Biowatch to lodge application for leave to appeal to Constitutional Court over costs order
Biowatch will be lodging an application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the order that it pay the costs of Monsanto South Africa (Pty) Ltd, local component of the world's largest genetically modified (GM) seed company.
The option of appealing to the Constitutional Court has been opened by a dissenting judgement from one of the three judges who heard Biowatch’sappeal in April 2007.
In his judgement handed down this month, Judge Justice Poswa says the costs order in favour of Monsanto South Africa (Pty) Ltd should be reversed.
Judge Poswa also says that South Africa’s statutory bodies responsible for regulating GM crops should pay Biowatch’s legal costs. These are the Minister of Agriculture, the GMO Executive Council and the GMO registrar.
All of this is in line with Biowatch’s appeal to a full bench of the Pretoria High Court in 2007.
The costs order arose from a court application from Biowatch for access to information that would shed light on decision-making about the permitting of
GM crop applications.
Biowatch’s asked the court to order the Minister of Agriculture, the GMO Executive Council and the GMO registrar to provide access to information about the permitting of GM crops.
Monsanto insisted on joining in as a respondent, arguing its confidential business information was at risk. It was the only respondent to insist on costs, right to the end of the case.
In February 2005, acting Judge Eric Dunn ordered that Biowatch South Africa be granted access to almost all the information it had requested. He reaffirmed that Biowatch had a constitutional right to this information, that access to the information was in the public interest and that Biowatch had been forced to go to the court to get access to it.
But in an inexplicable twist, acting Judge Dunn ordered Biowatch to pay the legal costs of Monsanto South Africa (Pty Ltd.
Biowatch appealed to a full bench of the Pretoria High court to reverse the costs order in favour of Monsanto and for South Africa’s GM crop regulatory authorities to be ordered to pay Biowatch’s legal costs.
In November 2007, Judges Fanie Mynhardt and Mpho Molopa-Sethosa dismissed Biowatch’s costs order appeal. They ordered Biowatch to pay Monsanto’s legal costs and also ordered the public interest environmental organisation to pay the appeal legal costs of the government statutory bodies against whom the original court application was brought.
Judge Justice Poswa's judgement is at www.biowatch.org.za under DOCUMENTS, ACCESS TO INFORMATION CASE. Here, you can also read background documents.
For inquiries, please contact Biwoatch director Ms Leslie Liddell on 021 447
5939 or 073 307 8873.