Government OKs genetically modified vines


By MELANIE GOSLING

ENVIRONMENT WRITER

The government has given researchers the nod to grow genetically modified (GM) grapevines in field trials at Stellenbosch University.

The researchers are developing a grapevine that will be genetically modified to resist fungal disease. If successful, the vine will mean less use of pesticides on vineyards.

Three environmental lobby groups, SafeAge, Earthlife Africa and the African Centre for Biosafety, will appeal to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry against the approval.

SafeAge co-ordinator Charmaine Anderson said yesterday they were shocked to learn of the approval after there had been strong opposition to the field trials of the GM grapevine.

Especially from wine farmers who export to the EU, and there were even objections from overseas,? she said.

She said the GM application to the department had been made in 2006 for open-air field trials of GM sultana and chardonnay grapevine varieties.

Asked to comment on the GM grapevine, Villeria wine-maker Jeff Grier said although he was not against developing new technology, and accepted that a fungal-resistant grapevine theoretically would be beneficial, Villiera would not use any GM crops.

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