This paper presents an evidence-based critique of the Report published by the Academy of Science South Africa (ASSAf) titled ‘Regulatory Implications of New Breeding Techniques’ (the Report). Our critique discusses the pro-GM propaganda contained in the Report and contrasts it with a well-established scientific body of concerns surrounding the use of these so-called new breeding techniques (NBTs), and their potential to exacerbate further the deepening ecological and social crises in South Africa.
A new report from the ACB, “The GM maize onslaught in Mozambique: Undermining biosafety and smallholder farmers” written in conjunction with Acção Academicapara o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU) has been released today. It provides an analysis of the changes made to Mozambique’s biosafety legislation in order to allow for field trials of genetically modified (GM) maize to take place under the auspices of the Monsanto/Gates Foundation’s Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. The WEMA project is currently pushing forward with field trials involving the highly controversial GM drought tolerant maize variety and old throw away Bt maize, MON810 that has caused massive pest infestation in SA.
Objection to commercial release of MON87460 X NK603 X MON89034 (triple stacked involving drought tolerant maize trait)
In this objection, ACB raises numerous concerns with the application by Monsanto for the commercial release of the triple stacked event.
Drought tolerance is a highly complex genetic trait that cannot be addressed by single gene insertions, as shown by the lack of data backing up the applicant’s claim that this GM variety shows “improvements to yield under drought stress”. n 2016, the ACB also submitted an objectionto the extension of field trials, supported by a petition with over 20 00 signatures. In addition, 63 members of the public copied the objections they have submitted to the Registrar: GMO Act regarding these trials. Members of the public have similarly in respect to this application, signed a petition opposing these trials as well as 71 having submitted direct objections to the Registrar: GMO Act.
These reports introduce the novel techniques already being employed, or in development and their associated biosafety concerns that go against the claim that crops developed with these methods are technological progress in ‘precision’ and ‘safety’. Further described is the utilisation of RNA interference, an epigenetic process that is already being employed in commercialised crops. Despite not being a novel technique under discussion for GM legislation, the utilisation of epigenetic processes based on RNA interference deserves special consideration for biosafety discussion.
This report is a result of research conducted in partnership with Tshintsha Amakhaya, Farmer Support Group, TCOE Zingisa and Surplus People Project. The report investigates the state of farmer-managed seed systems in rural South Africa.
Through 3 case studies in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the report highlights both the fragility and perseverance of smallholder farmers, who continue to maintain agricultural biodiversity and traditional knowledge, in the face of increasing pressure from all sides. Smallholder farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to make end meet in an agricultural sector dominated by large-scale commercial production and corporate value chains.
Multinational corporations dominate seed provision in South Africa, further driving a commercial and industrial Green Revolution agenda. Farmer-managed seed systems, and the diversity of crops and diets that rely on them, are marginalised and neglected in the process.
The research is one step in highlighting the threats and opportunities facing smallholders and biodiversity in an increasingly harsh production environment. ACB will continue working with our partners and smallholder farmers to support and promote sustainable farming practices and farmer-managed seed systems as part of our broader objectives to transform seed and food systems in South Africa.
These graphics, captured in an easy to read and visually informative manner, illustrate the stark difference of practices and values between the current industrial food system and agroecological food systems.
It is clear that the industrial model is unsustainable, lacks nutrition, destroys livelihoods, and is an unsuitable model as we move into an increasingly uncertain future.
We need radical reforms in agriculture and food systems, which are ecologically and socially just, and ensure safe, healthy, and nutritional food for current and future generations.
This Four-page document summarises the recent report published by the African Centre for Biodiversity: Transitioning out of GM maize: to agroecology for sustainable, socially just and nutritional food systems, that argues that we need to urgently shift away from the mono-focus on a maize towards embracing a diversity of crops – particularly indigenous African summer grain crops such as sorghum and millet – and diverse agricultural practices that support healthy ecosystems, economies and societies
This is the first set of easily-to-read and share material, and is available in 5 languages: English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sesotho.
Transitioning out of GM maize: Current drought is an opportunity for a more resilient and just food system
Coinciding with World Food Day, the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), in a new report titled “Transitioning out of GM maize: towards nutrition security, climate adaptation, agro-ecology and social justice” makes a compelling case for South Africa to urgently transition out of GM maize production, to systems that are socially just, ecologically sustainable and provide nutrition security for a rapidly urbanising population in the face of the current crippling drought. It argues that we need to urgently shift away from the mono-focus on a maize towards embracing a diversity of crops – particularly indigenous African summer grain crops such as sorghum and millet – and diverse agricultural practices that support healthy ecosystems, economies and societies.
This synthesis report summarises ACB’s research on the Green Revolution push in Africa, based on fieldwork conducted in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the past three years. The research indicates that the promotion of synthetic fertiliser use in Africa is only a short-term fix for enhancing soil fertility on the continent. In the long run these interventions, spearheaded by organisations such as fertiliser multinational Yara and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), may even lead to lasting damage to the fragile soil life that is the key to sustainable soil health
Farm Input Subsidy Programmes (FISPs): A Benefit for, or the Betrayal of, SADC’s Small-Scale Farmers?
This paper reviews the farm input subsidy programmes (FISPs) within countries belonging to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to ascertain whether input subsidies have benefited small-scale farmers, have increased food security at the household and national levels, and have improved the incomes of small-scale farmers.