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It is also investigating use of tobacco plants to produce vaccines for human use. This project is at the field trial stage.
Also, in collaboration with overseas partners, the CSIR has intro- duced four antifungal genes into maize to confer resistance to Fitsarium mo- niliforme. Pearl millet has been engineered to render it resistant to Sclerospora graminicola, which causes downy mildew Thomson, However, most of these results have remained at the laboratory level. While a few have gone to field trial, none has gone on to development of a commercial variety.
Most of the research was done as proof of concept and without sub- stantial funding to support the comprehensive and long-term process of devel- oping a real marketable product; these applications stayed on the shelf. International collaboration and public-private partnerships are an impor- tant part of some research programmes. The main multinational agricultural biotechnology and seed companies in South Africa Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred have not set out to do groundbreaking biotech research in the country.
Rather, they have introduced their already developed technologies or acquired events into locally developed germplasm and are focussing their resources on developing improved varieties and hybrids, making use of marker-assisted breeding. Monsanto not only sells its Bt gene in its own hybrids but also licences this gene to other maize seed companies in South Africa, including a local seed company, Pannar, for use in its hybrids.
Pannar has recently invested in a new biotechnology centre at its head office in Greytown, KZN. Activities will focus on monitoring genetic quality through the plant breeding and seed production processes and ensuring quick- er and more targeted plant breeding through the use of gene technologies such as marker-assisted breeding. The centre will not only support Pannar Seed's plant breeding programmes in SA but will also work closely with Pannar's re- search operations in the US, Argentina and Europe and will be used extensive- ly to enhance the vegetable breeding capabilities of Pannar's sister company, Stark Ayres.
It is be- lieved that biotechnology can play a major role in addressing these objectives DACST, Realizing that South Africa has failed to optimally extract value from the recent advances in biotechnology the government released a National Biotech- nology Strategy for South Africa in , The document Government of South Africa, again identifies biotechnology as a key technology platform from which to address the above-mentioned national imperatives and announces a series of policy initiatives to stimulate the development of an active and productive South African biotechnology industry.
The government committed R million approximately USS75 million from to to fund these initiatives. Several initiatives have since emerged. Three BRICs have been set up, focussing on diverse aspects and areas of applications from human health to industry to crops and livestock. Another initiative was creation of the National Innovation Centre for Plant Biotechnology PlantBio , focusing on all aspects of plant biotechnology.
In early , the South African Agency of Science and Technology Ad- vancement launched the programme Public Understanding of Biotechnology PUB to promote broad public awareness and a clear understanding of the potential of biotechnology in food and agriculture and to stimulate dialogue and debate on its current and potential future applications, including genetic modification. The target audience includes all facets of society with emphasis on consumers, educators and learners.
In a recently released study commis- sioned under the programme, it was found that South Africa's knowledge and understanding of biotechnology is limited. In reply to the question 'What do you think when you hear the word biotechnology? Another initiative, the National Bioin format ics Network NBN , was cre- ated to develop capacity in bioin form a tics in South Africa, especially among previously disadvantaged groups.
Its vision is to bring South Africa into the mainstream of this field within ten years, making it a leader among developing countries. A number of new companies have made use of this initiative, which currently has four tenant firms. Biosafety regulation In , the South African Committee for Genetic Experimentation was formed to be responsible for promotion of all aspects of recombinant DNA, provide guidelines, and approve and classify research centres and projects. This structure was succeeded by the provision of the Genetically Modified Or- ganisms Act that established three new structures to regulate all aspects of GM crops: the Executive Council the national, independent decision-making body that includes representatives of Departments of Agriculture, Environment, Tourism, Health, Trade and Industry, Labour, and Science and Technology ; the Scientific Advisory Committee; and the Registrar and Inspectorate in the Ministry of Agriculture that monitors local implementation.
GM crop regulations stipulate that the process of approval or rejection of The Gem Revolution: GM Crops and Unequal Development an application should not take longer than 90 days for a decision on field trials and days for a decision on general release applications Thomson, In the period to , more than permits for glasshouse and field trials, contained use, commodity clearance, imports and exports were reviewed and granted. The applications for commercial release of insect resistant cotton and maize and herbicide tolerant cotton, maize and soybeans were reviewed and approved in what has been regarded internationally as a scientifically re- sponsible yet efficient manner.
Intellectual property rights SA has well developed legislation on intellectual property rights IPR , patent rights and plant breeders' rights and a respected legal and judiciary system to enforce compliance. Under the Patent Act, the patenting of plants and animals or natural re- sources is excluded. GM varieties are usually protected under a patent on the genetic construct and claims associated with the modification, a trademark on the name and often a plant breeder's right for the specific variety.
Sale of GM seed is often accompanied by a contract stipulating that farmers shall not retain seed for distribution or sales purposes. The government is currently drafting legislation for a revised IPR frame- work.
The Gene Revolution: GM Crops and Unequal Development, by Sakiko Fukuda‐ Parr (ed.). London and Sterling, VA: Earthscan, The high-yield selective breeding of 'the Green Revolution' of the s and '70s is now being overtaken by 'the Gene Revolution' - the development and.
