Crop Biotech Update

South African Seed Growers Appeal for NBT Not to be Regulated as GMOs

January 19, 2022

South African seed industry organizations led by the South African National Seed Organization (SANSOR) released a joint statement after the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) announced that products derived from new breeding technologies will be evaluated under the risk assessment framework used for genetically modified organisms. In the statement, the seed industry organizations highlighted the possible detrimental effects of the decision on the nation's agricultural industry.

The seed producers highlighted that it will be nearly impossible to completely identify, classify, and test whether a product's genetic changes were created through conventional breeding, random mutation, or NBT. Among the possible effects of the decision that were cited are:

  • Unsurmountable challenges for regulators to provide asynchronous decisions among South Africa's trading partners.
  • The creation of trade barriers in South Africa with its partners may result in food insecurity.
  • The implementation of additional regulatory and registration costs for suppliers of NBT products to access the South African market resulting in time delays, or even bypassing the nation itself.
  • The discouragement in the research and development of biotechnology by active South African innovators.
  • The inability for South African farmers to access the latest innovative technologies that can help them attain sustainable food production with minimal environmental impact.
  • Lastly, the inability of consumers to have access to better end-products.

The seed industry organizations emphasized that South Africa's agricultural sector must remain competitive in international trade. While they disagree with DALRRD's decision, they are open to working together with DALRRD and the Executive Council of the GMO Act to eliminate obstacles and facilitate effective, efficient, and evidence-based regulation of NBT-derived products through the promotion of science-based regulation. The seed industry organizations are committed to actively work with policymakers and the government to find mutually acceptable solutions to cultivate a regulatory environment that can promote innovation and competitiveness while providing a reliable risk-assessment framework.

Read the full statement published by SANSOR to know more.

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