief overview of the cotton-farming sector saying that S.A. was moving towards a free market system without tariff protection. He said that commodity pricing was based on subsidised world production. Mr Shultz explained that pricing pressures and lower profit margins resulted in a decline of cotton production. Furthermore, since the beginning of 2003, cotton producers were losing to international cotton imports in the amount of an estimated R 600 million. He said that S.A's cotton industry was small and underdeveloped.
Mr Schultz noted that the NACP and the S.A. government had formed the national cotton strategy. GM technologies were applicable to this industry. He said that GMOs played an important role in commercial farming in that they reduce input costs for example, chemical and diesel etc. GMOs increase yields from 10 % - 15 %. Mr Schultz said that GMOs reduce risks in production in that farmers are not forced to use harsh chemicals in their crops; hence he said that they reduce their health risks.
Mr P. Gumede, Chairperson of Cotton SA, said that Cotton SA aimed to uplift small-scale farmers in South Africa. He said that initially they had started farming conventional cotton, but then moved on to farm BT cotton. Mr Gumede said that with BT cotton, farmers noticed improvements in terms of:-improved chemical management by reducing very poisonous, harmful insecticides;-saves time and expense-reduces health risks-increasing their yield (from 80- 90%) in other words whereas before they were able to harvest 2 tons annually, they were now able to harvest 4 tons annually.-improvement in the quality of cotton-improvement in profits by increasing production.
Mr Gumede concluded his briefing saying that GMO technology was critically important to the survival and growth of the South African cotton industry.
Prof Diran Makinde said that Africa Bio had been established in 1999/2000. He said that they were looking at issues of biotechnology in South Africa and Africa. He said that their role was to make accurate information available to the public and to encourage debates and discussions as well as interacting with government, civil society and international bodies.
Prof. Makinde said that there were currently 30 GM crops available on the market of which he gave examples such as, maize, soy bean, cotton and canola. He believed that GMOs was a powerful tool for food production in that they were able to conserve biodiversity through biotechnology.
Prof. Makinde noted that it was important to conduct safety checks in terms of the scientific risks in GMOs. He said that S.A has an important role to play and that biotechnological stakeholders have a responsibility towards capacity building. He noted that more funding was needed for scientists to conduct further research into biotechnology. </TBODY>
Mr. Sithole, a Kwazulu-Natal small-scale farmer from Hlabisa District Farmer's Union presented to the conference about his business on white maize. He told the conference that as a small-scale farmer he had used biotechnology for two years now. Hlabisa farmers are thriving because this technology improves their production. He said,"In our environment, there were no pesticides and we had to go long distances. The CRN4549Bt seed is marketed by Monsanto. But maize has changed our lives." The emergent farmers struggle for survival will be greatly reduced in future. "Now we can eradicate poverty and produce enough food to feed our people. Farming will be better now, as we do not have to worry about stalkborer that destroyed our crop in the past".
The farmer's union comprises some 150 emergent farmers. The population of the community is roughly 4000. The farmers harvest their maize by hand, shell it by hand, and package it in 70 kg bags selling for R100. All the maize is bought by the community. Mr. Sithole's yield on his 2 ha was 100 bags compared with 80 bags the previous season with normal hybrid seed. This was an increase of 20 bags or 25%, bringing in an additional income of R2000, excluding the cost - saving made on pesticides. He noted that the increase in yields, that all the farmers who planted GMO maize this season had experienced, brings more money into their pockets which would be spent on the community - boosting the informal and small business sector. For crop farmers who plant the seed with GMO, there is an increase of 2825 of maize in production. He said that they could eradicate poverty and there is 70% - 90% increase in yields. They are using 32125 fertilizer and for top dressing, they use CNA. BT Maize benefits poor farmers and emerging farmers. The emerging farmers are now focusing on agriculture as a business. In order to produce food for himself plus a substantial surplus that can be converted into cash to improve his livelihhod.
