GENET archive


APPROVAL / PLANTS: South African government rejects 'unsafe' GEmaize

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Government rejects 'unsafe' modified maize
SOURCE: IOL, South Africa
AUTHOR: Cape Times, South Africa, by Melanie Gosling
DATE:   28.03.2007

Government rejects 'unsafe' modified maize

The government has rejected a seed company's application to grow
genetically modified (GM) maize in South Africa for the biofuel industry.

The GM maize, called "maize event 3 272", is the first GM industrial
crop in the world for which approval has been sought for cultivation.

The government turned down the application from seed company Syngenta
because it said it had not convincingly shown that the maize was safe
for food or animal feed.

Although the GM maize was intended to feed cars, not people, the
government said it was possible that the GM maize would become mixed
with ordinary maize grown for food.

The department of agriculture's executive council, which regulates the
GM industry, also said the GM maize could harm South Africa's maize
export industry.

The GM maize strain had not been released for commercial use in any
other country and, once grown commercially, it could enter international
trade routes, said the council.

"Contamination of South African export products with Event 3 272 could
jeopardise the export of maize products and may have serious economic
consequences," it said.

A third reason was that the company had not used World Health
Organisation methods for evaluating whether the new GM maize contained

Julian Jaftha, who chairs the executive council, said on Tuesday that
Event 3 272 maize was a specific type of genetic modification and "there
is always a chance it gets mixed up with other maize".

Ken Flower, of Syngenta, said yesterday that he could not comment as he
had not yet seen the government's reasons for rejecting the application.

Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety, a watchdog
organisation monitoring the GM industry, welcomed the move.

"This is the first time (the government) has refused a new variety of GM
crop on food safety grounds.

"It is a historic decision and sets a very important precedent," Mayet said.

She said the government's earlier rejection of GM sorghum and GM cassava
was on environmental grounds.

She said the enzyme used in the GM maize for biofuels came from a
microscopic marine organism.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Keep modified cassava behind glass - regulators
SOURCE: Business Day, South Africa
AUTHOR: Tamar Kahn
DATE:   22.03.2007

Keep modified cassava behind glass -- regulators

CAPE TOWN -- Government has turned down an application by the Agriculture
Research Council to conduct field trials on genetically modified
cassava, saying it wants scientists to first show the plants are stable
in contained greenhouse experiments.

The cassava has been engineered to improve its starch content for
industrial purposes such as biofuel production, and is not intended for
animal feed or human consumption.

The decision signals South African regulators' careful scrutiny of
proposed research in this controversial field. Although SA is one of
only a handful of African countries with a legal framework governing
genetically modified crops, activists have charged that government lacks
the capacity to enforce the rules.

The executive council of the directorate of genetic resources management
in the agriculture department had rejected the council's application to
import baby genetically modified cassava plants and use them in field
trials without first conducting tests in the secure environment of a
glasshouse, said the agriculture department's Julian Jaftha.

Attempts to obtain comment from the research council's scientists were
unsuccessful. The department had asked the council to gather data on the
stability of the genes inserted into the plants from glasshouse studies
before it would consider giving the go-ahead for field trials. It also
wanted additional information on trials conducted in the Virgin Islands.

The decision was welcomed by the African Centre for Biosafety, which
interpreted the move as a sign that regulators were taking an
increasingly cautious approach to research on genetically modified crops.

"We not government bashers -- we are just concerned about safety," said
the centre's director, Mariam Mayet

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