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July 29, 2008

Planting of GM crops in South Africa rises

In a new online video released recently, South African farmer Richard Sithole shares his family's experience farming genetically modified Bt maize. Since planting his first genetically modified Bt maize crop in 2000, Sithole has increased the size of his farm, increased his income, and improved his family's standard of living.

"The new kind of maize is important to me because I can grow enough to feed my family and also have some surplus leftover to sell," says Sithole, who, in 2000, farmed 10 hectares of land and today farms 15 hectares. "Previously, I failed to make this farm produce as much as it could, but now, because I'm well equipped, I'm farming all of my hectares."

In 2007, approximately 57 percent of the total maize acreage in South Africa was planted to genetically modified maize. Including maize, soybeans and cotton, South African farmers grew more than 1.8 million hectares of genetically modified crops in 2007 - almost 30 percent more acres than in 2006.

The adoption of genetically modified crops in South Africa has been progressive and steady over the last decade due to significant on-farm economic benefits. A 2008 study by Brookes and Barfoot estimates that South African farmers have increased their farm income by using genetically modified crops by US$156 million in the period 1998 to 2006.

"When I was using conventional maize, I was losing too much money because I had to buy chemicals to control insects like the corn borer. And, sometimes, when I went to the shop to buy the pesticide, they didn't have it," continues Sithole. "Now, using the Bt maize, I'm getting more yield and spending less money compared to conventional maize.

"My family is well fed now, and we live at a higher standard because of Bt maize," continues Sithole, husband, father of seven and grandfather of seven. "My children are now getting a good education. … Even my livestock is living at a higher standard because I use this maize to feed them."

This new video about genetically modified maize in South Africa can be viewed, downloaded or embedded into another Web site from the Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site. In addition, visitors to the Web site can view videos with other South African farmers talking about the benefits of genetic engineering of crops, and videos with experts about the need for GM technology in developing countries to benefit subsistence farming.

The Conversations about Plant Biotechnology is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow GM crops and the experts who research and study the benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The Web site contains more than 70 two- to three-minute, candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company -- a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

Contact:
Ranjana Smetacek
314-694-2642
ranjana.smetacek @ monsanto.com

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