ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  12 November 2000


1.    SA struggles to certify GM-free exports
2     Organic farm shops plough profit back into community

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1.     SA struggles to certify GM-free exports - Reuters,1466,2-8-25_938502,00.html 10/11/2000 14:51 - (SA)

Pretoria - South Africa’s directorate of genetic resources is receiving increasing requests for certificates guaranteeing GM-free products, but there are hitches, the head of the directorate said on Friday.

Farmers and exporters are finding markets where there is a demand for food free of genetic modification (GM) and require a state letter backing their guarantee, said Shadrack Moephuli, director of genetic resources in the agriculture department.

“If farmers ask for that guarantee, we can do it without much problem, but when an intermediary asks, that’s very, very difficult,” Moephuli told Reuters.

Moephuli explained farmers were best placed to say their crop was free of genetic alteration whereas traders, who mostly sourced products such as grain from silos, were not.

“It is virtually impossible for traders to know exactly where their product comes from, particularly if it has been stored in a silo which takes in product from hundreds of farmers.” The high costs of testing exports for genetically modified organisms ruled out tests on exports by the state, he said

“We have to rely on someone’s word, but if they lie they will be held liable because they have falsely represented the facts,” he said.


Japan is likely to step up purchases of South African and South American maize because of fears that GM varieties could slip into shipments from the United States.

The departments of health and agriculture were working hard to implement regulations that would encompass food labelling and more problematically identity preservation, Moephuli said.

Identity preservation would entail tracking GM crops from seed to where it was planted, where it was stored after harvesting, where it was transported to and where it was sold.

“Our concern is that it will become a very expensive exercise to the agricultural industry and the costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer,” he said.

South Africa is entering its 2000/01 summer crops season and there are no figures yet for the size of GM crops.

South Africa produced 10.14 million tonnes of maize from 3.2 million hectares last season, of which 3.986 million tonnes was yellow, with an estimated six percent of that being GM, and 6.155 million tonnes was white.

Yellow maize is used for animal feed and white maize is a human staple.  The directorate was also considering a request from European firm Aventis SA to conduct research trials on insect-resistant maize.

He said the marker gene in the maize was different to the one that could trigger an allergic reaction in humans in the StarLink variety. The application was being assessed by a board of experts and he declined to say whether it would be approved.

2.    The Sunday Times - 12 November  2000 - BUSINESS

    A firm that sells natural products made by Czech villagers is sowing its seeds in Britain.  By Claire Oldfield

Organic farm shops plough profit back into community
MIXING business with ethics does not usually result in a profitable enterprise. But Dr Malcolm Stuart’s natural-products firm, Botanicus, is the exception to the rule.

This year Botanicus, which consists of shops filled with goods produced in a village in the Czech Republic, will have sales that run into several millions.

Profits made will go back into developing Botanicus and ensuring that Ostra, the village outside
Prague that Stuart started developing in 1992 with just £500, continues to flourish.

For Stuart the success of Botanicus is the realisation of a dream. There are now 26 shops in the Czech Republic and an international roll-out is under way with the opening of the first British Botanicus shop in London. All the goods in the shops are produced in Ostra and made by the locals.

Stuart says: “Botanicus rapidly became a mix of a franchise scheme with the Czechs and company shops. We decided that about 30 shops and a small centre of 25 acres of organic-producing land was a good model for the rest of the world.”

Botanicus has secured backing from The Body Shop through Stuart’s friendship and business relationship with its co-chairman, Gordon Roddick. On the surface The Body Shop concept is not dissimilar to Botanicus: both use natural ingredients to produce goods and both claim an ethical standpoint.

But Botanicus’s offering goes much further than The Body Shop, offering foodstuffs and home fragrances, organic wines and beeswax candles as well as a few cosmetics. Botanicus is an entire concept - land is farmed to produce the ingredients for the goods that are sold, locals are employed to pack and weave, the village itself is a tourist attraction and craftsmen such as stone masons are fully trained.

Although Stuart is keen to grow the company, his ambitions are on a small scale. He says: “We don’t intend to become a massive organisation. But we do see replication of the concept in other places with like-minded people.”

Stuart is keen to find a site like Ostra in Britain to provide produce for the British shops. “There’s a need to support communities in different parts of the world,” he says.

Stuart was a pioneer in the world of botanics. He learnt about plants in Africa and brought his findings back to an unreceptive Britain during the 1970s. But he persevered and gained a reputation as an expert in plant medicine. He presented a television series and his Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism became a bestseller. Stuart also acted as a consultant to companies such as The Body Shop and Boots.

Despite his success, Stuart wanted to put more back. He says: “The customer deserved something better. In the early 1990s I went to Prague and this was the opportunity to develop a new concept.
“I wanted organic produce from the land and to convert the farm to a manufacturing centre, to train people in languages and open a shop. I wanted to do it in my own way, miles from nowhere.”

Despite Ostra’s remoteness, the farm had 1,000 visitors in its first month. “We put profit back into the village. We rebuilt the school and dug out the sewers,” says Stuart.

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