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6-Regulation: South African objections to Syngenta Bt maize testing and growing



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Latest application for GE crops flawed.
        Undemocratic, non-transparent process has led to introduction of
        Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in SA
SOURCE: South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering, press release
DATE:   Nov 4, 2002

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Press release from SAFeAGE, the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic 
Engineering.
Issued By Glenn Ashton on behalf of SAFeAGE.
Embargoed 0001h, 4 November 2002.
Date 3 November 2002.

Subject; Latest application for GE crops flawed. Undemocratic, non-
transparent process has led to introduction of Genetically Engineered (GE) 
crops in SA.

SAFeAGE, a coalition of over 100 groups that represents over 200, 000 South 
Africans and 500,000 people internationally, has for the first time been 
able to lodge objections to a request for permission to allow the general 
release for a genetically engineered (GE) crop in South Africa.

If successful, this application for GE maize will be the fifth GE crop to 
be grown in South Africa. Cotton, soya, and varieties of both white and 
yellow maize have already been granted permission for general release.

None of the permits to release these four crops has undergone any sort of 
public oversight process before their release; instead the releases have 
been shrouded in secrecy. This secrecy and the refusal of the Department of 
Agriculture to disclose crucial information relating to these releases have 
already led to one court action, brought by Biowatch, a biosafety and 
biosecurity specialist NGO, for failure to disclose crucial information 
about GE crops. Biowatch is a member group of SAFeAGE.

The Application by Syngenta SeedCo (Pty), a subsidiary of Syngenta 
Corporation, a Swiss Multinational, is intrinsically flawed because it 
simultaneously applies for permits for both field trials and for the 
general release for their Bt11 Strain of insect resistant maize. This is 
contrary to the established best scientific practices, which declare that 
these two processes should be run separately and not concurrently.

Field and contained trials should be undertaken prior to any application 
for the general release of any GE crop. Such trials then inform 
applications for general release by collecting data on management practices 
and analysing the effects on local biology. Only once this information is 
analysed is a public participation process undertaken to decide on the 
desirability of a general release. Syngenta fails to follow this basic 
practice in this simultaneous application for trials and a general release.

The Syngenta Bt11 application also contains inaccurate and insufficient 
information. No indication is given as to whether the application is for 
white or yellow maize. The application gives misleading information about 
what nations have allowed the growing of this crop. No background to the 
claims of prior testing are given, so it is unknown whether tests are based 
on South African data or are external studies.

There are real and profound scientific queries as to the safety and 
desirability of this particular crop. We have access to scientific 
literature that expresses concerns about environmental, health and other 
issues related to the safety and desirability of these crops.

Additionally, SAFeAGE was unable to gain access to crucial information or 
even file numbers in order to request details from the Directorate of 
Genetic Resources at the Department of Agriculture in the time allowed for 
comment on this application. We may have to wait up to two months under the 
Access to Information Act and still have no guarantee the necessary data 
will be made available.

Expert members of SAFeAGE are of the opinion that this application should 
not be granted for many reasons, including poor process, a lack of 
information and misleading claims in regard to the product. SAFeAGE is also 
of the opinion that this application is in conflict with national 
legislation including the Constitution, the National Environmental 
Management Act (NEMA), the National Conservation Act, the Access to 
Information Act as well as the Genetically Modified Organisms Act.

SAFeAGE therefore insists that this application be rejected. We also insist 
that all other permits for general release of GE crops be withdrawn 
forthwith. Given that this is our first opportunity for public 
participation regarding the general release of GE crops and given the 
extremely poor information supplied by both the applicant and the Dept. of 
Agriculture, as well as the intrinsic flaws that have emerged in this 
application process, we demand that all previous general releases and trial 
crops be reviewed in a transparent and open process.

We also insist that the import and export of all GE crops and food products 
containing transgenic ingredients be halted until such time as a 
comprehensive review of the GMO Act and our national GE policy are 
undertaken.

We support the call by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tourism and 
Environment to convene a workshop to begin such a review. We pledge our 
support of such an initiative. We also support the Department of 
Agriculture stated intention to begin a review of their policy regarding GE 
crops.

We estimate that the continued use of GE crops may negatively impact our 
agricultural exports by more than R3 billion per annum. The downstream 
negative economic effects of these crops could be significantly greater if 
reduced employment, health effects, external controls of our food and seed 
supplies, rights to save and share seed and many other potentially negative 
factors are included. We therefore request all other relevant Ministers, 
including Trade and Industry, Health, Welfare, Finance, Labour, as well as 
the office of the President, to urgently review the potential impacts of 
these crops on their areas of responsibility.

For further information contact
SAFeAGE; Gill Kerchoff, co-ordinator ; 021-447-5918 or 082-472-4780
Glenn Ashton, media liaison; 021-789-1751 or 083-403-2623
Biowatch; Natalie McAskill, manager; 021-447-5918.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  BIOWATCH S.A. CALLS FOR REJECTION OF THE APPLICATIONS BROUGHT BY
        SYNGENTA SEEDCO FOR THE TESTING AND CULTIVATION of Bt 11
SOURCE: Biowatch South Africa, Press Release
DATE:   Nov 4, 2002

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BIOWATCH S.A. CALLS FOR REJECTION OF THE APPLICATIONS BROUGHT BY SYNGENTA 
SEEDCO FOR THE TESTING AND CULTIVATION of Bt 11*

Biowatch SA strongly recommends that these two applications be rejected 
based on several factors as outlined in the summary below. In particular 
Biowatch S.A. believes that the application made by Syngenta Seedco for 
field tests and for commercial release at the same time nullifies the 
purpose of running field trials. According to biosafety best practice, the 
information gathered from field trials about environmental safety and 
planting and management systems, should inform the decision as to whether 
or not to proceed with general release; these two activities cannot happen 
concurrently.

Syngenta Seedco has also misrepresented the facts in their notices when 
they state that Bt11 maize has been approved for commercial cultivation in 
Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. According to our research Bt11 has 
not been approved for cultivation in these countries and no applications 
are pending. If such a simple fact is misrepresented, how can the public be 
expected to trust Syngenta's interpretation of complex scientific data?

These two public notices illustrate just how inadequate our current process 
of investigating, assessing and communicating the potential impacts of GM 
crops is.

"We call on the government to urgently ratify the Cartegena Protocol and 
review and amend South African legislation to be in line with international 
minimum biosafety standards. We also bring to your attention the African 
Model Biosafety Law developed by the OAU to guide African countries in the 
development of their Biosafety frameworks," says Haidee Swanby, 
spokesperson for Biowatch S.A.

Biowatch supports the call from the South African Freeze Alliance on 
Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE) that a 5-year moratorium be placed on all 
further releases of genetically modified crops while relevant, independent 
research is carried out and rigorous South African policy and legislation 
is developed in a transparent and participatory manner to protect the 
public, our rights and our environment.

ENDS

Contact:
Nicci van Noordwyk
Biowatch S.A.
Ph: 0027 (021) 4475939
Fx: 0027 (021) 4475974
E-mail: nicci@biowatch.org.za
Website: www.biowatch.org.za


*On the 3rd October Syngenta Seedco published two notices in The Star 
newspaper inviting public comment. One informed the public of a proposed 
release of genetically engineered "Bt11" maize, the other informed the 
public of proposed field trials for the same Bt11maize.

NB - Biowatch S.A. full objection available on request.


SUMMARY OF OBJECTION


1. The simultaneous application for testing field trials and general 
release does not meet best practice procedures for biosafety and undermines 
the purpose of field trials.

The field trials should provide information about environmental impacts, 
safety, planting and management strategies. Only after this step, should 
this data should inform the decision of whether to proceed with general 
release. Best practice procedures for biosafety dictate that this should 
happen "step-wise".


2. Concerns about the impacts of Bt11 on the environment.

Studies showing that the build up of insect resistance is of real concern 
as well as the negative effects of Bt toxins on non-target insects and 
other soil organisms are referenced. Another concern is that South Africa 
has a very high number of endemic plants and associated organisms. It is 
therefore not possible to extrapolate what the potential effects of Bt 
toxins on local ecosystems will be from research done elsewhere. If 
research on the effects on local organisms, as required by NEMA, has been 
carried out, this data must be made available to the public to assist them 
in their comment and objection.


3. The public notices do not adhere to the requirements for open and 
transparent government, public participation and access to information.

- Public Participation: The wording of the notice implies that Syngenta 
  Seedco. are informing the public of the proposed general release rather 
  than applying for permission. The implication that the approval is a fait 
  accompli is misleading.
- Access to Information: The information provided in the public notices 
  falls short of that required by the GMO regulations and the public are 
  compromised in their ability to respond effectively. (We have been 
  advised that the access to information provisions in the GMO Act are
  inconsistent with PAIA, and are probably unconstitutional.)
- Information about insect resistance strategy: That an insect resistance 
  management strategy is mentioned implies that resistance is a 
  possibility; this contradicts the statement that "no negative impacts"
  have been recorded. Inadequate information is given regarding the
  management system for the public to make comments or objections.


4. Irrelevant Information

That a permit for Bt11 for food and feed has been issued in South Africa is 
irrelevant, even more so because there was never a public information and 
participation process for this approval. Approvals granted in other 
countries are likewise irrelevant to the present applications.


