The president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, has signed into law a new Biodiversity Act that is being heralded as the country's most significant environmental legislation in a decade. But the law will do more than just protect species.
The new law will require full environmental impact assessments to be conducted before the introduction of genetically modified organisms. And it will ensure that communities can share in profits derived from the exploitation of natural products based on their indigenous knowledge.
The law will also oblige private landowners and the government to clear invasive 'alien' plant species — a major threat to South Africa's abundant and diverse indigenous species.