Zambian Experience of GMO
Ms Bernadette explained that she was trained by scientists in risk assessment in South Africa. Her training was on breeding and she has been working for more than twenty years. She said that SADC connection enabled maize seed to come from neighbouring countries and other markets. This happened at a time when there was no capital for fertilizers and implementers were not available. Zambia developed farmers' skills from outside and this was most beneficial to the country. Further, small-scale farmers were involved in export markets.
She noted that Zambia is rich in arable land and has good weather. Babycom is available in European markets. She expressed her dissatisfaction that there were unanswered questions which scientists should respond to about this technology and that there was no data available. As a result, uncertainty prevails on what should be happening. Scientists in Zambia discovered that information on risk assessment was not available. Commenting on the assertion made that Argentina has increased its output of Soya beans because of the technology, she raised that as it is the third world's producer of Soya beans, it increased production because of expansion and had nothing to do with the technology. She further told the conference that biotechnology is the only genetic engineering. Biotechnologies should be explored and data should be produced for analysis.
Scientific Perspective of GMO
Prof. I. Parker (UCT) raised that pancreas was used to isolate insulin. The Conference was informed that when the Biotechnology strategy was drafted for the Department of Agriculture, steps were taken to take legal, moral, social aspects into consideration and the government was cautioned about this. He told the conference that South African scientists compete worldwide and that he supervised 20 PHD students who are working abroad with knowledge acquired in this country. He said that SA has the infrastructure and it needs to maintain the leading edge. Science and technology is very important. Scientists are exposed to wide variety of aspects. It is important that for GMO products, there are detailed proposals, with scientific evidence.
The ethics committee dealing with GMOS is composed of scientists, lawyers, animal protection areas and human scientists. The university in this regard assesses projects for scientific merits. There is a granting agency which assesses scientific and ethics reviews. They go through rigorous scientific assessment and even peer reviews internationally do the assessment. Prof. Parker told the conference that it was important to have rational debates about issues and this debate should be best for human kind and the country.
Mr B Olivier said that when looking at commercial issues, the advisory committee looks at safety, health, and there was no reference to trade and industry. Further there was no assistance for processed foods and government needs certification.
African Products position is:
- it favours technology as long as not harmful to humans.
- no negative implications towards environment.
- enhances productivity and stability.
- fully transparent.
- customer acceptance/ethical/moral/trade barriers.
It is customer's right to know and make an informed choice. There is a need for a marketing approach. Two basic business principles are important a) the client is always right b) if the client is not right, you must go to the first point.
Current Shortcomings- Transparency especially registering of farmers. They have to register as non-GM farmers.- Control/conditionally approved - Identity preservation still not in place- Labelling not in place- No government certification body on processed foods- PCR tests still expensive, time consuming, methodology difference- Rapid tests not generally accepted
Financial Implications: Who is picking up the bill? Money spent on chemicals has not been reduced.
Key issues are:
2. Sufficient systems need to be developed
3. Trade barriers
4. Certification authority
Mr K Machaba said Syngenta is committed to the responsible use of modern technology in order to obtain more and better foods, while respecting the environment and social values. Syngenta promotes the concept of sustainable agriculture, which aims to optimise the use of resources, while protecting the long - term economic viability of farming. All food products originating from GM crops have to pass rigorous safety tests before they can be put onto market for consumption. Syngenta will never put products onto the market until they have been evaluated and approved for consumption in accordance with the correspondence legislation on the protection of health, safety and the environment. Syngenta operates only in countries that have credible biosafety and consumer safety regulations in place.
Syngenta provides patented technology royalty-free to benefit subsistence farmers in developing nations, on a case-by-case basis, through agreements with research institutions.
Bt (insect resistant) potato project in South Africa Â· Insect Resistant Maize for Africa project (IRMA) Â· Golden Rice project and other projects. IRMA Project: Bt maize technology is being used to develop stem borer resistant varieties in Africa (varieties initially developed in Kenya). The IRMA project will eventually transfer technologies from Kenya to other interested countries in sub-Saharan Africa
Governments need sound regulation and a well informed public to access the benefits of biotechnology. South Africa has delivered well in the regulation department, but there is still misinformation in the public arena about the role of biotechnology.
