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October 19, 2009

South African government rejects commercial release of GM potato

In a damning and ground breaking ruling, South Africa’s GM body, the Executive Council (EC), has rejected attempts by the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) to bring GM potatoes to the South African market. The EC cited no less than 11 biosafety and socio economic and agronomic concerns for rejecting ARC’s commercial release application. These support the objections raised by the ACB that GM potatoes pose unacceptable risks to human health, the environment and the farming community.

The ARC has touted the GM potato, engineered to resist tuber moths, as a new agricultural technology that will benefit smallholder and commercial farmers. Its five year field trial programme has chewed up considerable public funds as well as having been bankrolled by USAID and Michigan state university.

According to Haidee Swanby of the ACB, “the precautionary decision taken by the EC concluded that ARC’s toxicology studies were inadequate, scientifically poorly designed and fundamentally flawed. It was unconvinced that the GM potato would benefit small holder farmers, who are faced with more fundamental production problems such as access to water and seed, and found that the Potato Tuber Moth is a low priority for most farmers.”

“We are elated with this decision because it confirms our contention that the GM potato was not developed in answer to pressing problems faced by South African farmers , but rather as a solution developed in search of a problem” said Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB.

According to Swanby, “Potatos South Africa, representing commercial and small holder potato farmers opposed ARC’s application. Fruit and Veg City, Simba and McDonald’s also expressed their opposition to GM potatoes. Consumers in South Africa have also overwhelmingly expressed their opposition.”

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