Wandile Sihlobo’s technocratic support for GM and related technology misses the mark

Southern African civil society responds to false claims about benefits to food and nutrition security

The African Centre of Biodiversity joins a collective of civil society organisations to endorse Glen Ashton’s calling out of chief economist of AgBiz, Wandile Sihlobo, on his May articles in Business Day and Project Syndicate, which promote the continued use of genetically modified (GM), and the introduction of gene drive, crops. 

Sihlobo claims that increased maize yields are due to GM technology but this is untrue. In reality, a number of factors have been involved, which include improvements in seed quality, larger farm sizes, much greater irrigation and years of optimal climatic conditions. 

We also strongly disagree with Sihlobo’s suggestion that South Africa should adopt a GM wheat variety developed to be drought-resistant and to withstand glufosinate ammonium – a herbicide so toxic that the European Union are considering imposing a ban. 

Not only are the claims of higher yields baseless, but the adoption of GM crops, over the past two decades, has neither addressed food and nutritional security in South Africa, nor has the widespread adoption of these industrial commodity crops advanced critical national areas of land reform and agricultural diversification. 

“The primary beneficiaries are those who control the technology, along with large agricultural enterprises, rather than those in sectors where change is most urgently required. If anything, Sihlobo’s various articles illustrate the risks of evaluating technologies through a narrow econometric lens.” 

You can read the full statement here.