Mr G Ashton said that SafeAge were not necessarily opposed to GMO's, but more science is needed. He casted aspersions about the rapidity of introduction of the GMO's and the lack of consultation on GMO's. There were three parliamentary hearings from DEAT, DLA, DOH and DASC&T. He noted that they are asking for more science, not selective facts. He made reference to the studies conducted by the British Medical Association in 1999, which spoke against GMO's or GE. He told the conference that besides sciences there are environmental concerns. He told the conference that the Chinese have a BT moratorium on GMO's.
There was pollution of Maize in Mexico and as a result GE Maize was forbidden. There is a lack of evidence of negative effects because there are no available tests. He told the conference that there is a need to make a clear distinction between biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. There were highly controversial tests in the United States which were contested worldwide. The study that was conducted revealed that the farming around the world and maize and wheat in Brazil were found to be in good condition. He spoke about Regulation 3 (1) on risk assessment and questioned if they really exist. He asked the conference why a precautionary clause was not considered.
The Chair apologised for including an Anti GMO group in the programme for the conference and took the blame. He told the conference that there is a need for a balanced input from all people. He further clarified that all those who presented their views could not ask questions. Only the MPs were eligible to ask questions.
The Registrar for GMOs, Dr. Moephuli, said that the issue of access to information has to be understood in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. He told the conference that he is merely an administrator and with regard to the court case of BioWatch against the Department of Agriculture, he was advised not to comment on the court case because lawyers from the department were dealing with the issue. He further raised that the regulations were looking at the exemption of research institutes and academic institutions. He said that the issue of market access is dealt with in the Executive Council to decide whether there is a market for a product or not. On the allegations that farmers who are not producing GM foods are supposed to register, he told the conference that that is something new to his ears. He told the conference that GE and other kinds should be used and widened.
Appendix 1 : National BioTech Strategy - DST Executive Summary
A NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY STRATEGY FOR SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa has a solid history of engagement with traditional biotechnology. It has produced one of the largest brewing companies in the world; it makes wines that compare wit the best; it has created many new animal breeds and plant varieties, some of which are used commercially all over the world and it has competitive industries in the manufacture of dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and maas and baker's yeast and other fermentation products.
However, South Africa has failed to extract value from the more recent advances in biotechnology, particularly over the last 25 years with the emergence of genetics and genomic sciences (the so-called 3rd generation). Already many companies and public institutions elsewhere in the world are offering products and services that have arisen from the new biotechnology. In the USA alone, there are 300 public biotechnology companies with a market capitalisation of $353 billion and an annual turnover of $22 billion p.a. Moreover, the growth of biotechnology industries is not restricted to the developed countries. Developing countries such as Cuba, Brazil and China have been quick to identity the potential benefits of the technology and have established measures both to develop such industries and to extract value where possible and relevant.
The strategy outlined in this document is designed to make up for lost ground and to stimulate the growth of similar activities in South Africa. Biotechnology can make an important contribution to our national priorities, particularly in the area of human health (including HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB), food security and environmental sustainability. In the pursuit of these priorities. we are fortunate in that we can be guided by the experiences of other countries. For instance, we know that to achieve success a country requires a government agency to champion biotechnology, to build human resources proactively. and to develop scientific and technological capabilities. In addition, successful commercialisation of public sector-supported research and development (R&D) requires strong linkages between institutions within the National System of Innovation and a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship ,assisted by incubators supply-side measures and other supporting programmes and institutions.
Some of these components of a successful biotechnology sector are already in place in South Africa. However, a number of gaps are identified in this document and certain if interventions are suggested to address these problems. The recommendations are divided into two categories, namely new institutional arrangements and specific actions for Government departments. In the case of the former, the Panel has recommended the establishment of a Biotechnology Advisory Committee (BAC), under the auspices of the Cabinet's Economics Cluster, the responsibilities of which will include the implementation of this strategy, co-ordination of biotechnology R&D and alignment with national priorities.
