FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In a David and Goliath battle, Biowatch on Tuesday argued its case
in the Constitutional Court against the seed and chemical giant Monsanto.
The 9-year struggle has its origins in an initial application in the Pretoria High Court for information about the planting of genetically
modified crops in South Africa.
The High Court accepted Biowatch’s right to most of the information it requested, but declined to order the Registrar for Genetic Resources,
the Executive Council for Genetically Modified Organisms and the Minister of Agriculture to pay Biowatch’s costs and ordered that Biowatch pay Monsanto’s costs in the case.
Biowatch took the costs orders on appeal to a full bench of the High Court and lost although a minority judgement supported Biowatch.
The Supreme Court of Appeal refused to hear the appeal, and so Biowatch’s final step was to approach the Constitutional Court, the highest legal forum in the land. The eleven Constitutional Court judges heard arguments from Biowatch and Monsanto. The Centre for Child Law and Lawyers for Human Rights, who acted as Friends of the Court, argued that the Biowatch judgment had a chilling effect on litigation by public interest organisations.
During the hearing, the Constitutional Court judges referred to the “path-breaking” nature of the case, stressing the need to apply Constitutional imperatives and to recognise the importance of civil society organisations such as Biowatch in translating environmental and social rights into practice.
Rose Williams, acting Director of Biowatch, said “It was a relief to
get to the Constitutional Court. We felt that our submissions were heard.
It has been a long road to the Court and a challenging one for Biowatch.
We thank the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) for their support in this case and are hopeful for a positive outcome for public interest
organisations in securing their rights.”