Monsanto has made an application to the South African GMO authorities for permission to import Smartstax maize, one of the most controversial and risky GMOs ever produced for commercial use. The ACB recently published a report featuring Smartstax titled ‘The stacked gene revolution: A biosafety nightmare’. We pointed out that while the majority of commercially cultivated GM food crops contain 3 new genes at most, Smartstax contains 8! Several prominent scientists at the United Nations have expressed grave concerns about the biosafety implications of this, and also the lax safety assessments carried out. Smartstax has been approved in the US and Canada for commercial cultivation.

According to Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB, “Stacked GMOs represent the biotech industry’s blitzkrieg for increased control of the food chain. The more genes ‘stacked’ into their seeds, the higher their profits.” One and two trait GM seed varieties are being replaced by their more expensive multiple stacked varieties. In November last year, Monsanto chairman Hugh Grant hubristically claimed that he expected the gene giant to triple its 2007 gross profits by 2012. Smartstax was to be one of the cornerstone’s of this expansion. However, Monsanto is struggling to convince US farmers to grow Smarstax. In a bid to secure export markets for the risky GM maize, Monsanto has set its sights on South Africa.

“South Africa does not need this dangerous GM maize. The Department of Agriculture’s latest estimates suggest that in 2009/10 South Africa will produce almost 13 million tons of maize, a 7.5% increase on the previous year, and the second largest maize harvest in South African history,”(see note at end)

This will leave almost a 6 million ton surplus for export, and the evidence shows that international grain traders are already dumping South African’s surplus GM maize in Kenya and Swaziland,” said Mayet. The ACB calls on the South African authorities to reject out of hand Monsanto’s attempts to entrench its position in the South African food chain, and force feeding consumers with food they have neither asked for nor want.

The GM Stacked Gene Revolution: a biosafety nightmare A briefing paper by the African Centre for Biosafety by Gareth Jones can be downloaded here.

Note: Loffie Brandt, manager, agricultural information, Absa Bank. Personal correspondence. 20/04/2010