5. Misleading information

That Bt11 maize has been approved for commercial cultivation in USA, 
Canada, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland and Australia/New Zealand is 
irrelevant and untrue. There has not been approval for commercial 
cultivation in Switzerland or in Australia/New Zealand and neither are 
there applications pending. If the applicant can misrepresent such simple 
facts in their public notice, the public can put little faith in the 
results of their scientific tests and trials. It also begs the question, 
what mechanisms exist for the authorities to double-check claims made by 
applicants?


6. Conclusion

The advertisements
- The process of public notification does not comply in full with either 
  the GMO Act, or with the overarching NEMA, or with the Constitution.
- The lack of full information about the two release applications forces 
  the public to rely on skeletal statements and assurances and prevents 
  them from making informed responses and objections.
- The entire process of investigating, assessing and communicating the 
  potential impact of GMOs must take place according to NEMA to ensure the 
  trust of the public regarding the safety of GMOs or the extent and 
  results of GMO testing.
- The Syngenta applications should be rejected on the basis of the 
  inaccurate and misleading information they contain.

The Department's decision on the application
- Sections 2 and 24 of NEMA, which set out principles of environmental 
  management to be applied by all organs of state, must be applied in the 
  decision making process.
- In terms of section 24(1) read with 24(3) of NEMA, the minimum 
  requirements for the environmental impact assessment, as set out in 
  section 24(7) must be complied with before the authorisation is issued.

Biowatch reserves the right to make further comment once full information 
on this matter is supplied.


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  PUBLIC NOTICE - CULTIVATION OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE
SOURCE: Business Day, South Africa
DATE:   Oct 2, 2002

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PUBLIC NOTICE
CULTIVATION OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE

Syngenta SeedCo (Pty) Ltd wish to inform the public of the proposed General 
Release of genetically improved maize. An application for General Release 
(i.e. commercial cultivation) has been submitted to the National Department 
of Agriculture. Upon receiving official authorization the maize could be 
grown commercially in all provinces within the Republic of South Africa.

A gene from a natural soil microbe (Bacillus thuringiensis) has been 
inserted into maize conferring resistance to certain maize insects. The 
genetically modified maize (also called Bt11) has been extensively tested 
for any negative impact to humans, animals and the environment. No such 
negative impact has been recorded. Bt11 maize has therefore received 
approvals for commercial cultivation in USA, Canada, Argentina, Japan, 
Switzerland and Australia/New Zealand. Authorities in South Africa have 
also approved Bt11 for use as food and feed.

The safety to humans, animals and the environment has been comprehensively 
tested and the results presented to the responsible authorities.

The proposed general release will be conducted in strict accordance with 
all the requirements of the National Department of Agriculture, Directorate 
of Genetic Resources including the set-up of an insect resistance 
management system.

The National Department of Agriculture invites anybody wishing to make 
comments, to submit these in writing within 30 days from publication of 
this public notice to following address:

Registrar: Genetically Modified Organisms Private Bag X973 PRETORIA 0001

Syngenta SeedCo (Pty) Ltd, Thornhill Office Park, Building 9 & 10 94 Bekker 
Street, Midrand, Private Bag X60, Halfway House, 1685


                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  PUBLIC NOTICE - TESTING OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE
SOURCE: The Star, South Africa
DATE:   Oct 3, 2002

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


PUBLIC NOTICE
TESTING OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE

Syngenta SeedCo (Pty) Ltd wishes to inform the public of the proposed field 
trials of genetically improved maize. An application for field trials has 
been submitted to the National Department of Agriculture. Upon receiving 
official authorization the maize will be tested in the following provinces 
within the Republic of South Africa:

Gauteng, North West Province, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga

A gene from a natural soil microbe (Bacillus thuringiensis) has been 
inserted into maize conferring resistance to certain maize insects. The 
genetically modified maize (also called Bt11) has been extensively tested 
for any negative impact to humans, animals and the environment. No such 
negative impact has been recorded. Bt11 maize has therefore received 
approvals for commercial cultivation in USA, Canada, Argentina, Japan, 
Switzerland and Australia/New Zealand. Authorities in South Africa have 
also approved Bt11 for use as food and feed.

The safety to humans, animals and the environment has been comprehensively 
tested and the results presented to the responsible authorities.

The purpose of the field trials is to select local maize varieties with the 
Bt11 gene, evaluate the performance of the varieties, do a small local seed 
production of one of the adapted varieties and register one of the 
varieties in variety registration trials.

The proposed field trials will be conducted in strict accordance with all 
the requirements of the national Department of Agriculture, Directorate of 
Genetic Resources.

The National Department of Agriculture invites anybody wishing to make 
comments, to submit these in writing within 30 days from publication of 
this public notice to following address:

Registrar: Genetically Modified Organisms Private Bag X973 PRETORIA 0001

Syngenta SeedCo (Pty) Ltd, Thornhill Office Park, Building 9 & 10 94 Bekker 
Street, Midrand, Private Bag X60, Halfway House, 1685



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