Shortsighted application

2008-07-18 00:00

THE Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is soon to apply to have genetically modified (GM) potatoes released to farmers in South Africa.

This is ostensibly to benefit small-scale farmers; but the majority of small-scale potato farmers are from KwaZulu-Natal where the tuber moth is not a major pest and the cost of purchasing patented seed is beyond their means.

In South Africa, the major processors of frozen potatoes are reluctant to use GM potatoes, while in the United States GM potatoes were shelved due to consumer resistance. Egypt terminated its GM potato project as its major trading partner, the European Union, refused to purchase them.

South Africa exports 43 million kilograms of potatoes to Southern African Development Community countries, some of whom will definitely not purchase GM varieties. For example, Kenya will soon import one million bags of maize from Zambia which it has chosen over South Africa apparently in order to have GM-free maize.

Hopefully, the GM Organism Council will see fit to reject the ARC’s shortsighted application for a product that is potentially dangerous to human health and the environment while posing substantial socio-economic risks.



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