Monsanto Corporation, responsible for over 90% of the Genetically Modified (GM) crops planted worldwide, has recently lodged an application with the South African Department of Agriculture to import a pesticide resistant GM wheat into this country. This application is as unwelcome as it is speculative.
The underlying reason for this application appears to be wholly speculative; Monsanto's Wally Green, their point man in South Africa, stated in Business Day on 20th January 2004 that the application would have absolutely no immediate effect, because the wheat has not been approved anywhere in the world but the application would merely clear the way for future approvals.
Corporations involved in pushing GM crops regularly engage in this sort of practice by applying for approval of crops in nations completely removed from their core markets, in order that these permissions be used as motivation to apply political and regulatory pressure on other nations to gain clearance. This type of speculative application runs directly counter to the public good and transparent governance. It serves to benefit no single entity beside Monsanto.
It is also of concern that this application is being made before all of the facts and background information regarding this herbicide resistant wheat have been released to the public. Monsanto habitually plays its cards close to its chest as far as divulging information critical of its products is concerned, despite its public posturing that it works for the public good. If Monsanto wishes to import a product that has failed to gain approval anywhere in the world it should do two things; one it should divulge all information that forms part of its application to gain legal approval of the product into the public domain and, two it should wait until such time as relevant national authorities in each nation have given approval of the product before submitting approval requests, until such time as it is imported.
Other GM crops that have been genetically engineered to resist pesticides have been shown by both government and independent researchers to increase the levels of pesticide used, despite claims to the contrary from within the industry. The use of the herbicide that will be used with this wheat, Roundup®, the active ingredient of which is glyphosate, has been linked various environmental and human hazards.
The South African application to grant permission to import GM wheat must surely be decisively rejected by all South Africans once they have been appraised of the facts behind this matter.