South African economist: Fall armyworm outbreak shows why Africa should embrace GMO crops

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Editor’s note: Wandile Sihlobo is an Agricultural Economist and Head of Agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa

The presence of the fall armyworm makes this seem like a repeat of the 2016-17 production seasons challenge, where countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia had to rely heavily on pesticides and other measures to mitigate the effect of the pest.

Meanwhile, while there was also an outbreak of the fall armyworm in South Africa, farmers experienced minimal crop damage as genetically modified crops proved far more resistant.

More than 80 percent of South Africa’s maize production is now genetically modified, which is why the country managed to harvest its biggest crop in history last year – 17.5-million tonnes – despite the worm.

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Wandile Sihlobo

South Africa is still the only African country that grows genetically modified maize, so it is not surprising that it produced 26 percent of sub-Saharan maize in the 2016-17 production season while using a relatively small land area of 2.6-million hectares.

In contrast, countries such as Nigeria planted 4-million hectares and only harvested 7.2-million tonnes.

This shows that not only do genetically modified crops withstand some pests, they also boost productivity. Given these pest outbreaks, we should ask whether it’s time for frica to follow in South Africa’s “food steps” and embrace genetic modification technology in order to boost production and feed her children.

Read full, original post: Africa Should Follow In South Africa’s ‘Food Steps’ And Embrace Genetic Modification

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