Nelly Bassily | October 26, 2009
South African potato farmers have scored a victory against biotechnology. The farmers lobbied to prevent the sale of genetically-modified – or GM – potatoes. In a recent ruling, South Africa’s GM authority agreed.
South Africa’s Agriculture Research Council had applied to release a GM potato commercially. The GM potato was engineered to kill the tuber moth. The council claimed the potato would be a boon for farmers. But farmers disagreed.
Potatoes South Africa is a group representing potato farmers. Last year, they signed a petition asking the government to prevent the commercial release of the GM potato. They also said that the tuber moth is not a major problem.
The farmers feared losing major export and food chain buyers. These buyers have refused to accept GM crops. Since there is no mandatory labeling for GM foods, it would have been impossible to keep GM potatoes separate.
Formal protests against the GM potato were led by the African Centre for Biosafety. Supermarkets and fast food restaurants joined the lobby, along with potato farmers.
The South African GM authority rejected the application to sell GM potatoes on health, environmental, and economic grounds. According to documentation of their meeting, the group was particularly concerned about the potential effect on trade.
-In September 2008, FRW reported on Potatoes South Africa’s opposition to GM potatoes:
“South Africa: Farmers reject GM potato” (FRW #38, September 2008)
-Earlier this year, FRW reported a problem South African farmers experienced with GM maize:
-“South Africa: GM crop problems called ‘failure of biotechnology’” (FRW #63, April 2009)