"More poisoning of South Africa's staple food" given the go-ahead
Three genetically modified maize varieties developed by Corteva (the new name of the Dow-DuPont merged entity) to withstand the application of the dangerous 2,4-D herbicide have been approved for general release by the Executive Council: GMO Act. The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) said it was "extremely alarmed" to learn of the development, which it said constituted ""More poisoning of South Africa's staple food". The ACB added that the approvals pose "a grave threat to the health of food consumers, farm workers and the environment".
The approvals pave the way for farmers to cultivate 2,4-D resistant GM maize for the first time in South Africa.
2,4-D is an ingredient of the infamous war chemical Agent Orange. According to the ACB, the chemical has been linked to an increase in birth abnormalities, male reproductive problems and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The ACB said, "Two of these GM maize varieties are also genetically modified to survive applications of the controversial and toxic chemical glyphosate, as well as glufosinate ammonium. This means that South Africa’s staple food – maize – will be sprayed with a cocktail of potent agrochemicals in the name of keeping weeds in check. These chemicals
are widely associated with serious adverse health effects including cancers and birth defects. While other countries are removing them from their shelves, they are now being dumped on South Africa and our government seems happy to go along with it."
The ACB added, "Corteva’s field trial data actually showed that non-GM maize varieties outperform their new 2,4-D GM varieties. Despite years of substantive objections by the ACB, including independent biosafety science indicating adverse health and environmental impacts, the government has caved in to industry pressure. The ACB’s demands for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to be carried out were also ignored by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy.
"The development of resistance to herbicides such as glyphosate used in conjunction with GM crops has been a boon for Corteva. It has exploited this weakness in a hopelessly flawed system by genetically modifying maize to withstand multiple chemicals, which are sold to farmers in an inseparable package with their GM seeds."
According to the ACB’s Director, Mariam Mayet, “This continues the pattern whereby the development of new GM varieties has little to do with the needs of farmers or food security, and much more to do with maintaining a market for the pesticides produced by agrochemical companies like Corteva.”
The ACB said, "This seed will increase pesticide use and thus human and environmental exposure. It is now farm workers, who are massively exposed to these chemicals, who will pay with their health and their lives.
"The huge occupational hazards posed by pesticides were highlighted on 30 August 2019, when more than 200 women associated with the organisation Women on Farms Project
marched to Parliament to demand, 'at the very least', the banning of 67 agrochemicals that are a daily part of their working lives."