South Africa is exporting transgenic maize to Zimbabwe without the required approval, and continues exporting to Mexico thus contaminating both the region and the origin source.

Johannesburg, Harare, Mexico City, April 15, 2013

Wednesday 17 April 2013

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Date: 15 April 2013.

Type of document: Press release.

Countries: Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe.

Theme: Transgenic corn, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

Keywords: Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), transgenic maize, African organizations (Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe).

The ACB is deeply concerned by the news spread that South African authorities dealing with transgenic goods allowed the export of almost 25 thousand tons of transgenic maize to Zimbabwe. This is the first time that South African transgenic maize has been commercially exported to the neighboring country in the north in Limpopo, and this is added to the growing list of African countries that have received wholesale shipments of genetically modified organism of life grains from South Africa, including Swaziland, Mozambique, Kenya and Somalia.

According to the speaker of the group FoodMattersZimbabwe “Zimbabweans believe that maize will be imported from Zambia and they are annoyed with the news that the transgenic maize is coming from South Africa. The Zimbabwe government is promoting at present the use of OPV seed varieties to strengthen the self-sufficiency of its producers. Import of transgenic maize represents a serious risk of contamination of our varieties, we should mill prior to the entry in the country of all the transgenic maize."

Nevertheless, there is a shadow lingering over the legality of the shipment and if South African official have in fact received a written and explicit approval from the Zimbabwe government for importing this maize, according to Andrew Mushita from CTDT that has acted as a link with the official from Zimbabwe. "The official stand of the Zimbabwe government is that they are not importing transgenic maize from South Africa. Nevertheless they have opened the import of non-transgenic maize from that country. To ensure that they are not receiving transgenic maize the government has taken necessary steps to obtain evidence at the facilities in the entry port border and to return to South Africa any shipment proving positive to transgenic maize.

In a similar worrying development an amount of 150 thousand tons of transgenic maize has been approved for export to Mexico, the center of origin of this vital grain. Around 2 million tons of transgenic maize has been already exported from South Africa to Mexico in the last two years. Mexico is the global repository of the genetic diversity of maize, next to the main three food items. With South African exports and the acceptance from Mexico, both governments are contaminating the maize used by peasants in its center of origin, thus threatening biodiversity and sovereignty of all countries.

Maize is part of the main Mexican diet and culture and peasant leaders have started a hunger strike during January this year to protest for the plans to crop transgenic maize in the country. In fact, there is a wide opposition to transgenic articles in Mexico, with scientists, producers, consumers, students, environmental organizations and others protesting against transgenic maize. The Special Rapporteur for the right to food, Olivier de Schutter , after his visit to Mexico in 2011recommended the immediate return of the moratorium established in 1999 against transgenic maize.

What makes this export of transgenic products even more unacceptable is that at least 150 thousand tons of non transgenic maize produced by Mexican producers were under storage for at least three months and still are to be sold, but companies prefer to import transgenic varieties from South Africa paying no attention to the associated cost, both environmental and of transportation.

"Mexico does not need to import maize for its population, since the production is not only sufficient but also surpass the human consumption needs. These imports are to be used for animal feed in the industrial production, which is controlled by multinational companies. Maize marketed from both extremes is only good to cover the needs and greed of corporations”, expressed Silvia Ribeiro from Grupo ETC in Mexico.

"This is yet another depressing evidence of the fact that the main aim of our feeding system is not to provide proper, accessible and nutritive food items for all South African but rather to guarantee profitability of some of the largest agro-business corporations in the world”, said Mariam Mayet , Director of ACB.

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