THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMO) ACT

Introduction

The GMO Act (1) was enacted to provide for the promotion of responsible development, production, use and application of genetically modified organisms. All activities such as importation, production, release and distribution are regulated to limit possible harmful consequences to the environment.

The Act also lays down the requirements and criteria for risk assessments and provides appropriate procedures for the notification of specific activities involving the use of genetically modified organisms.

Although Stellenbosch University (SU) does not have a GMO policy, it is expected from all SU departments that perform research in the field of GMO to practice under the GMO Act.

GMOs can be legally protected under the existing Intellectual Property Policy of SU, found on this website.

Regulations

The Minister of Agriculture, acting under section 20 of the GMO Act, makes the regulations as set out hereto (http://www.pub.ac.za/resources/docs/act_gmo1997.pdf).

Applicants may apply for permits to perform activities relating to GMOs in terms of these regulations. A permit is not required for organisms used under conditions of contained use in academic and research facilities.

It will be necessary for applicants to assess risks, register facilities and main records pertaining to risk assessments.
It will also be necessary to notify the public of any proposed release of GMOs and inform the registrar in the event of an accident involving GMOs.

The regulations also set out the requirements for effective management of waste so that it does not have a negative impact on the environment and human health.

Practical considerations

The GMO is implemented by the Directorate Biosafety of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Two regulatory bodies, namely the Executive Council and the Advisory Committee, composed of independent scientists with various scientific backgrounds, decide on applications.

Any person who fails to comply with the requirements shall be guilty of an offence and liable to penalties as set out in the Act.

(1) Act 15 of 1997