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From the Biotech Desk – Crop Circular Issue 6

Chantel Arendse
Lead: Plant Biotechnology

June 1st marked the official transition of the plant biotechnology programme to CropLife SA with the establishment of the biotech desk. The first order of business was to engage industry members and stakeholders on the critical priority areas that would frame the strategic goals and map the workplan of the biotech portfolio. In summary, these discussions identified that the biotech portfolio would direct its efforts at regulatory advocacy on global priority topics such as new breeding innovations, stacked traits policy approaches, GMO labelling, intellectual property and developments at multilateral conventions.

The aim of these engagements is to ensure consistency and alignment with international best practices so that the South African regulatory system remains responsive to promoting biotech innovation and commercialisation of products.

South Africa remains in the top ten list of GM producing countries globally with an estimated 2.7 million hectares under GM cultivation. While South African producers continue to enjoy the benefits of biotech adoption, opportunities remain to bring those technologies closer to smallholder producers through extensive outreach and stewardship collaboration. As the arrival and establishment of pests such as Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) continues to have an impact on agricultural production, the Biotech desk will look to exploit opportunities to integrate biotech  into its crop protection toolbox to address sustainable management practices, responsible use and improve overall perception of available technology tools.

Commercial adoption of Bt cotton in eSwatini, ongoing drought resistant TELA maize trials in Mozambique and recent interest from Angola to conduct GMO field trials, signals a positive shift in policy support towards agricultural biotechnology within Southern Africa and possibly across Africa as a whole. With these positive developments, the Biotech desk is available to provide technical support where appropriate and work with regulators, partners and stakeholders in the biotechnology value chain to achieve success.

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