Ncera Farms Budget: briefing; Genetically Modified Organisms Bill: finalisation

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2005
NCERA FARMS BUDGET: BRIEFING; GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS BILL: FINALISATION.

Chairperson:

Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Ncera briefing: Part

1, 2, 3 & 4
GMO Amendment Bill Presentation
Proposed Amendments Genetically Modified Organisms Bill, 2006
Guide to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: Advanced Informed Agreement Procedure

SUMMARY

 


The Ncera Farms (Pty) Ltd presented their annual budget and strategic business plan for 2006/07. Representatives informed the Committee about the successful beneficial adult and life skills training offered to communities at no cost, as well as the ongoing construction of service centers, and the upliftment of ten farms in their areas. They noted however a net loss as a result of their small and new entity still being in its development phase. Their budget for 2006/07 was R2.17 million, plus own revenue of R798 000. The current funds available were R2.98 million, less the operating budget of R2.48 million. The Committee applauded their efforts, noting however that they would like to see a more representative board presenting to the Committee at their next meeting.

The Department of Agriculture then presented the technical changes and additions made to the Genetically Modified Organisms Bill. The Committee broadly agreed to the amendments, with one DA Member expressing the need to debate the issue further in the House. The Committee agreed to debate the issue in the House.

Ncera Farms briefing
Mr T Marais (Chairperson of Ncera Farms Ltd) introduced his colleagues, Mr J Venter (Member of the Committee) and Mr T Stylianou (Member of the Management Team).

Mr Marais said Ncera Farms was currently busy with the creation of a service centre approved in October 2004 by the Executive Authority. The farms were also building security fences, an administration and training centre, a workshop, locating water sources, planning a shade house/nursery, planning livestock handling facilities, building tunnels, land preparation, designing layout and contract ploughing. Furthermore, they were preparing business plans for postal services, legal services, land valuation, animal husbandry, as well as animal improvement schemes.

Their budget for 2006/07 was R2.17 million, plus own revenue of R798 000. The current funds available were R2.98 million, less the operating budget of R2.48 million. The projected figure needed to finalise the service centre was about R500 000. The budget allocation for personnel expenditure was approximately R485 000, with R236 000 allocated for administrative expenditure, and more for management fees.

Discussion
Dr A Van Niekerk (DA) requested more on training conducted by Ncera Farms. Mr T Stylianou responded that Ncera Farms had conducted much adult training, computer software skills training, life skills training, animal husbandry courses, etc.

Ms E Ngaleka (ANC) sought clarity on the reason for the largest proportion of the annual budget being allocated towards management fees. Mr Marais responded that Ncera Farms paid a management fee of R1 million annually to a management agency for the running of their daily business. Ms Ngaleka noted that according to the presentation, the Committee had noted delays in the finalisation of the construction of a service centre. She inquired about the cost implications of this delay. Mr Marais responded that the delay had not added any further costs to the project.

Mr A Nel (DA) asked whether service fees were included in the budget under management fees. Mr Marais replied that it was included under the management fees as well as in the complete budget.

Mr Van Niekerk asked more on the settlement process. Mr Marais explained that Ncera Farms had initially placed advertisements on 11 March 2005, and interviewed candidates by 27 September 2005. Finally, ten candidates had been selected for settlement, and a Memorandum submitted to government for approval. Their objective was to create long-term self-sustaining communities.

The Chairperson inquired about the budget allocation for training. Mr Marais responded that Ncera Farms did not give training but that training was provided by their management agency and was included in the fee paid. The Chairperson asked what certificates were given to candidates who completed the training. Mr T Stylianou explained that since training was that of an informal basis, they did not issue certificates, but rather provided a letter indicating the skills acquired.

Genetically Modified Organisms Bill: Department briefing
Dr J Jaftha (Senior Manager: Genetic Resources Management, Department of Agriculture) briefed the Committee on amendments aimed to align the Bill with the Cartagena Protocol. He explained amendments to existing Definitions in the Bill, as well as insertions into the Bill. The Bill provided new definitions, namely, activity, biosafety, the Biosafety Clearing House, Commodity clearance, conditional general release, convention environmental impact assessment, extension permit, protocol, release, and transboundary movements.

