The international sugarcane industry is on the brink of commercialising genetically modified (GM) varieties for the first time. Various countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Australia, have recently announced collaborative research and development programmes specifically aimed at developing GM varieties. It is therefore not only an opportune time for the South African sugar industry to evaluate these developments, but also the status of GM crops in the country and the multitude of unique aspects associated with the commercialisation of a GM crop.
Although most GM technology developers realise that they have to consider the biosafety requirements as stipulated by national and international regulatory frameworks, the scope, extent and impact of these are often misjudged - resulting in a non-viable product. Risk assessment and risk management play critical roles in the successful commercialisation of GM crops and should therefore from a very early stage be considered as an integrated part of a GM research and development programme.
In addition, to extract the full potential benefits from biotech crops, technology developers should more carefully consider market related factors such as the relevance and accessibility of a particular GM product to ensure its sustainability. This will not only help ensure the sustainability of individual products but also improve the efficiency of the innovation process.
Full PDF available at http://www.biosafety.org.za/resources/data_page.php?page=12