A key component of the strategy is the creation of several regional innovation centres (RICs) to act as nuclei for the development of biotechnology platforms, from which a range of businesses offering new products and services can be developed. The RICs will be required to work in close collaboration with academia and business in order for the centres to become active nodes for the growth of the biotechnology sector. Using both existing funds and new allocations specifically designated for biotechnology. and employing well-trained scientists, engineers and technologists in a multi-disciplinary environment, the centres will stimulate the creation of new intellectual property (IP). The successful protection and exploitation of this IP will be made possible by a new venture capital fund and an array of new and existing support structures. It is emphasised that the main focus of the RICs will be the creation of economic growth and employment through innovation.
A number of recommendations are made to Government, including support, both financial and at a policy level, for the formation of the BAC, which will be responsible for the implementation of this strategy. The proposed actions will require an annual budget of R182 million, of which R135 million is required for the funding of the RICs and the associated R&D programmes, R20 million for the venture capital fund, R25 million for additional funding to strengthen the link between academia and industry and R2 million to run the BAC, plus a once-off establishment cost of R45 million for the RICs. This documents also urges Government to complete a number of important revisions to the legislative and regulatory environment including the extension of the activities of the Bioethics Committee and the revision of the Patents Act, in order for the strategy to be successful.
Finally, careful attention must be given to the development of the appropriate human resources and to the public understanding of biotechnology. It is Government's responsibility to ensure that new biotechnology products or services do not threaten the environment or human life, or undermine ethics and human rights. Several actions to meet these responsibilities are proposed in this document.
The first century of the new millennium will belong not only to communications, or information technologies, but also to biotechnology, which will bring unprecedented advances in human and animal health, agriculture and food production, manufacturing and sustainable environmental management.
To embrace biotechnology is to further embrace our commitment to the realisation of our national imperatives and specifically:
- To improve access to and affordability of health care.
- To provide sufficient nutrition at low cost. To create jobs in manufacturing. To protect and cherish our rich environment.
To achieve our objectives, we will be required to assimilate biotechnology skills rapidly in order to commercialise country-specific applications and reduce the economic gap between developed and developing countries.
Without doubt, we will need to exercise caution and judgement in the application of biotechnology.
We will need to ensure that the potential risks to human health and the environment arising from the commercial use of genetically modified organisms in food production are properly managed.
We will need to continuously assess our biotechnology programmes within the framcwork of the constitution, which ensures our rights to safety, to choice and to information.
We will need to establish suitable regulatory systems in order to participate as exporters and importers in the international trade in biotechnology products.
We will need to increase the level of public awareness and acceptance of these products.
In many respects we are fortunate: new advances in biotechnology promise to make the path of progress a great deal easier and shorter. We stand at the crossroads and our response to this opportunity will shape our future.
Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology', Dr Ben Ngubane 11 June 200!
Appendix 2 : Syngenta Presentation
Syngenta South Africa - The Use of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture
April 14, 2003
- Syngenta is committed to the responsible use of modern technology in order to obtain more and better foods, while respecting the environment and social values
- Syngenta promotes the concept of sustainable agriculture, which aims to optimise the use of resources, while protecting the long-term economic viability of farming
Stem borer insect control
CRW insect control
The Safety of Genetically Improved Crops
- All food products originating from GM crops have to pass rigorous safety tests before they can be put onto the market for consumption.
- Syngenta will never put products onto the market until they have been evaluated and approved for consumption in accordance with the corresponding legislation on the protection of health, safety and the environment.
- Syngenta operates only in countries that have credible biosafety and consumer safety regulations in place.
Biotechnology in Developing Countries
- Syngenta provides patented technology royalty-free to benefit subsistence farmers in developing nations, on a case-by-case basis, through agreements with research institutions
= Bt (insect resistant) potato project in South Africa
= Insect Resistant Maize for Africa project (IRMA)
= Golden Rice project & other projects
Bt Potato Project in SA
- ARC, Michigan State University & Syngenta partnership.
- Bt (insect resistant) gene is being used in trials on local potato varieties to control potato moth pests.
- This technology has been donated by Syngenta (non-exclusive commercial license) in RSA, Egypt & Indonesia.
