Johannesburg - South Africa's production of genetically modified crops continues to rise, with the total for 2012 reaching nearly three million hectares, Agri SA said on Thursday.
“South Africa chalked up a record biotech crop in 2012 of 2.9 million hectares (compared to) 2.3m in 2011,” the organisation's president Johannes Moller said.
In a speech delivered at a biotech press conference in Pretoria on Thursday, Moller said genetically modified maize contributed to the bulk of the growth.
It increased by five percent to 2.428m hectares of produce in 2012.
Soybean production rose to 500,000 hectares compared to 450,000 hectares in 2011.
He said between 1998 and 2011, it was estimated that South Africa's economy gained US 922 million (about R8 billion) from biotech crops.
In 2011 alone, it was estimated to have contributed US 98m (about R889m).
He said with several biotech crops having been approved for field testing, there would be better management of weed and insect problems.
Testing would be done of drought-tolerant maize and cotton, altered sugars in sugar canes, and altered starch in cassava.
He said for the first time, developing countries had experienced an increasing production of modified crops.
Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa are the four countries on the continent growing biotech crops.
“According to Brookes and Barfoot 2013, from 1996 to 2011 biotech crops contributed to food security and sustainability by increasing crop production valued at US98.2bn,” said Moller.
Brookes and Barfoot provide consultancy services to the agriculture industry.
“Had it not been for biotech crops, an additional 108.7m hectares of conventional crops would have been required to produce the same tonnage.”
He said mandatory labelling of genetically modified products in South Africa was currently on hold as the matter was being debated.
“Strong criticism from stakeholders in the food chain, due to the ambiguity and complexity of the issue, has resulted in the department of trade and industry appointing a task team to address the conflicts and confusion of the labelling regulation.” - Sapa