By Rachel Moore
On 19 June, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) announced the authorisation of new drought-tolerant maize trait MON 87460 in the Republic of South Africa. The trait was originally licensed by Monsanto as part of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which has been in a public-private partnership with the ARC since 2008.
Dr Kingstone Mashingaidze, Research Team Manager, Plant Breeding and Country Coordinator of the WEMA project in South Africa, called the authorisation “a significant step forward” in the “fight against food shortages” that plague smallholder farmers. “The ARC, with its WEMA partners, is excited to bring this new drought trait to the market for smallholder farmers royalty-free in South Africa,” he said.
The ARC previously launched two conventional, drought-tolerant maize hybrids in December 2014, but the tolerance strength will be further enhanced by the incorporation of MON 87460. At the launch event, General Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said only 13% of land in South Africa was suitable for crop production. This has since been further worsened by low rainfall, which often leads to drought, and drought leads to crop failure, unemployment, hunger and even poverty.
Dr Shadrack Moephuli, Chief Executive Officer of the Agricultural Research Council said the authorisation is a stride “towards improving food security, increasing employment and enhancing the sector’s contribution to national economic growth.”
The ARC’s full press release can be seen here.
Daniel Kamanga, chairman of Gilgal Communications & Development, wrote an opinion piece about the ARC’s authorisation and its “positive impact on the food security, financial security and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families.”