- Bt maize technology is being used to develop stem borer resistant varieties in Africa (varieties initially developed in Kenya)
- IRMA project will eventually transfer technologies from Kenya to other interested countries in sub-saharan Africa through training and infrastructure development
- Partners in the IRMA project: International Maize & Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARl), & Syngenta Foundation
- Royalty-free rights have been donated to developing countries for humanitarian purposes
- Golden Rice has the potential to address vitamin A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness in developing country communities
- Humanitarian Projects:
= Papaya Programme (delayed ripening & virus resistance) in Asia, small farmer production
= Mali - improved plant breeding of millet, sorghum and cowpea
- Commercial Project
= Master Bt 11 maize variety that gives stable yields in low input farming
- Syngenta is committed to safe and responsible use of biotechnology in Africa
- Syngenta runs commercial and humanitarian projects on the continent
- Syngenta is committed to sustainable agriculture, through research and use of innovative technologies
- Governments need sound regulation and a well-informed public to access the benefits of biotechnology
- We believe RSA has delivered well in the regulation department, but there is still some misinformation in the public arena about the role of biotechnology
Appendix 3 : KwaZulu-Natal Small Scale Farmer Article
GMO MAIZE BOOSTS YIELDS OF EMERGENT FARMERS BY 220.25%
KwaZulu-Natal emergent crop farmers from the Hlabisa district near Nongoma in Northern KZN who planted GMO white maize for the first time this season have boosted their yields by an average increase of 220.25% and increased their income by an average of R2825. Their smallholdings average 21/2 ha.
The seed they planted was CRN 4549 Bt marketed by Monsanto.
"Bt maize has changed our lives. The emergent farmers' struggle for survival will be greatly reduced in future. Now we can eradicate poverty and produce enough food to feed our people. Farming will be better now, as we do not have to worry about the stalkborer that destroyed our crop in the past.
This new technology is what Africa needs to overcome famine and food shortages," says Richard Sithole, chairman of the Hlabisa District Farmers' Union. He has been chairman since 1982.
The farmers' union comprises some 150 emergent farmers. The population of the community is roughly 4000.
The farmers harvest their maize by hand, shell it by hand, and package it in 70 kg bags selling for
R100. All the maize is bought by the community.
Sithole's yield on his 21/2 ha was 100 bags compared with 80 bags the previous season with normal hybrid seed. This was an increase of 20 bags or 25%, bringing in an additional income of R2000, excluding the cost-saving on pesticides.
"The increase in yields, as all of us who planted GMO maize this season have experienced, brings more money into our pockets which will be spent in our community -- boosting the informal and small business sector," he added.
He said farmers are happy to buy new seed every year to benefit from the higher yields fresh seed guarantees. For many years now, farmers have no longer been saving seed to plant the following year. This habit reduced production. All the farmers use 3.2.1(25) fertilizer at planting followed by a top dressing of LAN six weeks later.
"Our emergent farmers are now focussing on agriculture as a business. In the first place to produce food for himself plus a substantial surplus that can be converted into cash to improve his livelihood. To improve his home. To send his children to school and to college to earn a better living for themselves," he added.
He cited his own case as an example. He started farming in 1969 with a bicycle. By always buying the latest hybrid seeds that became available he increased his income. From the bicycle lie progressed to a bakkie. Then followed a tractor, plough, and planter. Next he built himself a seven-roomed home. All paid for.
Three fellow farmers confirmed their increased yields as follows:
- Paulos Mwelase of Siwohlo-Kwa Hlabisa planted 2 ha of Bt maize. Yield 45 bags compared to six bags "of rotten maize" last year. An increase of 650%. He will keep ten bags for himself for food and sell 35 bags for R3500.
He is chairman of the Thubalethu Farmers' Union. "We have never seen maize like this before. Last year I could riot cover my fertilizer and seed costs. Now things are looking better. The farming struggles of the past are becoming less," he said.
- Daniel Ndwandwe planted half a hectare. His yield was 14 bags compared to 10 bags last year A yield increase of 40%.
- Wilson Nkosi planted two hectares. His yield was 80 bags compared to 30 bags last year, an increase of 166% or R5OOO extra income. "There is nothing that will ever separate me from Bt maize. The higher price of the seed is not an issue. I am going to double my planting next season," he ernphasised.
