RNA Interference GMOs to enter South Africa and Nigeria

The African Center for Biodiversity warns that the South African government recently received an application for use of a new variety of GM Maize.


The African Center for Biodiversity(ACB) warns in an alert published August 10th, that the South African government recently received an application for the import, feed and processing of a new variety of GM Maize, MON87411. This GM Maize is a “multi-stacked variety” meaning it is created through conventional breeding of four distinct genetically modified varieties of maize. Unlike standard first-generation GMOs, this variety uses something called the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, which means that double-stranded RNAs are introduced into the gene which work to silence certain genes. The new gene editing technique has not been properly assessed for risk before applying to go to the market, according to the ACB’s knowledge of Monsanto’s risk assessment procedure, and ACB lists the potential risks to include possible exposure following consumption, or the potential for off-target regulation of unintended genetic pathways. Such GMOs are the latest in the GM push on the wider African continent. Nigeria has recently received an application for the field trials of a GM cassava variety that also use RNAi to reduce the amount of starch in cassava, with the purported aim of preventing starch breakdown during storage. Read the ACB’s full report here.




What the Monsanto-Bayer Merger Means for South Africa

This past December 2016, Monsanto shareholders agreed to the sale of their company to German Agro-chemical and seed company Bayer, for $66 million US Dollars. It will be the largest ever foreign corporate takeover in US history. The newly merged company will now control 29 percent of the world’s seed markets, and 24 percent of the world’s pesticide market. AGRA Watch partner The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Foundation, has published a paper called, ‘The BAYER-MONSANTO merger: Implications for South Africa’s agricultural future and its smallholder farmers”, outlining the proposed merger.

ACB is headquartered in South Africa, where Bayer and Monsanto are major actors in the seed and agrochemical industries. This deal will require approval from about 30 regulatory agencies around the world, including the South Africa’s Competition Commission.

ACB explains how the Monsanto-Bayer merger is happening against the backdrop of other mega-mergers also consolidating the agrochemical and seed markets, including genetically modified seed markets. Six agro chemical giants will soon become three, as US chemical giants Dow and DuPont merge in a deal estimated to be worth US$130 billion, and China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and Swiss-based Syngenta merge in a deal worth around US$43 billion.

According to the report, if all the mergers are approved, three corporations will control 60% of the global commercial seed market and 64% of the agrochemical market. The corporations will also be able to claim “too big to fail” status, setting the stage for future bailouts using public resources, and further reducing accountability and opportunities for democratic control of the food system.

ACB points out that these mergers will further push integration between seed and agrochemical market. It will restrict farmers’ choices about what crops they plant and what inputs they use. This model of production will deepen inequality, threaten the integrity of land and water resources, and decrease agricultural biodiversity.

With the full support of AGRA Watch, ACB calls on the South African Competition Commission to reject the merger. They also call of the South African government to rein in the power of corporations and to commit resources towards decentralised R&D in partnership with farmers and consumers for more democratic and sustainable agricultural development.

Download and read the full report PDF.



Ms Mariam Mayet: Director ACB mariam@acbio.org.za

Dr Stephen Greenberg: Research Co-ordinator ACB stephen@acbio.org.za

Mr Benjamin Luig: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Benjamin.Luig@rosalux.org

African Civil Society Statement Urges the Discussion of a GM Crop Ban in Africa

ImageOver 400 African Civil Society organizations have issued a statement  sent to the African Union (AU) last week which urged banning the cultivation, import and export of genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. They request is that this be discussed at the next AU summit, January 2013, which is themed “Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.”

The statement notes the lack of long-term data about effects of GM crops, and the threats that the system of privatized agriculture has on African food sovereignty. Elizabeth Mpofo, Chairperson of the East and Southern African Farmers Forum (ESAFF) points out that “corporate-owned, genetically modified seed won’t solve any of our problems. We have our own varieties, we have our own knowledge. We need to be supported so that we can flourish in the agricultural systems that are our heritage.”

A link to the full story can be found here:
The African Civil Society Statement can be found here:

GM Labeling Victory in South Africa

Amendments have recently been made to South Africa’s regulations controlling the labeling of GM food. Mariam Mayet, Director of AW partner, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), attributed much of the force behind these amendments to consumers demanding the right to know. The draft amendments currently require that all locally produced and imported food containing 5% or more GM ingredients or components be labelled as “contains genetically modified ingredients or components.”

Read the full story from ACB’s website here:


The African Centre for Biosafety’s Latest Report on AGRA

In its newest report on AGRA, the African Centre for Biosafety considers AGRA’s work with seeds, specifically as a means for profit-making and for commercialization of agriculture. The report aims to look deeper into AGRA’s philosophy, as well as to look into specific programs including Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) and its Soil Health Programme (SHP) to better determine AGRA’s long term goals. The report notes that some of the goals include “hybrid seed, biotechnology (including genetic modification), synthetic fertilisers, irrigation, credit provision and general commercialisation of agricultural production,” and analyzes how these goals will be implemented and practiced.

Read the ACB’s new report on AGRA here:


What does the Pioneer/Pannar Seed Merger Mean for South Africa?

 ImageIn a previous post, we covered the acquisition of Pannar, South Africa¹s largest seed company, by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a fully-owned subsidiary of DuPont, a global seed and chemicals company. 
      Since then, the merger has been rejected by a two government competition tribunals, and is still in the appeal process. Although the merger is not yet final, it is important for us all to understand what is at stake for South Africa if this goes through.
  A new report by the African Centre for Biosafety discusses in detail the implications of this merger, and the economic power it will create in the hands of a few. It also discusses why and to what extent the merger will deepen structural imbalances in the South African economy.

Download the PDF of this report from African Centre for Biosafety Website here:

DuPont Acquires Local South African Seed Company

The takeover of South Africa’s largest seed company, Pannar Seed, by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont, has been approved by the Competition Appeal Court. This overturns a previous decision made by the Competition Tribunal, and puts control of the African seed market entirely in the hands of DuPont and Monsanto (who already coImagentrolled 50 percent of the seed market in South Africa). Proponents of this merger maintain that it will serve to improve the use of technology, and bring advanced research and breeding techniques to Africa. However, Mariam Mayet, of the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), notes that “This will exacerbate the existing situation whereby farmers are becoming irreversibly disconnected from breeding processes and converted into mere consumers of what they originally collectively produced.”

Read more about this controversial takeover here: