As France upholds its ban on GM crops, despite the EU attempt to over-ride a sovereign decision, the 9th largest producer of GM crops remains confused as to its safety.
Why should South Africa classified as the most developed country on the continent, with it technical advances, and membership of one the five BRIC nations should be having a problem with testing GM crops is a little difficult to contemplate.
On 5th September 2012, James Wilmot of the Democratic Alliance MP and Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, issued a press release claiming that poor consumers cannot benefit from the “cost savings offered by GMOs” because genetically modified (GM) foods cannot be labelled. He claimed that labelling could not be implemented without a testing facility and “without an active testing facility, the SABS cannot ensure the safety of GMOs for consumption by the general public. As a result, the Department’s interim solution has been to ban a number of GMOs until the testing facility is operational.”
That is a little hopeful for a country that has been suffering with poverty and hunger in recent years which only goes to show that GM crops do not fulfil the PR blurb of solving world hunger. The African Centre for Biosafety, ACB), reports:
“It is clear that Mr. James does not understand how GMOs are regulated in this country and has mixed up the functions of the Departments of Trade and Industry and Agriculture. He also does not realise the extent of GMOs in our food system. There is no import ban due to labelling issues; South Africa stopped importing bulk GM shipments from Argentina and Brazil in 2010 when these countries approved GMOs that have not passed through South Africa’s biosafety system. Shipments originating from these countries will contain a mix of approved and unapproved GMOs. Under the rules of the United Nations Biosafety Protocol, South Africa may not allow unapproved GMOs into the country”.
It is with horror one learns from ACB that South Africa has been growing GM crops sine 1998, and that:
- 72% of maize production is genetically modified
- 90% of soya production is genetically
Yet, up until 2010 South Africa was a major importer of GM maize with 2 million tons from Argentina in 2007 alone. With the legacy of apartheid still not laid to rest in the country, one would think that, that experience would be enough to question what is introduced into the country, especially as the likes of Rothschild, and Oppenheimer with firms stakes in the country. The post apartheid national land reform process a complete failure transfering less than 5% of agricultural land from white to black ownership South Africans still remain excluded from their own country.
So throwing the health and well being of the environment, the animals, and of course the people out the window, why have there been food riots in recent years!
Then of course there is the issue of labeling due to consumer demand which of course has been blocked by the profiteering food industry along with seed control by the giants DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred and South African seed company, Pannar, Monsanto and DuPont. If these companies are successful in having a monopoly over seeds, this will effectively give them complete control over South African agriculture plunging the small farmers into further poverty, and left unable to do what they do best, provide healthy undoctored produce for their families. It is also insullt upon injury to pass the Protection of Information Bill, which positions South Africa into the hands of such corporations.
Accumulative evidence from scientfic research has found GM crops of:
- Contaminating natural plants
- Unable to resist the pests which have now become superbugs, and are in fact being devoured by the same pests
- Is water intensive therefore compromises water security
- Pollutes the waterways
- Causes tumors of the liver, reduces the size of kidneys, reduces land and animal fertility
- GM toxins reduces huma fertility, and increases fatalities
- Compromises the immune system
- Remains in the gut of humans
- Reduces the bee population, essential for plant pollination
With recent evidence that GM crops have entrenched the U.S. long drought, causing a drought impact to be greater than it could have been, there is no positive reason to continue with GM crops.
In ACBs report Seed Merger: Deepening Structural Inequities in South Africa against the merger of Pannar and Dupont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred, and are attempting to testify on behalf of 1.2 million small farmers. With low profit margins, and decreasing access to open-pollinated seeds that are in fact becoming increasing scarce. It would be interesting to know to what extent that South Africa’s long years with GM farming has contributed towards the scarcity of natural seeds, and to what extent the protection of indigenous plant knowledge is putting back into circulation those seeds!
Fortunately ACB’s legal contribution at a 3-week long hearing at the Tribunal was able to stall the merger, but this is only one battle in a long war for food sovereignty and food security. ACB rightly argues:
Eighteen years after political democratisation in South Africa, economic power remains in the hands of a small elite, with widespread poverty and lack of access to the production assets of society. We believe that this economic concentration must be reversed, that a broad and diverse production base, with a more equitable distribution of productive assets is essential for the redress of historical injustices and for an inclusive economic future.
Not only should South Africans be included in their future, but they should be the owners of their future, because as the global economic crisis has proven, to hand over our rights to an irresponsible few is but a form of indentured slavery!
ACB. “Seed Merger’: Deepening Structural Inequities in South Africa.” http://www.acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/Seed-Merger.pdf
“GMOs have made no impact on food security in South Africa in fourteen years. ACB responds to DA position.” http://www.acbio.org.za/index.php/media/64-media-releases/392-gmos-have-made-no-impact-on-food-security-in-south-africa-in-fourteen-years-acb-responds-to-da-position