Appendix 4 : National Consumer Forum Presentation
INPUT OF THE NATIONAL CONSUMER FORUM
PARLIAMENTARY AGRICULTURAL STANDING COMMITTEE CONFERENCE
ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
APRIL 14 - APRIL 15, 2003
The National Consumer Forum (NCF) welcomes Parliament's Standing Committee on Agriculture's facilitation of the debate on Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology, commonly known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The debate should hopefully result in greater understanding
amongst the varied and different schools of thought on the subject.
This document briefly outlines some of our views and concerns as a stakeholder. A detailed Position Paper will be available in June this year and placed in the NCF website: http://www.ncf.org.za/ This document therefore reflects the some of the issues currently under discussion within the NCF.
While an important stakeholder, we are aware that consumers are not the only sector whose views must prevail. We hope that this is the attitude of other equally important stakeholders. This of course implies that stakeholders talk to (rather than talk at) one another as has happened in parts of the world. It also implies a level of honest engagement among the stakeholders and not the arty manouvoure that tends characterises the GMO debate.
2. About the NCF
Established in 1994, the National Consumer Forum is a non-profit, non-sectarian organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of the rights of South African consumers.
It provides information and advice on goods, services, health, personal finances and other such areas that affect consumers' rights and quality of life.
The organisation has more than 30 affiliates and is a member of Consumers International - an international Non Governmental Organisation dedicated to consumer rights.
3. The political economy of hunger
The 1999 Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Food Insecurity Report states that about 800 million people in the developing world and a further 43 million people in the developed world suffer from chronic food insecurity. The report further notes that about 800 000 households in the United States suffer from severe hunger. This illustrates that although a predominantly developing country problem, food insecurity is also found in the developed world.
In the recent past, those in favour of GMO technology have increasingly argued that GMOs stand to address malnutrition, hunger and food insecurity. It is argued that the technology has the potential to increase food production and yields thereby addressing hunger and food security.
This argument tends to equate food security with food surplus and disregards issues of social equity, economic disparity, agricultural and land policies.
There is no causal link between hunger and lack of technology. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access to economic resources. The hungry are the poor. And the poor do not have the means to buy the available food or they lack the land and the resources to grow food themselves.
The NCF believes that the GMO discourse must be located in the wider matrix of political economy if we are to effectively address hunger and malnutrition. We are not convinced that that technology, outside policy variables1 automatically answers development needs.
4. The Precautionary Principle
The NCF is NOT against genetic engineering. Neither do we refute the probability that GMOs may have great benefits in food production, food quality and associated benefits. Whether we have the luxury of choice or not, the decision to consume a food product is undoubtedly one of the most
crucial we make each time we do so. The same holds for when we consume medicinal drugs. Given the public interest nature of food consumption, consumers are legitimately concerned about the safety of what is introduced into the food chain.
The possible risks associated with GMQ consumption should, of course, not be generalised. It is also for reasons curbing reckless generalisations that the NCF believes that the following policy measures must be put in place before GMO products are introduced into the food chain.
- The observation of the precautionary principle in assessing and managing the introduction and application of new technologies. Possible long-term risks are still unknown and must be subject of research; particularly risk assessment. We note that the consequences of developments such as the chemical revolution-pollution and toxic waste took half a century to surface. The health and environment implications of the biotech revolution may also be unidentifiable for years or decades.
Some of the issues which consumers want explained to their satisfaction include:
= Allergenicity risks where genes are moved between species,
= Antibiotic resistance and the use of marker genes
= unanticipated toxicity
= Unanticipated nutritional effects
= Other risks to the food chain, for example from genetic engineering used for producing medicines, and most particularly from the use of modified agricultural crops for feeding animals
= Indirect effects on public health, through, for example, changes in the use of pesticides and the transfer of genes through pollination to other species.
5. The Right to know
It is often suggested that GMQs are the same ["Substantial Equivalence] as organically grown foods. As a consequence, GMO proponents argue that it is not necessary to label that a food product is the outcome of genetic engineering. We raise questions in the item that deals with "Consumer and Social Concerns" below. Here we wish to state that the campaign against the labeling of GMOs limits consumers' right to know what they are consuming.
