WATCHDOG REJECTS INDUSTRY’S HYPE OF GM SUCCESS IN SOUTH AFRICA
MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE AFRICAN CENTRE FOR BIOSAFETY
8 March 2010.
On the 9th March 2010 and at a press conference in Johannesburg South Africa, the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will announce the “phenomenal success” of GM crops in South African based on a single minded obsession with numbers: that South African farmers are growing 1.8 million ha of GM maize, soya and cotton.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has in its briefing paper titled ‘From South Africa: ISAAA’s 2009 report is fundamentally flawed’ presented a more sobering picture, which includes crop failures in South Africa, the incapacity of South African biosafety regulators to ensure environmental and food safety, the spectacular rejection by the South African regulators of a commercial release application for GM potato and small-scale farmers’ abandonment of GM cotton.
The ACB also questions the veracity of the ISAAA’s figures, which the ACB argues are based on speculation. According to Haidee Swanby of the ACB, “ISAAA has obtained its figures from FoodNCropBio, a private consultancy firm in South Africa, who has in turn compiled its figures by extrapolating from seed orders and the ‘intention to plant’ obtained from seed companies.”
The briefing points out that only 2.7% of global agricultural land is in fact planted to GM crops, with the majority being grown in the United States, Brazil and Argentina. Together, these three countries account for 79.6% of the GM crops grown globally in 2009. It also argues that only small “gains” were made in India, Canada, Argentina and South Africa; while China, Paraguay and Europe all recorded a drop in GM crop plantings and Australia remained static.
According to Mariam Mayet, director of the ACB, “In reality, the numbers of hectares planted to GM are of less importance than questions about food security and sovereignty, equity and justice, and the livelihood of small scale farmers - real issues that industry obfuscates with its single minded fixation on percentages, hectares and industry profits.”
The ACB calls for a shift in global agricultural policy towards ecological farming practices and small-scale and local production for local consumption. “The promotion of genetically modified crops, which are resource hungry, capital intensive and protected by intellectual property rights, is the exact opposite approach to what is needed to solve global ecological and food crisis and should be rejected” said Swanby.
The briefing can be downloaded from the ACB’s website at www.biosfetyafrica.org.za
Haidee Swanby: 082 459 8548
Mariam Mayet: 083 269 4309