ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

19 July 2002


----- Original Message -----
From: "ekogaia" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2002 9:13 PM
Subject: South African GE news in the Earth Summit Build up; attack on position papers

Hi All,

Below this introduction is a letter, copied in full, emanating from AfricaBio, a so-called NGO that has somehow managed to register with SANGOCO, the South African Non Governmental Coalition, one of the main bodies organising on behalf of the South African (SA) civil society component under the UN Civil Society Secretariat in Johannesburg.

AfricaBio is a section 21 company, which under SA Law, makes it a non-profit company. AfricaBio is a lobbying group composed of industry and academic interests in SA supporting biotechnology. The membership of this organisation has supplied many of the main lobbyists that have promoted the use of GMOs as a South African state policy, with great success. This group is largely responsible, together with its membership, for SA being completely out of step with the rest of Africa in its embrace of Genetically Modified crops. South Africa is almost alone in Africa in its ignoral and failure to ratify or recognise either the African Position and the precepts of the African Model Biosafety Law, again, largely due to the work of AfricaBio and its membership.

AfricaBio is driven by a substantial membership fee to support its interests. Corporate membership runs at a much higher rate than academic and also carries a higher voting power. This organisation is therefore extremely well resourced, having this commercial backing. It engages in continual lobbying such as we see here, which is fine and well but it is the manner in which this lobbying takes place that is questionable. AfricaBio wishes to place one foot in the civil society side of the summit, the other in the business side of the summit, ensuring that it speaks to the head, the main UN negotiating forum. Its a case of heads you win, tails you win.

For an organisation such as this to portray itself as the only objective, reliable and responsible representative for issues related to GE is a bit rich, to put it mildly. They are wildly biased, self-interested and opinionated, hiding PR and spin behind a veil of apparently respectable science. This is what civil society is up against when we begin work in Johannesburg. I trust you are all still game!

In this letter, this Industry support group, that has insinuated itself into a so called civil society process shows how little care for due process is given by this organisation. Not only will this group be involved in the Business aspect of summit negotiations, but now also wishes to represent "the people". This is obscene misrepresentation. Please take up this issue with your respective organisations in your nations and share your concerns.

If any of you are interested, I also have a letter from AfricaBio to our national broadcaster complaining about a TV programme that they thought was biased. Their stamina is impressive; perhaps the clones are amongst us already!

Against this is arrayed the might of an organisation of two part time workers and a dedicated team of volunteers representing real civil society. SAFeAGE represents around 200, 000 people in South Africa, yet as you can see below, are referred to as a well-known group of misinformed activists who, for the purposes of their own agenda, are seeking to introduce a moratorium on the sale of genetically modified food in South Africa. We are the only NGO questioning GE in SA as our core function.

This shows neatly how democratic processes are being undermined by corporate and special interest groups in the WSSD process. They attempt to marginalise those standing up for their rights by portraying opponents as misinformed activists, not as concerned citizens.This is clearly an attempt to subvert due process.

Even though GE is not really in the chairmans text, it stands a good chance of being at least one of the most prominent issues as the Earth Summit, Rio+10, call it what you will. When it was renamed the World Summit on Sustainable Development I fear it was a step towards being suborned by corporate interests seeking economic, not ecological, sustainability.

Such is the mountain up which we must push this rock in Johannesburg this spring. Spring is beautiful here; come, and together we will sit victorious at the summit.


Glenn Ashton


(Association incorporated under  Section 21)
Reg. No:  2000/001848/08

15 Stopford Road
P. O. Box 873
South Africa

Tel. (012) 667 2689   International (27-12) 667 2689
Date:  12 July  2001
Fax (012) 667 1920   International (27-12) 667 1920

Dear Mr. Munnik,

On behalf of AfricaBio, I would like to register our strong objection to the following  statements that appear in two Position Papers placed on your organizations website

a) In the Draft Environment and Health Position Paper it is stated:

*Äú3.4.6. Air, water, soils and food quality control  Food ÔÇ* Government should prohibit the sale of genetically modified foods products.  Pending such a prohibition, people must be educated about the dangers of genetically modified products and these products must be labeled clearly to indicate their genetically modified status.*Äù

