South Africa to ease some GM crop rules to avoid food crisis

South Africa will ease up on some GM crop rules due to drought and food crisis

Photo by: Reuters Archive
Photo by: Reuters Archive

A maize plant in a field in Hoopstad.

South Africa to ease some of its tough rules on late plantings and genetically modified crops to ramp up corn imports from the United States and Mexico in the face of drought and avoid a potential food crisis.

Approximately, 90 percent of maize in South Africa is genetically modified and the country bans commodities with strains not approved by the government and does not allow imports to be stored, stipulating they must be transported immediately from ports to mills.

The Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), which will provide its second production forecast for 2016, is seen pegging the harvest at 6.87 million tonnes, which would be the lowest since 2006 and a 31 percent decline from last year.

"In anticipation of the volumes expected to be imported into South Africa, the (GMO) Executive Council has approved the adjustment of a permit condition which relates to the handling requirement," Makenosi Maroo, spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture, told Reuters

"There is therefore no intention to relax safety assessment or risk management procedures prescribed."

The country needs to import about 1.2 million tonnes of white maize and 2.6 million tonnes of yellow maize, according to the government, based on the current conservative domestic crop estimate of 7.4 million tonnes, with only Mexico and the United States able to plug the shortfall.

"We want the zero tolerance regulation changed to at least one percent; to have it relaxed and help prevent bottlenecks occurring when we need to import," said Heiko Koster, a feed mill owner and member of the maize steering committee.

TRTWorld and agencies