Our Government and the Environment
In the February newsletter I mentioned that in order to address the environmental crisis, we need the government to play an active role. I mentioned that the the plastic bag levy has not led to the creation of recycling operations as it was supposed to. Seeing as I don’t like to put forward only one side of the story, I thought I would share with you some current news regarding the government and it’s efforts to be more environmentally aware.
The government is currently formulating a draft bill on biofuels. It seems that they are paying attention to the stakeholders and trying to evaluate the positives and negatives. Let’s hope they come up with something that is beneficial to the environment and the country, but it’s nice to see that at least they are thinking about our fossil fuel dependency.
This leads me to the second news item. That is that the goverment has rejected an application by Syngenta to grow GM maize for use in biofuels. The reason they gave for rejecting the application is that Syngenta failed to convincingly prove the GM maize was fit for human and animal consumption. To do this they have acknowledged that it would be impossible to prevent this GM maize from contaminating or mixing with maize destined for human and animal consumption both here and overseas. This is the 3rd successive rejection of applications to plant GM crops. Seems like the government is wising up. Nice one.
Still on the positives, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as the minister of environmental affairs, has tabled a bill regarding waste management. This bill includes proposals to specify requirements in terms of implementation and operation of waste minimisation programmes to producers of a product or class of product. This could include the percentage of products that must be recovered by the producer. In other words, companies which make products (particularly electronic) will have to implement some sort of waste management programme to ensure their products are disposed of and recycled correctly. This is a very important step, as electronics become cheaper and cheaper we see them as disposable, but elctronics in landfills leak harmful chemicals into the soil.
To end on a bad note, the new consumer protection bill had a clause which stipulated that all foods must be labelled to indicate if they contain any GM food. This clause was removed last year. That is a great shame. Someone needs to take these people to the Human Rights Commission because I firmly believe it is a violation of my fundamental human rights to hide from me the information about what I am eating. I must be allowed to make an informed choice.
I could probably come up with some more negatives but let’s leave it there for now. It’s good to see the goverment is at least looking at these issues. Let’s see what actually becomes law.