Genetically modified foods remain a hot topic for debate. Some aren’t convinced, others say it’s good for business. Whichever way you look at it, the world’s going GMO, and you need to too.
Although South Africa is one of the continent’s earliest adopters of crop farming with genetically modified organisms (GMO), there are still several challenges to overcome. “The GMO crop debate continues to rage on, with non-governmental organisations opposed to the use of this technology growing from strength to strength,” says the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
In a paper on the subject of GMO, researchers say that it offers the potential to improve national crop production, which will impact positively on food security and income generation for farmers. While you’ve been resisting the switch to GMO, you may not be able to hold back from cultivating modified crop any longer, particularly if you’d like to remain competitive and able to produce the yields that are required to feed the country.
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“Approximately 99% of soya and 84% of maize grown in this country are GMO,” says Sandile Ndlovu at The South African Health News Service. He explains that local crop DNA is transformed with DNA molecules from a different source to resist weed killers and herbicides that contain glyphosate – a product that kills all plants that are not genetically modified.
The reality is that GMO is here to stay, and many agri businesses have already embraced the technology to improve their harvests and revenues. If you don’t make the shift as you look to grow your business, you might not be able to compete on a level footing with GMO-enhanced farmers.
Here are two benefits that GMO offers:
1. GMO offers genuine environmental benefits
“In a global study conducted by Brookes and Barfort, it was observed that less need for frequent insecticide and herbicide spraying, and new farming systems accelerated by GMO technology, have resulted in less fuel usages which consequently reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere,” the CSIR says.
Because consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to their impact on the environment, and with concerns around climate change accelerating, GMO can offer important environmental gains. “GMO is an important contributor to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It results in less spraying, higher yields in a smaller area and cleaner crops,” they add.
2. GMO offers realistic health benefits
According to the CSIR, despite generally opposed public opinion on the matter, there are health benefits for consumers of GMO crops. “While these benefits are as yet not quantified, research evidence is currently indicating that GMO maize has lower levels of cancer causing agents such as mycotoxins, in comparison to conventional and organic maize,” CSIR researchers say.
GMO technology also contributes to reduced use of insecticide and herbicide as mentioned earlier, by up to 33%. “This is particularly important for the local farming communities as unfortunately, numerous cases of human poisonings have been reported due to pesticides,” The CSIR explains.
However, according to Ndlovu at The South African Health News Service: “Most South Africans, without their knowledge or consent, are unknowingly consuming GMO food products every single day.”
He says that food producers must label their food accordingly where GMO products are concerned, as this will help consumers understand what they are eating instead of simply writing of GMO foods as poor for health. This is why it’s important for you to consider labelling your GMO-produced foods appropriately once you make the switch.
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Moving forward with GMO
South African farmers are amongst the fastest adopters of GMO crops in Africa and a steady increase in GMO crop production echoes the confidence they have in the technology. The CSIR says that GMO production can increase farm profitability for both small scale and large scale farms.
“High farm profits are important for the country’s gross domestic product. Less damage to the crops contributes to the higher yields and also increases the quality of the food which is largely beneficial to consumers,” the CSIR says.
While there is market resistance to GMO foods, there’s no denying that GMO is the future of crop production. To ensure your products are well received by the market, it’s important that your crops are clearly labelled as GMO-produced. Consumers are picky, but at the end of the day, with food security gathering momentum as a global concern – we might all have to eat GMO foods one day. Clearly define your crop as GMO and you might find it easier to grow your revenues in the future.