South Africa scores with GMO white maize

African countries south of the Sahara have a lot to learn from South Africa's successes in Genetically Modified (GM) plant agriculture. The latter country appears set for significant triumphs in its quest for greater food security, thanks to its embrace of agricultural biotechnology.

Its adoption of Bt white maize in 2001-2002 established South Africa as the first GM subsistence crop producer in the world. This particular decision has paid off dividends in the past two decades, and could serve as a shining example of what biotechnology can do to correct the continent's oft-erratic maize production.

New research conducted by experts from various universities in the US and Europe shows that between 2001 and 2018, GM white maize has brought benefits amounting to US$695 million in South Africa.

According to, benefits attributable to GM white maize in South Africa also manifest through an average of 4.6 million additional white maize rations annually, the report states. To achieve these additional annual rations using conventional hybrid maize, the additional land required would range from 1088 ha in 2001 to 217,788 ha in 2014.

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