Farmers give GMOs cold shoulder in South Africa / ISAAA hype exploded - again! (3/5/2005)

2.The GM Bubble - ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting

"somewhere in the world this week or next a farmer will plant the 1 billionth acre of genetically enhanced crops. This is a huge milestone for the world," says Dean Kleckner of Truth About Trade

However, according to Val Giddings of the Biotehnology Industry Organisation (BIO), in Washington D.C., ''We're approaching the 500 billionth acre of crops improved by biotechnology being grown around the world," he claims.

One billion - five hundred billion????? That's some difference!


In fact, both of these figures might just as well be plucked out of the air because the organisation that's sypposedly been doing the counting - ISAAA, an industry backed lobby group - has repeatedly been exposed as inflating the figures on global GM crop cultivation.

In the latest instance below, while ISAAA has been claiming 500 000 ha are under GM cultivation in South Africa, it seems that's probably a 60% inflation of the real figure!

See item 2 for much more of the same.

3 May 2005

Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa-According to research conducted by the African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa's commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and cotton has been grossly exaggerated by the biotechnology industry for propaganda purposes.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry supported organisation, consistently tries to inflate the figures of GM plantings around the world to support the argument that GM crops are here to stay. Despite South Africa's permissive GMO laws, Monsanto South Africa has estimated production of its GM maize (MON 810 and NK603) in South Africa to constitute no more than a total of 6-7% of the area under maize, less than the ISAAA's estimate of 15-20% of GM maize grown during 2004.

South Africa does not produce enough cotton for domestic needs and has to import the shortfall each year. In 2003/04 the area planted to cotton was less than one-fifth of the area under cotton in the late 1980s. Despite the dominance of Monsanto's GM cotton varieties, no more than 30 000 ha was planted to GM cotton in 2003, even though it represents 75% of the cottonseed planted in that year.

South Africa's soyabean industry is similarly small and no more than 41 000 ha of Monsanto's GM (glysophate tolerant) soya was grown in South Africa during 2004. However, during 2001-2005, just more than 67 000 tons of GM soya was imported for animal feed; equivalent to about 8% of South Africa's domestic soyabean production over the same period.

This brings the total land under GM crops in South Africa to around 300 000 ha and not the 500 000 ha claimed by ISAAA.

Despite its historical status as a net exporter of maize, South Africa has become reliant on imports from Argentina and the US of enormous amounts of GM maize. GM maize imports during the period 1999-2005, estimated to be in access of 2.6 million tons (MON 810, Bt11, Bt176 and TA25) are equivalent to over 7.5% of the domestic production in South Africa in the 2001-2004 growing seasons. Almost all GM seed imported into South Africa contains Monsanto’s technology.

The study also shows that South Africa is being used as a base from which to distribute GM food aid to the region. South Africa has also become an important country for GM seed bulking (propagating seed in volume for commercial use) and a base to produce GM seed for international distribution for experimentation/consumption.

Alarmingly, the study shows that Monsanto, the globally dominant company in the agrochemical, seed and agricultural biotechnology sector has about 45% of the South African maize seed market share and almost the entire market share for wheat seed. In 2005, Monsanto had at least 15 yellow maize, 11 white maize, 17 wheat, 4 soybean and 5 sunflower varieties on the market. The recent acquisition of Seminis, the global vegetable company, with nearly 60 vegetable and melon seed varieties registered by Seminis South Africa gives Monsanto an entry point into the vegetable seed market,

As the engine for the distribution of commercial seed into Southern Africa, control by Monsanto over South Africa's seed supply means control over Southern Africa's commercial seed supply. Monsanto has identified Brazil, India and South Africa as focal points for its efforts to expand into the developing world.

The South African government supports genetic modification in agriculture and has also used its own infrastructure and resources to encourage positive attitudes in the public. The state's support has allowed South Africa to become a base for expansion into Africa, for export of GM seed around the world and as an experimental base for new GM crops not approved elsewhere.

The full report "A Profile of Monsanto in South Africa" produced by the African Centre for Biosafety, April 2005 is available on

For further information contact:

Glenn Ashton (SAFeAge) 083 403 6263

Mariam Mayet, (African Centre for Biosafety) 084 68 333 74

Stephen Greenberg, Researcher, 083 988-2983


In South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety (

Biowatch South Africa (

Earthlife Africa (

GM Free Africa (

South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (Safeage) (

Other useful info on Monsanto (

Consumers International (

Corporate Watch (

Corporate Dirt Archives (

GeneWatch (

GMWatch (


Monsanto (

Monsanto South Africa (

Monsanto Watch (

Millions Against Monsanto (

Multinational Monitor (

2.The GM Bubble
Science in Society issue 22, summer 2004
Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at

Claire Robinson questions ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting

"India a key GM crop cultivator" ran a headline in the Times of India back in January. "India has made it to the list of top ten transgenic crop-growing nations," the paper reported, alongside what it called the "glowing figures" on "the global acreage of transgenic crops" and the number of farmers planting them - seven million in 18 countries, up from six million in 16 countries in 2002.

The Times of India was not alone in its breathless account of GM crop expansion. Headlines around the world declared, "Frankenfood flourishing" and "Biotech crops continue rapid global growth". Every January, similar headlines appear when the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Association (ISAAA) publishes its "Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops." They are drawn directly from press releases sent out by ISAAA's agri-centers around the globe plus country-specific media briefings via worldwide teleconferences. ISAAA stands at the front line of a major public relations war, a


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