The South African GMO authorities have approved Bayer CropScience’s GM rice, Event LL62 for import into South Africa. LL62 has also been approved for commercial growing in the United States and for import into Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

South Africa is a net importer of several varieties of rice, which it imports from around the world. It also re-exports rice to a large number of African countries. During the 2009/10 marketing year, SA’s rice imports increased by 35% to 788, 104 tons. Although around 70% of SA’s rice is currently imported from Thailand but SA does import rice from the US. Rice is the staple food for half the world’s population and provides more calories than any other single food, about 90% from carbohydrates and 10% from protein.

Bayer’s application before the SA authorities was for the import of GM rice grain for food and feed use with parboiled milled rice being the main rice commodity to be imported. The rice has been genetically engineered to confer resistance to glufosinate ammonium. The African Centre for Biosafety, (ACB) supported by a large number of groups and individuals objected to the approval of the GM rice, as far back as 2006, citing several biosafety concerns.

The ACB also raised a central concern that GM rice imported into SA may contaminate non-GM rice varieties here and be re-exported to other African countries and thereby, contaminate the continent, especially wild varieties of rice being grown in West Africa.

According to Mariam Mayet of the ACB “this approval by the South African authorities will encourage farmers in the US to convert to GM rice farming and consequently, inundate South Africa with GM rice, we neither want nor have asked for.”

Christof Potthof from the German NGO Gen-ethical Network said “The herbicide glufosinate is toxic and dangerous for reproduction. For this reason, the European Union is set on banning it in the near future. Glufosinate is used together with the GM rice LL62 in an obligatory manner. European civil society groups have for years been demanding that the LL62 rice not be cultivated. Not in Europe and not in the US – the latter being the only LL62 growing country in the world.”

The ACB has also learnt that the GMO authorities have just granted approval for 19 new varieties of GM maize, in favour of Syngenta, Pioneer and Monsanto. Many of these are – stacked1 GMOs. These varieties are set on being imported into SA – a maize growing country, in a maize growing region!

During 2010, the South African maize harvest was in excess of 13 million MT., a bumper harvest-the highest since 1982! In turn, South Africa began exporting massive amounts of 2GM maize to other African countries in a bid to off load a four million ton surplus, including a surreptitious shipment of 300,00 tons of GM maize to Kenya. Three Massive imports of bulk shipments of GM maize especially from the US into South Africa will mean that global maize giants will be squeezing farmers not only in SA but in the region, out of the maize market.

“Farmers in the US, the gene giants and the global grain traders will be the principle beneficiaries, but where will it leave farmers and rural communities? This is a disaster in the making,” said Mayet.

See further on

  1. Objections to the Application made by Bayer CropScience Gmbh in respect of commodity clearance of event LLrice 62, 3 June, 2006;
  2. The dirty politics of the global grain trade-GM maize farmers face ruin in SA, 2010.
  3. A good neighbour? South Africa forcing GM maize onto African markets and policy makers, May 2010.