victory for biowatch – the 'little guy' has a voice after all

Submitted by sproutingforth on Thu, 2009-06-04 11:10

In a landslide victory for Biowatch, the Constitutional Court, after a nine-year legal battle, has finally set aside the costs order awarded against Biowatch in favour of Monsanto and further awarded legal costs in the High Court hearings in favour of Biowatch and against the state. All eleven judges were unanimous in their decision!

We've been following the Biowatch case and blogged about it here, here, here and here.

We also blogged about their campaign against the GM potato here

Without bodies like Biowatch, who campaign in the public interest for sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, biosafety and farmers' rights, the public would not have a voice. The consequences of this final ruling by the Constitutional Court are enormous.

What it means in essence is that we (South Africans) can stand up against monolithic giants like Monsanto without fear of bankrupting ourselves!

    To bring you up to speed
    'In 2000, the state had consistently refused to provide Biowatch with requested official information about the planting of GM crops in South Africa. Biowatch was forced to take legal action to exercise its constitutional right to this information.

    In the High Court Biowatch won the right to 8 out of 11 categories of requested information. The acting judge, however, felt that Monsanto – a giant multinational pushing GM crops onto the South African market – had been forced to join the case and that Biowatch should therefore pay its legal costs.

    This anomaly seemed to fly in the face of justice, but even so, Biowatch lost its appeal in the same court to set aside this costs order. Biowatch was also refused leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. Exercising the costs order would have weakened if not destroyed Biowatch as an organisation, something which Monsanto seemed bent on doing.'

    [an extract from the Biowatch press release]

Justice Sachs stated that the High Court had 'misdirected itself in the whole matter of costs' through failing to consider the constitutional implications.' He went further to say that the High Courts decision was 'demonstrably inappropriate on the facts, and unduly chilling to constitutional litigation in its consequences.'

This is a real example of why we don't want anyone messing with our constitution! That Biowatch had to take it all the way to the Constitutional Court is not only a salute to their determination, but to our legal system, which, in the end, didn't fail them!


pic: Greenpeace