Biowatch is being shafted

Can you believe this?

In 1997, the first genetically modified crops are released in SA. In 1999, the GMO Act comes into effect. In 2000, Biowatch SA, in an effort to ensure us consumers are not being endangered in any way, request information from the relevant organisations regarding the GM crops in SA. Under the GMO Act they (we) are allowed access to this information. The information is withheld from them. In 2002, Biowatch serves court papers to the Department of Agriculture, naming the Registrar for Genetic Resources, the Executive Council for Genetic Resources and the Minister of Agriculture as respondents. In 2003, Monsanto (the company that makes and sells the GM seeds) applies to join the court proceedings as a co-respondent, on the grounds that they have a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the proceedings. In 2004 the case is heard in the Pretoria High Court and Biowatch wins. But, here’s the unbelievable part, they are ordered to pay the legal costs of Monsanto!

Biowatch is an NGO with limited funds, Monsanto is a multi-billion dollar international company. What logic does the judge use to say that Biowatch must pay Monsanto’s costs of trying to prevent Biowatch from accessing information which they have the right to in the first place? Is the judge trying to deter NGOs from taking companies to court in future? I think so. Why would he do that? You tell me.

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