This often repeated and monotonous statement represents the view of a well-known group of misinformed activists who, for the purposes of their own agenda, are seeking to introduce a moratorium on the sale of genetically modified food in South Africa. Their call for such a prohibition completely ignores the fact that all GMO crops currently grown in South Africa have been thoroughly examined both in South Africa and overseas and have found to be safe for human consumption.  In South Africa, food safety is regulated by the National Department of Health in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act No. 54 of 1972) and GMO*Äôs are assessed in terms of the GMO Act 1997 (Act No. 15 of 1997).  The above statement also directly contradicts the policy and strategy of the South African government, (please see the National Biotechnology Strategy for South Africa published by the Department of Arts, Culture Science & Technology), as well as the opinion of many local consumers and consumer organizations.

The GM crops presently being grown commercially in South Africa have already been consumed by more than 260 million people in the USA over the past 6 years without any confirmed harmful effect.

Needless restrictions on agricultural biotechnology harm the world's ability to battle hunger in the 21st century. The concerns of anti-biotechnology campaigners are not supported by peer-reviewed scientific reports or data from extensive field trials.  These studies have been carried out by reputable international bodies such as the FAO, WHO, OECD, Australia/New Zealand Food Authority, EU scientists, the UNDP and the Royal Academy of Science that includes data from seven developing countries.  Furthermore, the notion that even hypothetical risks should be enough to keep new products off the market, regardless of their potential benefits, is doing a grave disservice to the poor and hungry people of our continent.

This statement in a Position Paper produced by an organization that purports to represent the interests of South African civil society, can only damage the organizations credibility and cause untold hardship to the very people it seeks to champion.

b) In the Draft Position Paper on the Conservation of Biological Diversity, including Biodiversity Loss it is stated:

Threats to earth*Äôs biological diversity are real.  Amongst the major threats, which should be countered at national and international level, include:

ÔÇ* the introduction and spread of alien plant and animal species

- genetic engineering which threatens the natural propagation of seed.*Äù

Again this is an example of the misinformation being propagated by the activists mentioned above.  How genetic engineering can threaten the natural propagation of seed remains a mystery to those who are informed about the science of biotechnology, research workers and breeders of seed   In fact, quite the contrary is true - biotechnology offers the means to conserve the rich biodiversity that is South Africa*Äôs heritage.

As a member of SANGOCO (Membership No. GP 5462), AfricaBio aims to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of biotechnology towards the sustainable development and poverty alleviation of all the inhabitants of South Africa.  Statements, such as those outlined above, are examples of the outrageous misinformation being spread by activist groups in Europe to halt the use of biotechnology and protect specific markets   And this despite the overwhelming bulk of evidence being produced by reputable organizations such as the United Nations World Health Organisation, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation, the Royal Society of London, and scientists to indicate that GMO foods that have been approved for commercial release hold no greater risk to man or his environment than do their conventional counterparts.

As a member of SANGOCO, therefore, AfricaBio expects these misleading and incorrect statements to be removed from the respective Position Papers.  At the same time I would like to ask whether these two papers were ever circulated to AfricaBio and other SANGOCO members for comment before being placed on the World Summit website?

Should you wish any further information, on any of these subjects, please do not hesitate to contact me.

With kind regards.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. David P. Keetch    Amb. Bennie M*ÄôPoko
President (AfricaBio)    (Vice-President:AfricaBio)

P O Box 873  Irene   0062
TEL : +27 12 667 2689
FAX : +27 12 667 1920

Dr D Keetch (President), Mr. K Mbijjewe (Kenya), Mr. B M*ÄôPoko (Congo)
(Vice-President), Mr. P Pickering,
Prof. J Thomson,  Mr. N Tselentis, Dr W van der Walt, Dr J Webster
(Executive Director), Dr.G. Thomson

"May the God who created all things, enlighten the minds of persons who set their sights on profit and wealth, rather than the safety and integrity of creation." Philippine Catholic Bishop Sergio Utleg, in a statement berating Monsanto. September, 2001.

"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector," THE LANCET, April 2000

"We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organisation of society." --- Albert Einstein; May 1949

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