All activities with GMOs in South Africa are primarily regulated under the GMO Act. This includes research and development, import/export, production, consumption and other uses of GMOs and their products. The GMO Act establishes minimum standards to ensure the food/feed and environmental safety and socio-economic sustainability of all activities involving GMOs.

It further establishes the necessary operational procedures and infrastructure required for the regulation of GMOs:

  • The Registrar (seated within DALRRD) is responsible for administrating the Act.
  • Inspectors are responsible for ensuring permit conditions are adhered to.
  • The Advisory Committee (AC) is a panel of independent scientists that evaluates all applications.
  • The Executive Council (EC) is the decision-making body and consists of 10 members representing seven different state agencies, i.e. DALRRD, DoH, DSI, DFFE, DTIC, DoL and DWS.

Permit decisions are based on the information in the application, the AC’s recommendations, the public’s inputs and within the government’s policy framework. A unanimous EC resolution is required for a permit to be issued.


6057 SA GMO Permit Process Infographic FINAL

Additional regulations, specifically pertaining to GMOs are also contained under legislation of the DoH, e.g. food safety and labelling requirements, DFFE, e.g. post-release monitoring and triggers for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and the dti, e.g. labelling. Finally, South Africa also acceded to binding international agreements regarding GMOs under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (with an environmental focus) and the CODEX Alimentarius (with a food safety focus). Collectively, all these regulations establishes South Africa’s National Biosafety Framework (NBF).

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