Guess what was on the plates of the 60 000 delegates at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg? Organic food and only organic food. This was an attempt by organisers to raise awareness about organic food and also to emphasise, in the spirit of the Summit, the sustainability of the alternative farming method.
South Africa is actually very far behind when it comes to organic food development, although the Organic Agricultural Association of South Africa says that there has been a 300% to 600% increase in the number of organic producers in the country in 2002.
There is, at present, no legislation in place in South Africa regarding organic farming, but a new version of the Agricultural Products Standards Act 1990 (119) is in the pipeline. For this reason, farmers stick to International Organic Standards. Organic farmers from South Africa are certified by regulatory bodies that adhere to European Union requirements.
Why do SA farmers use genetically modified plants?
However, South Africa is still one of the few countries in the world where the government supports the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to boost the quality and quantity of food crops.
The National Department of Agriculture (NDA) says that South Africa needs artificial assistance when it comes to growing crops, because the country itself does not have ideal growing conditions. Less than 15% of South Africa's land is arable and climatic constraints like periodic droughts make natural growth too risky to ensure food security for its people.
The NDA believes that if plants are genetically modified, their resistance to pests and disease can be increased. This not only yields more crops, but also reduces the need for pesticides.
Scientists can also control the taste and nutritional value of GM plants and this can help combat the deficiency diseases that ravage the country.
Eighty percent of South African meat is non-organic (See "Can you get organic meat?")