NOTE: South Africa is the only African country growing a GM food crop commercially.
GM setback for maize exporters
Sunday Times (South Africa), 28 September 2008
The World Food Programme, one of the biggest buyers of South African maize, may have to shop elsewhere due to a growing shortage of non-genetically modified (GM) local mielies.
The move would be a huge blow to grain exporters, some of whom say they have already suffered economic losses due to the country's heavy reliance on GM maize.
"It is becoming more difficult every year to find sufficient quantities of non-GM maize in South Africa," WFP southern Africa spokesman Richard Lee said. "The situation is that the majority of countries that we send maize to from South Africa as food assistance do not want GM maize," Lee said.
South Africa, a key supplier of maize to the WFP, grows mostly GM maize, which is banned in most African countries.
Farmers say it is difficult to separate the GM maize crop from non-GM maize due to cross-pollination. The lack of control could cost the country millions, exporters say.
So far this year WFP has bought 400000 tons of maize from South Africa for distribution in Africa. Lee said the organisation is looking to buy even more due to a surplus local crop and competitive prices. Lee said: "The price is good (in South Africa) and logistically, it's somewhere we can move food from, by road or by sea."
Recent demand for maize had resulted in record maize purchases in Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi, Lee said.
"Given availability (of maize) we will obviously have to look in those countries again."
But exporters want government to ensure a reliable local supply of non-GM maize for the export market. Sharon Cross, from Milling, Supply and Export Services, said she had lost valuable tenders due to the shortfall.
"In the past three months we've secured about 11500 tons, which we had to short tender because of availability of non-GM maize.
"It could have been double that," Cross said. "There should have been (maize) control so that they only allowed GM maize in certain areas to avoid cross- pollination. Now we don't get pure GM- free maize."
She said grain silos and "bins" - where grain is collected and stored before milling - were mostly contaminated with GM so it was difficult to market completely GM- free maize. "It is difficult for South Africa and I think we are losing revenue."
The department of agriculture has authorised other GM crops in recent years, including soya and cotton. The controversy has sparked heated debate recently over the draft Consumer Protection Bill, which governs the labelling of foodstuffs.
EXTRACTS: Farmers say it is difficult to separate the GM maize crop from non-GM maize due to cross-pollination. The lack of control could cost the country millions, exporters say.