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October 06, 2019

South Africa Says Monsant's 'Drought Tolerant' GM Maize Seed No Better Than Conventional Seed

South Africa's Agriculture Minister, Thoko Didiza, has upheld a decision to reject agriculture chemical company Monsanto's application for the commercial cultivation of its triple stacked ‘drought-tolerant’ maize seed.

The maize is genetically modified (GM) to be tolerant to drought as well as resistant to certain insects.

Didiza made a final decision on an appeal lodged by Monsanto SA against the decision taken by the executive council regarding the general release application of a GM maize event, MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603.

Its refusal was based on the fact "that kernel count per row and kernel count per ear showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event and conventional maize in water limited conditions.

"The yield benefits associated with the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event were inconsistent and in some trials the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event had lower yields than the conventional maize.

"The insect resistance data presented was insufficient since it was only collected from one trial site for two planting seasons," her department said in a statement issued October 04 m2019 .

Monsanto lodged an appeal in November against the refusal of its general release application by the executive council.

The appeal board upheld the decision to refuse the application and recommended more sites and seasons were needed to demonstrate efficacy of the drought tolerance gene.

On August 28, Didiza made the final decision, upholding the appeal board's decision "and as such the refusal of a general release application for the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event is sustained".

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) welcomed the "landmark decision", after more than a decade of "battling Monsanto’s bogus drought tolerant maize project".

The decision, it said, was a "triumphant win" for the ACB and other civil society organisations on the continent that had "tirelessly resisted the introduction of these GM varieties in SA, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

"The Minister's decision was made following the abject failure of the GM varieties to increase yield under drought conditions during repeated field trials in SA.

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