The African Centre for Biosafety has closely monitored GMO approvals in South Africa for several years. Several far-reaching changes are currently taking place. A wave of new GMOs are expected to flood the South African market during 2009, as the backlog of commodity import permits that have been stalled since 2005, are about to be processed.

A moratorium was put in place during September/October 2005 by the GMO decision-making body, the Executive Council, at the request of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The DTI was of the opinion that GMOs are not freely traded on the international market and as such, negatively affect the price levels at which these products are traded, and argued that it needed the moratorium in order to enable it to investigate these concerns.

The DTI study is being concluded and there is every sign that the moratorium will be lifted, heralding the opening of the floodgates to a tsunami of new GMOs onto the South African market. These include GM rice and new varieties of food crops such as soya beans and maize containing multiple or ‘stacked’ genes which pose huge risks to human health and the environment. In addition, spurious arguments that GM crops can address the energy, climate and food crisis, supported by vast amounts of money from biotech backers such as the Bill Gates Foundation, are also bringing new GM crops onto the South African scene, such as GM drought resistant maize, GM sugarcane for agrofuels, GM sorghum and GM cassava.

What’s more, the GMO Executive council is due to announce in the next few months, whether South Africa will be the only country in the world to have GM potatoes on the market.

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