In this publication, we provide a comprehensive update of the situation with GMOs in SA. Since our last South African update on genetically modified crops, and the transnational companies that control the technology published in 2008, GMOs have become even more entrenched in the country’s agricultural landscape. Over three quarters of South Africa’s maize is now GM, Roundup Ready soybean cultivation has increased nearly fourfold. If Pioneer Hi-Bred’s acquisition of Pannar seed is accepted, we are about to relinquish all control over our seed system to two US multinational corporations. During 2010 and 2011, nearly 6 million tons of GM maize was exported to destinations in Africa and Mexico, the centre of origin of maize.
At the Executive Council: GMO Act meeting of 21st July 2009, the decision was taken to deny the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) permission to release genetically modified potatoes onto the market. The decision was not published on the Department of Agriculture’s (DAFF) website until the 14th of October 2009. We are aware that the ARC has subsequently appealed the decision. The ACB requests an opportunity to represent its views during the appeals process or to approach the appeal board as Amicus Curiae (friend of the court).
Marketing of GE potatoes in South Africa imminent: African farmers face loss of markets and consumer choice
South Africa‘s Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has developed a GE-insect resistant potato (SpuntaG2, which is a Bt potato) with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This potato now awaits safety assessment and general release approval from the national authorities.
In a damning and ground breaking ruling, South Africa‘s GM body, the Executive Council (EC), has rejected attempts by the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) to bring GM potatoes to the South African market. The EC cited no less than 11 biosafety and socio economic and agronomic concerns for rejecting ARC‘s commercial release application. These support the objections raised by the ACB that GM potatoes pose unacceptable risks to human health, the environment and the farming community.
The ARC has touted the GM potato, engineered to resist tuber moths, as a new agricultural technology that will benefit smallholder and commercial farmers. Its five year field trial programme has chewed up considerable public funds as well as having been bankrolled by USAID and Michigan state university.
According to Haidee Swanby of the ACB, ?the precautionary decision taken by the EC concluded that ARC’s toxicology studies were inadequate, scientifically poorly designed and fundamentally flawed. It was unconvinced that the GM potato would benefit small holder farmers, who are faced with more fundamental production problems such as access to water and seed, and found that the Potato Tuber Moth is a low priority for most farmers.?
?We are elated
ACB Objection to the commercial release of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) genetically modified potato. September 2008.
McDonald’s is committed to providing quality food to our customers and source our products and ingredients from the best suppliers locally and globally. In South Africa, our potatoes are sourced from McCain Foods and we asked their Managing Director, Mr Owen Porteus, to provide us with full clarification on the use of GMO potatoes with regard to their supply to McDonald’s South Africa.
The UN General Assembly has declared 2008 to be the ‘international year of the potato’. Unbeknown to the public, the South Africa government has allowed the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), supported by USAID and Michigan State University, to experiment with GM potatoes. All though South Africans on average eat 29 kilograms of potatoes a year, they have not been consulted on the prospect of yet another staple food being genetically engineered.
In 2001, the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) began conducting field trials with potatoes genetically modified to contain a Bt gene Cry1Ia1 (formerly BtCryV). This novel gene is intended to protect the plants and potato tubers from infestations of the Potato tuber moth (Phthorimaea operculella).
This research is not home grown or ‘truly South African‘. The ARC is part of an international consortium, which includes the Michigan State University (MSU), the International Potato Centre in Peru and gene giant, Syngenta. Syngenta has quietly been cornering the GM food potato market; lodging a stream of patents in the USA and other countries for a form of terminator (GURTS) technology that prevents potatoes from sprouting unless they are treated with chemicals supplied by the patent owner.