South Africans that protested against Monsanto and Genetically Modified Organisms in Cape Town in 2016, will be happy to learn the recent decision by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Thoko Didiza, against Agriculture chemical company Monsanto.
On 21 May 2016, the South African pro-organic, anti-transgenic Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) campaign in Cape Town was part of the international event ‘March Against Monsanto’ held on 6 continents and over 500 cities worldwide.
The social media and website platforms of the anti-Monsanto lobby in South Africa state that research has shown that Monsanto’s GM foods “can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumours, infertility and birth defects” and that “the seeds are bad for the environment”.
Many activists see this as much as a battle against the effects of GMOs ‘as it is against giant monopolies that exercise huge influence and control over citizens across the globe’.
Now last week, Minister Didiza, has upheld a decision to reject agriculture chemical company Monsanto’s application for the commercial cultivation of its triple stacked ‘drought-tolerant’ maize seed.
The Minister made a final decision on the appeal lodged by Monsanto South Africa (Pty) Limited against the decision taken by the Executive Council regarding the general release application of a genetically modified maize event MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603.
The maize is genetically modified to be tolerant to drought as well as resistant to certain insects
The Executive Council (EC) took a decision to refuse the application and the reasons for the refusal was due to the fact that Kernel count per row and kernel count per ear showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event and conventional maize in water limited conditions.
“Also the yield benefits associated with the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event were inconsistent and in some trials the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event had lower yields than the conventional maize,
Lastly, the insect resistance data presented was insufficient since it was only collected from one trial site for two planting seasons,” argued the ministry.
Monsanto lodged an appeal against the EC’s refusal of their general release application of maize event MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 on 02 November 2018.
The matter was referred to the appeal board appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in terms of Section 19 of the Genetically Modified Organisms Act, 1997 (Act No. 15 of 1997).
The Appeal Board deliberated on the matter and upheld the EC’s decision to refuse the application and recommended that more sites and seasons are needed to demonstrate efficacy of the drought tolerance gene in MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event.
The reasons for the appeal board decision included that Kernel data cannot be used as the main criterion for efficacy of the drought tolerance trait; it can however be used as supporting evidence.
“The drought tolerance gene in the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event did not provide yield protection in water-limited conditions.”
On 28 August 2019 the Minister made the final decision and upheld the Appeal Board’s decision and as such the refusal of a general release application for the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event is sustained.