South Africa’s hot potatoes

Posted by Laura Grant on July 29, 2008
Posted in Food

In this year of the potato (so named by the United Nations General Assembly, believe it or not) the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) intends to apply to the government for permission to make genetically modified potatoes commercially available in South Africa.

The SpuntaG2 potato is resistant against potato tuber moth damage and, if permission is granted, it will join the GM maize, soyabeans and cotton that are already grown in this country.

The African Centre for Biodiversity, SafeAge, Biowatch South Africa and Urban Sprout have organised an online petition opposing the marketing and growing of the GM potatoes here and are “imploring” the South African GMO Council to reject the ARC’s application.

GM potatoes pose no benefit to consumers or African famers, the group argues. The petition states:

The developers claim that GM potatoes are better for our health & the environment because they reduce pesticide spraying, but this is not true. GM potatoes are engineered with an inbuilt pesticide to control the tuber moth, which is most destructive during storage. The pesticide is now inside the plant and farmers will still use a toxic cocktail of chemicals to combat all the other 99 pests, as well as viral, fungal & bacterial diseases, and weeds that plague potato farming in South Africa.

Furthermore because the Bt toxin is expressed 24 hours a day, it accumulates in the environment and throughout the food chain. The tuber moth will quickly develop resistance to the toxin, so this is a short-term and short-sighted solution to this problem.”

To go to the online petition, click here.

Interestingly, the GM potato petition is the first petition on, according to Urban Sprout. The site has been created to make armchair activism easier for us South Africans by enabling us to support multiple initiatives with a single click. While you’re there, check out the list of DVDs, there are some really interesting ones that you seem to be able to order from the site.


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