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  • on 23.11.2012
  • at 07:09 PM
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Africa – Calling for a GMO-Free Continent 0

South African smallholder farmer Motlasi Musi is not happy with the African Centre for Biosafety’s call for his country and Africa to ban the cultivation, import and export of all genetically modified maize. “I eat genetically modified maize, which I have been growing on my farm for more than seven years, and I am still alive,” he declared.

Musi, 57, a maize farmer in the Fun Valley area of Olifantsvlei, outside Johannesburg, and a beneficiary of South Africa’s Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development programme, has embraced the science of biotechnology with gusto.

“What have changed are my yields and my income.” He said that he earned about 225 dollars more per hectare for his GM maize crop than he did when farming ordinary maize.

He said that he was helping reduce food insecurity in South Africa by growing and selling GM maize.

“Biotechnology has a very big role in food security,” Musi told IPS. “The climate has changed and I know that with drought-tolerant seed I have a tool to fight climate change. I cannot guarantee that the rain will come and I if plant crops which are not drought tolerant, I could get into debt and lose my farm.”

A report in April 2012 by the Climate Emergency Institute titled “The Impact of Climate Change on South Africa” said the country is experiencing a gradual, yet steady, change in climate with temperatures showing a significant increase over the last 60 years. Temperatures in South Africa are predicted to rise in costal regions by one to two degrees Celsius by 2050.

But the ACB does not believe that GMOs can deliver food security on the continent, specifically in South Africa, a leading African producer of GMOs.

The organisation is behind an African Civil Society statement calling for a ban on GM maize in South Africa and on the continent, which it hopes to submit to African governments. To date 656 signatures have been collected on the online statement, including those of 160 African organisations.

“We have sent an open letter to our minister of agriculture in October to ban GM maize in South Africa,” Haidee Swanby, an officer with ACB, told IPS.

“We (South Africa) have been cultivating, importing and exporting GM crops for 14 years with absolutely no impact on food security whatsoever. In fact, a bag of mealie meal is 84 percent more expensive than it was four or five years ago due to international prices and the extensive use of maize for biofuel production.”

Swanby said there was a need to improve access to food, by addressing poverty, unemployment and issues around land tenure, service delivery, infrastructure, access to markets, and unfair global trade practices.

“Genetically modified food has never been labelled in South Africa so there is no way to know if it is causing health problems,” Swanby said, calling for a rigorous scientific study into the health implications of GM food.

“If someone is getting sick, how are they going to trace it back to GMOs when they don’t know they’re eating them? We want more science, not less!”

The ACB has a supporter in Friends of the Earth International, which is also lobbying for a GMO-free Africa.

Continue reading on Inter Press Service – Busani Bafana

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