GM crops take root in SA

South Africa produced 30% more genetically modified (GM) crops in 2007, with 1,8-million hectares of GM maize, soya and cotton being planted, Agri SA said on Wednesday.

This makes the country the eighth-largest producer of GM crops in the world, behind larger countries such as the United States, Brazil, India and China, said Agri SA president Lourie Bosman.

He released a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application, which shows that the planting of GM crops last year was up by 12% worldwide with 23 countries, including South Africa, having planted such crops.

Maize tops the list of GM crops planted in South Africa, with 57% of all maize in the country last year being genetically modified. GM soya was produced on 144 000ha and made up 80% of all soya crops, while 90%, or 9 000ha, of cotton planted was genetically modified.

“These achievements once again illustrate the confidence thousands of South African commercial and emerging farmers and consumers have in crop biotechnology.

“Agri SA is positive about genetically modified agricultural crops and is enthusiastic about the contribution they can make towards increased production,” Bosman said.

He said GM crops have been planted in South Africa for the past 10 years and at least 40-million South Africans have consumed some type of GM maize product with no adverse effect.

The most popular GM crops in South Africa are insect-resistant maize and herbicide-tolerant maize.

The first drought-tolerant maize varieties are also expected to be commercialised by 2011 with trials currently under way.

“Irrespective of the positive acceptance of GM crops in South Africa by farmers and consumers, there is still room in our agriculture for non-GM and organic food production,” Bosman said.

He said farmers and consumers will decide on the demand for non-GM and organic foods, but these are much more expensive to produce, which affects the quantities produced.

Worldwide, soya remained the biggest GM crop with 58,6-million hectares being produced, followed by maize at 35,2-million hectares and cotton at 15-million hectares as well as canola at 5,5-million hectares.—Sapa


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