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GMO - Genetically Modified Food

Genetically Modified products in South Africa

Compiled by Lela Rabie

What is a GMO?

When an organisms genetic material has been changed, basically its DNA has been tampered with, using genetic engineering techniques, it is known as a GMO, a Genetically Modified Organism. In some cases, it can also be known as a GEO or genetically engineered organism.1

How does Genetic Modification work?

Genetic engineering takes a short cut to the usual process where individuals of the same species mate and the species grows stronger through inherited genes. In genetic engineering genes are physically transferred from one living thing directly into the centre of a cell (called the nucleus) of something else, which is often from a completely different species. For example, contrary to what normally happens in nature, in the process of genetic engineering, genes can be transferred between animals and plants.2

Harmonisation of Africas seed laws: death knell for African seed systems

Please share the information below widely!

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has released its new report titled, ‘Harmonisation of Africa’s seed laws: a recipe for disaster- Players, motives and dynamics. The report shows how African governments are being co-opted into harmonising seed laws relating to border control measures, phytosanitary control, variety release systems, certification standards and intellectual property rights, to the detriment of African small-holder farmers and their seed systems.

African Civil Society calls on the African Union to ban genetically modified crops

This in from our friends at the African Centre for Biosafety:

An urgent appeal has been made to the African Union (AU) to discuss a ban on the cultivation, import and export of genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa at the next AU summit, to be held in January 2013. An African Civil Society Statement, signed by over 400 African organisations representing small-scale farmers, faith-based organisations, social movements, non-governmental organisations, organic producers, consumers, business people and ordinary citizens, has been sent to the Permanent Representative Council (PRC) of the AU.

ARIPO PVP law undermines Farmers Rights; Food Security in Africa

This just in from our friends at the African Centre for Biosafety (

(Dar es Salaam, Harare, Kampala, Johannesburg). The African Regional
Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) has proposed a draft
regional harmonized policy and legal framework on Plant Variety
Protection (PVP), based on the International Union for the Protection
of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention of 1991. The draft legal
framework, if adopted, will have significant adverse consequences for
small-scale farmers that dominate the agricultural landscape of ARIPO
member states,1 as well as for food security, agricultural
biodiversity and national sovereignty in Africa.

African civil society organizations (CSO) have submitted a detailed
critique to ARIPO on the 6 November 2012, expressing their grave
concerns with regard to the fundamentally flawed process involved in
developing the draft PVP policy and legal framework, as well as with
the legal framework itself. According to Mariam Mayet of the African
Centre for Biosafety “The legal framework will not only facilitate
the theft of African germplasm and privatization of seed breeding. It
will ensure the unhindered creation of a commercial seed market, where
the types of seeds on offer are restricted to commercially protected
varieties within a context where farmers’ rights to freely use,
exchange and sell farm-saved seed are seriously eroded.”

The African CSO submission is available at

According to Michael Farrelly from the Tanzania Alliance for
Biodiversity, “the proposed ARIPO law does not take into account the
4.8 million smallholder farmers in Tanzania who depend on agriculture
for their livelihoods, with the vast majority using farm saved seed to
ensure their food security. The proposed legal framework is intent on
handing over Tanzania’s food and seed sovereignty to foreign
corporations, reducing the availability of local plant varieties,
weakening Tanzania’s rich biodiversity, and denying millions of
farmers the right to breed and share crops needed to feed their

“We are deeply disappointed with ARIPO for adopting the UPOV
1991-style PVP law and completely ignoring the African Model
Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities,
Farmers and Breeders. The Model law is much more appropriate in
meeting the needs of ARIPO member states in addressing poverty and the
challenges of climate change” said Moses Mulumba from Center for
Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) in Uganda.

The legal framework has been developed by the ARIPO Secretariat in
consultation with an elite club consisting of the UPOV Secretariat,
multiple actors from the seed industry including CIOPORA, the African
Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), the French National Seed and Seedling
Association (GNIS)) and foreign organizations such as the United
States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Community
Plant Variety Office (CPVO).

The participation of farmers, farmer movements and civil society
organizations has been conspicuously absent.

“It is unimaginable that ARIPO could facilitate and encourage
African governments to adopt a comprehensive UPOV 1991 law without
first ensuring that all stakeholders are thoroughly consulted. Before
any further action or decision is taken, it is essential for ARIPO to
undertake comprehensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders
and desist from rushing governments into adopting the draft
legislation.” said Andrew Mushita from the Community Technology
Development Trust, Zimbabwe.

The ARIPO Administrative Council is expected to meet in Zanzibar on
26-30th November 2012 to discuss inter alia the legal framework and
decide whether ARIPO should join UPOV 1991. Decisions will also be
made with regard to ARIPO’s regional office granting and
administering of PVP centrally.

Civil Society groups in Africa, reiterate their calls on ARIPO member
states to:

Reject the development of the ARIPO PVP legal framework on the basis
of UPOV 1991 and for ARIPO states not to join UPOV;
Support the development of a legal framework that acknowledges the
contribution of farmers as breeders and upholds and promotes the
customary practices of small-scale farmers;
Reject the development of a legal framework based on a “one grant
system” (whereby the ARIPO office has the power to grant and
administer breeders’ rights on behalf of all the Contracting
Provide adequate opportunities for consultations with farmers, farmer
movements and civil society organizations before any further work is
undertaken; and
Make available publicly all information with regard to the process
and timelines involved in developing the draft regional policy and
legal framework.

1 ARIPO member states include the following countries: Botswana,
Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,
Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and

For more information:

Mariam Mayet: Tel: +27 83 269 4309 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Andrew Mushita Tel: + 263 - 4 – 576108 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Michael Farrelly Tel: +255 (0) 755 503 089 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mulumba, Moses Tel:+256 414 – 532283 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

**This press release is supported by:**

African Biodiversity Network (ABN)

representing 36 organisations in Africa

La Via Campesina Afrique

representing small scale farmers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique,
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania,
Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Central Africa Republic

Movement for Ecological Learning and Community Action (MELCA)


Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD)


Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)


National coordination of peasant organisations of Mali (CNOP)


Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy


Never Ending Food


Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)



South Africa

African Centre for Biosafety (ACB)

South Africa


South Africa

DIAKONIA Council of Churches

South Africa

Earthlife Africa eThekwini

South Africa

Farm & Garden Trust

South Africa

Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)




Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)


Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity


Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement


Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)


Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)


Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF)


Food Rights Alliance (FRA)


National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU)


Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM)


Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations
Institute (SEATINI)


Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO)


Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT)