African Journal of Biotechnology

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A critical scientific review on South African governance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

FW Jansen van Rijssen, E Jane Morris, JN Eloff


Credible governance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is essential because of public concerns in South Africa (SA) and internationally. In this preliminary study, the opinions of a number of scientists with experience and/or interest in GMO governance were determined by means of two questionnaires to determine their perceptions on the credibility of risk governance of GMOs in SA. The respondents felt ‘some improvement’ was required in criteria related to good governance. Excellence (quality of risk assessment) and effectiveness, such as protracted regulatory processes needed ‘some to much improvement’. The responses were evaluated against an analysis of the South African GMO Act, regulations, policy guidelines and available information. The Act provides a pro-active basis for good governance comparable to internationally described risk governance models, but implementation seemed to follow the less advanced technocratic model. A number of reasons were identified such as unclear roles of decision makers. Some of the causes for protracted decision-making identified by respondents were: a) excessive precaution in decision making, and b) different mandates resulting in no unanimity among government departments. Proposals for improvement in credibility included communication as a critical component of risk governance and continued training of reviewers and decision makers.

Keywords: Genetically modified organisms, risk assessment, risk governance, South Africa

African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 12(32), pp. 5010-5021
AJOL African Journals Online