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Note how the project is defended by Graham Thompson, described as "of the government's Agricultural Research Council".
What isn't mentioned is that Thompson is on the Governing Board of the biotech-industry backed lobby group AfricaBio.
Secret SA potato trials anger anti-GM groups who query benefits to farmers
By Melanie Gosling
The Cape Times, July 28, 2004
South Africa has expanded its experiments with genetically modified potatoes, which will soon be grown in field trials at six secret locations
around the country.
One of them will be in the Ceres district.
The genetically modified (GM) potato is similar to one which was withdrawn from the market in the United States because of consumer resistance.
The SA research is being funded partly by USAid, which has put $1 million into the project and will invest another million over the next two years.
The government hopes to release the GM potato commercially in 2007.
Anti-GM groups are angry that the field trials are being expanded, as they say the earlier trials were flawed.
Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, of Biowatch South Africa, said yesterday that her organisation had lodged objections with the Department of Agriculture regarding the proposed field trials.
"We got scientists from the University of the Western Cape to analyse data from previous trials and they found it to be flawed.
"And if it was rejected in the US by consumers, why do they think consumers in South Africa want it?" she said.
She said the GM potato project was supposed to help small-scale farmers in Africa, yet the socio-economic impacts on these farmers had not been considered.
Some impacts were the higher price of GM seed and licence fees. Farmers would not be able to store seed and would become dependent on a few multi-national seed companies, she said.
Miriam Mayet, of the African Centre for Biosafety, said the field trials had failed to consider the impact of the GM potatoes on the South African environment or on human health.
"There have been no environmental impact assessments done on any of the GM crops grown in South Africa. But we're up against a multi-billion dollar industry and a government which is fully behind it," Mayet said.
Graham Thompson, of the government's Agricultural Research Council, confirmed that the locations of the field trials would be kept secret as threats had been made that the GM crops would be destroyed.
"Before we release the GM potatoes commercially, we will do research on the environmental impact on non- target insects. We are also busy with research on the health impacts of these potatoes on laboratory animals," Thompson said.
He said the GM potato had been approved by the US authorities, but there had been consumer resistance to it.
"The big chains like McDonald's felt that consumers were not ready for it," he said.
Secret South African trials anger anti-GM groups who query benefits to farmers
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