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February 19, 2009

South Africa's acreage of gene-modified crops grows

Genetically modified (GM) maize crops grew by 10000 hectares last year while South Africa remained the eighth-biggest producer of GM foods in the world, AgriSA has announced.

“South Africa maintained the No8 position in the world ranking of biotech crop countries, planting more than 1,8 million hectares of biotech crops,” said AgriSA chief executive officer Kobus Laubscher. South Africa also ranked eighth in 2007.

Laubscher said last year‘s GM maize plantings had increased by 10000ha, despite an almost eight per cent decrease in the commercial maize area planted.

Globally, 125 million hectares of biotech crops were planted, according to the findings of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications for 2008 – an increase of 9,4% from 2007.

In South Africa, GM crops – maize, soybeans and cotton – increased.

Both yellow and white maize topped the list at 1,617 million hectares or 62% of the total maize area compared with 57% in 2007.

Of the 1,617 million hectares of maize, 56% or 891,000 hectares constituted biotech plantings.

Laubscher said farmers had to produce more crops for a growing population on smaller land (because of climate change among other things), but there seemed to be a resistance to GM foods. This perception, he said, needed to be changed.

Laubscher added that biotech crops, grown in 25 countries including the US and South Africa, had led to a decrease in pesticide use. “This is a positive spin-off.” – Sapa

The Herald

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