Business Day article on the potential for global food shortages refers (“The world is dry and hungry but GM crops could change all that”, April 26).

SA’s maize industry has enjoyed an astonishing improvement in yields since the adoption of genetically modified (GM) seeds in the 2000/2001 production season. Yields improved from an average of 2.8 tonnes per hectare in 2000/2001 to about 5.9 tonnes per hectare in the 2019/2020 production season. The expansion in irrigation also contributed to this improvement to an extent.

Wheat, which is non-GM, has not seen a noticeable improvement in yields over this period — the national yield has remained stable at about 2.9 tonnes per hectare. The decline in area planted for wheat over the years, combined with this lack of improvement in yields, has led to SA importing roughly half its annual wheat consumption of 3.2-million tonnes.

For this reason, I find the prospect of GM wheat encouraging. This is a space SA agriculturalist should keep an eye on, as it could be a game-changer for our wheat industry.

This letter first appeared on Business Day, April 29, 2021

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