A recent European Court of Justice ruling on the status of organisms obtained by new breeding techniques as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has again brought the scope of the South African GMOs Act into question. The difficulty with regulating organisms created through such techniques is that these organisms may be indistinguishable from organisms which have naturally evolved.
Cannabis has enjoyed heightened attention following a recent ruling decriminalising the private possession, consumption and cultivation of the plant for recreational purposes. While there have been several positive developments in the promotion of the medical cannabis market in South Africa, the overarching regulatory framework and authorities' current practice remain barriers to entry for prospective local players in the medical cannabis product manufacturing market.
The Biodiversity Act regulates bioprospecting on and biotrade with indigenous biological resources and indigenous genetic resources and the use of traditional knowledge. Although the early years of regulation under the act were stormy and there was much confusion over who needed to apply for permits and what was required from applicants, there is now more certainty as to what is required.
The legal and philosophical issues relating to the concept of ownership of various kinds of human biological material has been hotly debated. This is an emotive topic that requires balancing societal and commercial interests with individuals' rights, such as the constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right not to be subjected to medical research or scientific experiments without giving informed consent.
The Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Act provides the requirements to ensure the responsible development, production, use and application of GMOs. Any entity or person planning to perform a regulated activity under the act must prepare an application to the registrar and pay the application fee. Regulated activities include activities involving genetic modification, the experimental or trial release of a GMO, the contained use of a GMO and the general release of or commodity clearance regarding a GMO.