Publications SA

Publications SA

The dirty politics of the global grain trade – GM maize farmers face ruin in SA

Recently, the South African press reported on the possible bankruptcy faced by maize farmers. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released a new report titled “The dirty politics of the global grain trade – GM maize farmers face ruin in SA” which provides an analysis of why South Africa’s record 13 million ton harvest of maize, at least half of which is GM, has threatened financial ruin for up to 30% of its maize farmers. The paper addresses the following issues: the political economy of maize in South Africa; new GM markets for South Africa; the real beneficiaries of the maize mountains; and regulatory issues, including the extent to which South Africa’s GMO permit system contributes towards speculation in the GM maize trade and the price of food. The paper can be found on the website of the ACB at

South Africa’s maize farmers recorded a bumper harvest in 2010, yet now they face ruin. The price of maize has fallen precipitously in the last 12 months owing to a crisis of over-production of both GM and non-GM maize. A mass exodus from the maize sector is anticipated, with as many as 30% of farmers

EIA regulations and GMOs in South Africa

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has done considerable work with regard to the need for environmental impact assessments of GMOs and the limitations of current legislation. This work can be found on the ACB‘s website,

We have perused the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations, regulating procedures and criteria for conducting EIAs as set out in chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act no 107 of 1998 (NEMA), which came into effect on 2 August 2010.i

These have been changed in a number of respects, but the situation in respect of GMOs remain unchanged. The listing of GMOs as a schedule 1 activity under the National Environmental Management and Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA) is still the same, meaning that only a basic assessment needs to be conducted when GMOs are released into the environment.ii However, the new section 78 of NEMBA, amended in 2009, does give the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs the authority to call for an EIA when there is reason to believe that the release may pose a threat to any indigenous species or the environment. To date, the Minister has not used her Authority to do so.

Who is Biosafety South Africa

In this briefing, we present an overview of a new organisation called Biosafety South Africa. Biosafety South Africa was launched early this year, receives funding from the South African government through the Department of Science and Technology. Biosafety South Africa has no legislative mandate to influence GMO decision making but appears set to carve its niche in the arena of assisting GMO permit applicants in the preparation of their applications.

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By the end of the year, the South African National Biosviersity Institute (SANBI), will conclude a three year, R14 million rand research project on the impact of Monsanto‘s GM maize variety MON810 on the South African environment. The research project is the first of its kind in South Africa, and will focus on the impacts on target and non-taget pest organisms, soil microbes, plant toxin levels produced and gene flow. The results are due to be published in December 2010

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A good neighbour? South Africa forcing GM maize onto African markets and policy makers

Since the beginning of 2010, South Africa’s Executive Council responsible for GMO permit approvals has granted export permits for almost 300,000 Metric Tons (MT) of GM maize to be exported to Kenya, Mozambique, and Swaziland collectively, and 35,000 MT of GM soybean to Mozambique.1 Despite South Africa being Africa’s largest producer of maize, and a regular exporter of non-GM maize or maize containing only adventitiousi GM maize to African countries, these export permits are the first cases of outright commodity exports of GM maize from South Africa to other African countries.

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GM Sugarcane: A long way from commercialisation?

Despite the best part of a decade of research and field trials, genetically modified sugar cane in South Africa remains a long way from commercial cultivation. Numerous research projects are currently under way at a number of publicly and privately funded research bodies, most of which are concentrating on increased sucrose and biomass content. Late last year the Department of Science and Technology announced the creation of a strategic sugar research platform to be overseen by the PlantBio Trust, a branch of the Department of Trade and Industry that focuses on plant biotechnology.

Internationally, both Brazil and Australia lead the way in GM sugar cane research, and both countries believe they can bring it to market commercially within the next 5 years. Under the guise of south ? south co-operation, Brazil has been particularly active in extending its influence as the world’s largest sugarcane producer into the African continent. Huge sugarcane for ethanol investment deals have been signed with Mozambique, while a steady succession of research partnerships have been undertaken between Brazilian and South African institutions.

The biotech industry, either through direct research and acquisitions or indirectly via a number of lobby groups, has been very active in both GM

From South Africa: ISAAA’s 2009 report is fundamentally flawed

On the 9th March 2010 and at a press conference in Johannesburg South Africa, the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will announce the ?phenomenal success? of GM crops in South African based on a single minded obsession with numbers: that South African farmers are growing 1.8 million ha of GM maize, soya and cotton.

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A profile of Monsanto in South Africa

Monsanto is a globally dominant company in the agrochemical, seed and agricultural biotechnology sector. It has been active in the agrochemicals market in South Africa since 1968, and now owns almost all traits used in the South African GM crop market. Thanks to the purchase of local seed companies, Sensako and Carnia, in the late 1990s the multinational now accounts for an estimated 40% of the grain seed market in South Africa.

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Bayer, Monsanto vie for South Africa’s sugar cane

Bayer, Monsanto vie for South Africa‘s sugar cane
Bayer is bank rolling the South African Association-Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) who have approached SA‘s National Department of Agriculture for permission to conduct open field trials of GM sugarcane. SASRI also hopes to test a GM sugarcane variety using Monsanto‘s Bt gene.

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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.

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