Crop Biotech Update

Experts Call for Reassessment of GM Plants Regulation in South Africa

March 9, 2022

South Africa should reconsider their approaches in regulating genome-edited plants. This is according to The Conversation article written by plant biotech experts, James Lloyd from Stellenbosch University, Dave Berger from the University of Pretoria, and Priyen Pillay from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

According to the authors, the country has taken an unfortunate approach to regulating genome-edited plants when the government classified genome-edited plants as genetically modified crops in October 2021. This decision was based on its definition of a GMO in a 25-year-old piece of legislation instead of the current science-based risk analysis considerations.

“…this regulatory approach will greatly inhibit the development of improved crops for South African farmers. It will place an unnecessary regulatory burden on bio-innovators. This will discourage local investment for in-house research and development, as well as projects in the public sector. Local entrepreneurs who aim to enhance local crops' climate resilience or to develop specialty products for niche markets through genome editing will be thwarted by the need to raise disproportionate funding to fulfill current regulations,” they wrote.

The experts recommend a product-based approach to regulating GM crop safety. This approach evaluates the risk and benefits of GM crops on a case-by-case basis. Through this approach, any plant with extra DNA inserted into the genome would be considered as a GMO, while plants without extra DNA and that are indistinguishable from their conventional counterpart should be regulated as a conventionally produced plant. Several countries have taken this approach including Argentina, China, Japan, the US, Australia, Brazil, and Nigeria.

Read the original article in The Conversation.

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