Johannesburg - Biotech crops in South Africa have increased by 100,000 hectares for the second consecutive year, an independent biotech scientist said on Thursday.

“In 2011 the hectarage had continued to increase for the 14th consecutive season, to a record 2.3 million hectares,” retired professor Klaus Ammann said in a statement.

A biotech crop is one that has been genetically modified to, for example, make it more resistant to pests or drought, or produce higher yields.

He said biotech maize occupied 1.873m ha or 72 percent of an estimated total of 2.60m ha of maize commercially planted in South Africa.

Soybean plantings increased by 20 percent from 390,000 ha in 2010 to an estimated 450,000 ha due to higher demand.

Ammann said a survey by the Maize Trust showed about 12m ha of biotech maize, both white and yellow, was planted in South Africa between 2001 and 2010.

This produced a grain crop of over 40 million tons.

In one way or another, this grain has been consumed annually by 40m South Africans, 800m chickens, 1.4m feedlot cattle, and three million pigs, he said.

Ammann said the outlook for biotech crops between 2012 and 2015 was optimistic.

“Up to 10 countries may adopt biotech crops for the first time, three in Asia and seven in sub-Saharan Africa.” - Sapa