Dr Jaftha read out the new definitions provided in the Bill as the following:
"Activity’ means "any activity with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but is not limited to the importation, exportation, transit, development, production, release, distribution, [contained] use, storage and application of genetically modified organisms only".

"Biosafety" means "the level of safety when risk management measures must be taken to avoid potential risk to human and animal health and safety, and to the conservation of the environment, as a result of exposure to activities with genetically modified organisms, and ‘biological safety’ shall have a corresponding meaning".

"Contained use" means "the development, production, cultivation, use, application, storage, movement, destruction or disposal of genetically modified organisms within a facility, installation or other physical structure, including a greenhouse, that are controlled by specific measures, including physical barriers, or a combination of physical barriers together with chemical or biological barriers or both, that effectively limit contact of the GMOs with humans, animals and the external environment and their impact on humans, animals and the external environment."

‘Commodity clearance" means "the authorisation to use [a] genetically modified organisms as a food or feed, or for processing, but excludes the planting of a genetically modified organism as a [direct] release into the environment".

"Protocol" means "the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention [on Biological Diversity], that has been negotiated and adopted by the Parties to the Convention [on Biological Diversity], acceded to by the Republic on 14 August 2003".

"transboundary movement" means "the movement of a genetically modified organism [across the boundaries of the Republic] from the Republic to another country or from another country into the Republic."

"user" means "a person who conducts an activity with a genetically modified organism".

Dr Jaftha further noted that the amendment under Section 3, established the Executive Council (EC) as a juristic person, and therefore enables the EC to institute legal action, such as in the recovery of costs.

Section 3
"(1) There is hereby established a [Council] juristic person known as the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms, which shall consist of not more than [eight] ten Members appointed by the Minister.

The Council shall advise the Minister on all aspects concerning [the development, production, use, application and release of] activities relating to genetically modified organisms, and [to] ensure that [all activities with regard to the development, production, use application and release of] such activities [genetically modified organisms] are performed in accordance with [the provisions of] this Act.

Further, the Council shall determine the conformity of an application, manage permits, issue a permit or extension permit, or amend or withdraw a permit".

Section 9: Functions of the Registrar
"He/she may maintain a register of facilities, trails sites, arrange for inspections, require cessation of activities, submit documents to the Council and communicate with the BCH".

Section 10: Advisory Committee
"Two members from the public sector, knowledgeable in ecological matters and GMO, as well as the impact of GMOs on human and animal health as well as other expertise, may be co-opted for written comments".

Clause 8(b)
"The Committee shall co-opt or invite written comments from knowledgeable persons".

Section 11(2) of the Principle Act
"
The Committee may appoint subcommittees to deal with specific matters as required".

DiscussionDr Van Niekerk (DA) commented that this Bill dealt with issues of agriculture, plants and animals. However, the importation of bacteria and plants for human consumption were not mentioned, which made him question the involvement of the Department of Health in the issuance of permits. Dr Jaftha replied that in terms of bacteria use, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture worked in collaboration in the issuing of permits.

Mr S Abram (ANC) commented that in their last meeting with the Department of Health regarding GMOs, the Committee had not received much feedback on the Department’s research at a national level. Mr Jaftha responded that one needed to be specific when mentioning a range of activities. For example, an application could be made to the Council to conduct an activity in a contained environment, and the Council would have the discretionary powers to make a decision without public input. However, in terms of initial field research, the Council would require public input.

The Committee Secretary, Mr J Boltina, put the Motion of Desirability before the Committee. Ms Ngaleka agreed to the Motion, seconded by Dr Van Niekerk and Mr Abram.

The Secretary inquired if there was still a need to debate the Bill further. Dr Van Niekerk appealed for a debate since he agreed with the amendments, but wanted to add a statement. He would further appeal to the Chief Whip. The Chairperson noted the Committee’s concurrence to debate the issue in the House.

The meeting was adjourned.

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