Molewa awards bioprospecting permits

Komaggas – Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa today awarded seven bioprospecting permits to community organisations that work with natural plants to enable them to legally engage in bioprospecting activities.

One of the permits was awarded to Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd for the extraction and purification of chemical compounds from the shrublet, Galenia Africana, better known as Kraalbos.

Bioprospecting involves searching for, collecting, and deriving genetic material from samples of biodiversity that can be used in commercialised pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or chemical processing end products.

The community of Komaggas — just outside Springbok in the Northern Cape — who provide access to the raw materials in their area, will receive both monetary and non-monetary benefits from bioprospecting.

Awarding the permits at a local community hall, Molewa said South Africa had a rich natural and cultural resource base that ranked amongst the top three in the world.

“We are home to approximately 24 000 plants species and have an entire floral kingdom within our borders. South Africa is not just rich in biological diversity but also blessed with a rich cultural diversity.”

Molewa said many widely used cosmetics produced by industries were derived from medicinal plants, and many are of these plants were indigenous and endemic to South Africa.

“We must build a shared appreciation of the importance of medicinal plants resources to human health and well-being and a shared concern about the conservation and sustainable use of these resources,” she said.

According to the department, researchers have successfully cultivated a selection of naturally occurring chemo-type of Sceletium as a new commercial crop on a large scale and developed a standardised extract known as Zembrin, which is manufactured to EU-GMP. The plant has the potential and dual mechanism of action broadly associated with the treatment of anxiety, stress, mood and cognition.

Molewa said the South African benefits of biodiversity or ecosystems services were estimated at R73 billion, contributing to 7% of the country’s GDP per annum.

“The biodiversity economy, which is part of our Green Economy, is therefore our competitive edge in growing our economy and addressing climate change adaption,” she said.

The minister also launched South Africa’s Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulatory Framework: Guidelines for Providers, Users and Regulators.

The legal framework provides a huge opportunity for economic growth, sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

The Kraalbos plant grows mostly in large quantities in Komaggas, and it can survive for years before it is replanted.

One of the recipients of the permits, Zama Nzuza, a representative of Muthifuthi Trust in KwaZulu-Natal, told SAnews that now that they have been awarded a permit, they would be able to market their project to big companies.

“We are now going to attract more clients locally and internationally,” he said.

Among other things, Muthifuthi Trust produces herbs from plants, which includes the Kraalbos plant. – SAnews