SA GM Ethanol Maize Risky and Inefficient (2/6/2006)

see also The mealie vs Event 3 272
Mail & Guardian, South Africa


SA GM Ethanol Maize Risky and Inefficient
Gaia Mailout from Teresa Anderson - 2/6/06

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Syngenta's recent application to import GM maize to South Africa for conversion into ethanol, signals the beginning of a trend that many suspect is the next step in industry's strategy for GM acceptance.

Industry evidently hopes to cast GM as the solution to climate change, by producing crops like Syngenta's maize event 3272, for conversion into ethanol which can be used as a supposedly environmentally-friendly biofuel alternative to petroleum oil.

But there are many reasons why the promotion of biofuels as an alternative fuel source may bring more harm than good. There is the likelihood that precious land in Africa will be used to produce car fuel for export instead of food. Forests in Malaysia are being cut down for palm oil plantations, even though the forests will absorb more carbon dioxide than the plantation trees. And patented GM crops will have a disastrous impact on African farmers and agriculture. (Please see Gaia Mailout "Biofuels - Bringing GM, hunger, and environmental destruction?" 27/04/06)

A new report from the Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB) "South Africa, Bioethanol and GMOs: a heady mixture" looks at the new trends emerging for South Africa and the rest of the continent. ACB have also, together with the Center for Food Safety (based in the US) submitted comments to the South African registrar for GMO applications. (As Syngenta are also applying for event 3272 acceptance in the US, EU, South Africa and China, please feel free to forward and use this document elsewhere.)

It is interesting a comparison on Syngenta's application for GM maize event 3272 in Europe and SA shows that the applications are substantially different. The SA application claims that "extremely low levels" of contamination of the industrial GM maize may take place, but the EU application acknowledges that contamination may well take place into food and feed at much higher levels.

Furthermore, ACB point out in their report that ethanol for fuel production actually consumes more energy than it produces, due to the high energy costs of agricultural inputs, processing and transport of the fuel. Other studies in the US also demonstrate that much of the hype about ethanol being a green energy source are actually baseless.

The biofuels issue heralds the start of a new aspect of the GM debate, and one that we must be prepared for. Certainly strategies are urgently required to help society adapt to climate change and dwindling oil supplies. But policymakers need to carefully consider the implications of biofuels and GM before taking this path.

Best wishes,

1. For Commodity Clearance of GM Maize Event 3272.

Notice from Syngenta in Business Day, South Africa. Date: May 12 2006.

2. South Africa, Bioethanol and GMOs: A Heady Mixture Briefing from Africa Centre for Biosafety. Date: May 2006 Mariam Mayet www.biosafetyafrica.net 3. Comments on Syngenta's Application for Commodity Clearance of Genetically Modified Maize, Event 3272 Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety, USA & Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa. Date: 29 May 2006 4. Warts and Ethanol Article from Grist. Date: 26 May 2006 Amanda Griscom Little http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/05/26/unethacoal/index.html?source=weekly

5. Cornell Ecologist's Study Finds that Producing Ethanol and Biodiesel from Corn and Other Crops is Not Worth the Energy Article from Cornell University News Service, US. Date: 5 July 2005 Susan S. Lang http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html

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