Consumers have the right to know what they are consuming. Most countries, including South Africa, have enacted laws requiring the labelling of food. Such labels contain such as things as may include ingredients, in many cases processing (e.g. frozen, homogenised, irradiated) and additives (e.g. food colours, preservatives) and the observation of standards of identity. Peanut Buffer should, for example be made from peanutsSome countries require fat, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content of food to be labelled as well.
Labels enable consumers to know what they are consuming. From a policy point of view, they enable public authorities a measure of food safety, the absence of which can result in the loss of consumer confidence in regulatory authorities and food products, not to mention the associated public health risks.
There are many reasons for insisting on consumers' right to know what they consume. These may include taste, preference, health and religious reasons. One may want to eat fish to improve their chances of avoiding heart disease, or avoid fish because they are allergic to fish proteins or they are concerned about depletion of certain species in the oceans or about mercury contamination, etc. They may seek out carbohydrates because they are training for a marathon, or avoid them because they want to lose weight. Body builders may want red meat, vegetarians will avoid it and Muslims will avoid pork but not Iamb.
6. Some Consumer and Social Concerns
6.1 Substantial Equivalence vs Organically Grown Food
Since March 15, the NCF has been running a survey to determine consumer awareness and perceptions about GMQs through our website. Notwithstanding the validity or otherwise of the reassuring doctrine of "substantial equivalence," consumers have ambivalent feelings about GMQs. They argue that humankind has never before possessed the ability to introduce genetic material from a different species even to take the material from a bacteria to place it into the genome of an animal or a plant.
This perhaps makes GMOs quite unlike the previous evolution of food production. Before genetic engineering and the fast pace at which it is proceeding, humankind had a long time to experience the effects of genetic modification and to correct the risks related thereto.
A special feature article in Science notes that: "The vast majority of these crops are the result of single-gene transfers, in which one or more genes coding for desired characteristics. Such efforts, although important to raising actual yields, are unlikely to raise potential yields. To break barriers, the plants will have to be thoroughly reengineered."
6.2 Terminator Technology
In March 1998, US based Delta & Pine Land Co and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they had received a US patent on a new genetic technology designed to prevent "unauthorized seed-saving" by farmers. USDA researchers stated that they had spent approximately $190 000 to support research on the seed technology while Delta & Pine Land devoted $275 000 and contributed an additional $255,000 to the joint research.
The patented technology enables a seed company to genetically alter seed so that [the plants that grow from it become sterile so that farmers are unable to re-plant the seeds they save in subsequent plantings. Thus the seeds are terminated. The patent is broad, applying to plants and seeds of all species, including both genetically engineered and conventionally-bred seeds. The developers of the new technology say that their technique to prevent seed-saving is still in the product development stage, and is now being tested on cotton and tobacco.
According to a USDA spokesperson, Delta & Pine Land Co. has the option to exclusively license the jointly developed patented technology. The USDA's Willard Phelps explained that the goal is "'to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in second and third world countries."
USDA molecular biologist Melvin J. Oliver, the primary inventor of the technology, explained that: "Our mission is to protect US agriculture and to make us competitive in the face of foreign competition. Without this, there is no way of protecting the patented seed technology."
Up to 1.4 billion poor farmers in the South depend on farm-saved seed and seeds exchanged with neighbours as their primary seed source. A technology that restricts farmer expertise in selecting seed and developing locally-adapted strains is a threat to food security and agricultural bio-diversity, especially for the poor. The threat is real, especially considering that USDA and Delta & Pine Land have applied for patent protection in countries from Madagascar to Mali, from Brazil to Benin, from China to Vietnam.
6.3 Research & Development and Bio-Piracy
In contrast to the terminator technology, GM and seed companies collect local food, medicine plants and seed varieties from communities, often in the name of research and development. With patents, the real danger exists that these food, medicine plants and seed varieties may come back as commodities in local communities. Activists call this bio-piracy..