It is expected that, among other things, the review will examine the im- pact that the current IPR framework has on development goals and provide more incentives to research. It lias been suggested that the new legislation might roughly follow the US Bayh-Dole Act, in which research institutions are granted ownership of inventions developed with government funds, but it would also have to take into account the relative youth and small size of the biotechnology sector.
Maize farmers in South Africa who buy and plant hybrid seed are used to buying seed each season in their quest to obtain the best quality and highest yield-potential seed possible. Seed cotton is delivered into a closed cycle where the seed is delinted by a cotton gin and then delivered to the seed supplier or into the animal feed supply chain. Farmers are allowed to replant their harvested seeds on their own farms but for them to try to delint and clean South Africa: Revealing the Potential and Obstacles, the Private Sector Model and Reaching the Traditional Sector cotton seed with a specialized acid treatment in order to make it clean enough for planting with a mechanical planter is hardly worth the effort and also runs the risk of damaging seeds.
So South African cotton farmers also have to buy seed every season. Governing soybean replanting is more difficult. Farmers are allowed to replant their own harvested soybean seed but, as with cotton, not allowed to sell or distribute it to neighbours since the seed variety is protected by plant breeders' rights and the technology trait by property rights. It is estimated that between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the soybeans in SA are produced from replanted seeds.
This system is not ideal, as not all farmers deliver their harvest to an official silo or buyer, but it is probably less arduous than policing every soybean farmer at planting time. South Africa's climate is not well suited to soybean production and as a net importer, it produces only about , hectares of the crop annually, depending on the season and the price of maize. The South African variety list of October had more than registered white and yellow maize hybrids available for commercial production.
These hybrids are sold by 18 companies but four companies dominate the market. The South African company Pannar owns 44 per cent of the hybrids on the variety list, Monsanto 23 per cent, Pioneer Hi-bred 18 per cent and Syngenta 16 per cent. Only the ARC and Pannar have purposefully invested in development and marketing of maize varieties more conducive to subsistence farming.
Email citation. The main multinational agricultural biotechnology and seed companies in South Africa Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred have not set out to do groundbreaking biotech research in the country. Book - Earthscan. A number of studies showed that farmers on the Flats benefited from Bt cotton adoption, mainly through increased yields and fewer pesticide applica- tions. The final part takes the analysis a step further by comparing developing and transitional country experiences, and charts a future course for government policy on GM that supports growth, sustainability and equity for the many billions of people affected worldwide. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues.
Syngenta with its partnership with Seedco , which recently relocated to Zambia from Zimbabwe, might also be heading in this direction. The truth is that there have been few constraints to the commercial dis- semination of GM crops in South Africa. With plant breeders' rights, intel- lectual property rights, a well-developed seed sector and infrastructure and the biosafety regulatory system in place, the introduction and commercialization t90 The Gene Revolution: GM Crops and Unequal Development of GM crops in South Africa has been smooth, commercially safe and straight- forward for multinational biotcch innovators.
The vast majority of South Africa's population has been totally oblivious, uninformed or indifferent concerning the commercial introduction of GM crops and food, although the debate remains highly polarized and adversarial between the pro and anti groups. Activists on both sides indignantly reject the validity of their opponents' arguments, claiming the moral high ground while the government plays a rather passive role Wolson, SAFeAGE calls on the government to impose a minimum five-year morato- rium on field trials and commercial releases of GM crops in order to ensure that, when released, the technology will have been proven safe, environmen- tally harmless and in the interest of the South African people.
Through a court case, Biowatch has recently been able to increase the amount and accuracy of information the biosafety regulatory authority has to publicly release regarding permit applications. Even though delayed release of a technology has financial implications for biotechnology companies - and po- tentially more importantly, for farmers - it can be argued that these anti-GM groups play a necessary, if mostly unappreciated, watchdog role in keeping the regulatory system and seed and biotechnology companies honest.
South Africa's commercial farmers, hungry for technology that can increase efficiency and profitability, are operating in an environment where production credit and information is available. The major challenge for commercial dis- semination of GM crops in the country is how to make these technologies ac- cessible to small-scale farmers, whom they can greatly benefit, but who struggle to afford the technology and inputs that accompany them. As was shown in the Makhatini Flats example, for a crop like cotton, where the harvest can be used as collateral, expensive inputs can be purchased with credit.
However, for food crops like maize, no production credits are available to subsistence farmers as these crops arc produced for household consumption.
Land, in most instances, cannot serve as collateral either because the vast majority of small-scale farm- ers do not own the land on which they live and farm; it belongs to the local tribe and farmers merely have permission to occupy it. Results have shown that small-scale farmers benefit from the use of GM maize, in many instances more than large-scale farmers.
By employing con- servation tillage, controlling weeds with chemical herbicides and using her- bicide tolerant varieties, farmers should also be able to decrease the need for expensive, mechanized land cultivation, as well as for labour required for weeding, usually done by family members. Monsanto has or- ganized days for small-scale farmers demonstrating the virtues of conservation tillage and, with seeds, markets input packages and a corresponding quantity of herbicide, specifically aimed at them.
The ARC has also been advocating conservation tillage practices.