South Africa to ease some GM crop rules to avert food crisis
* South Africa facing worst drought in a century
* U.S. has significantly higher numbers of GM strains
* Pretoria eases handling permits to allow storage
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, Feb 23 (Reuters) - South Africa will relax some of its tough rules on genetically modified crops so it can ramp up maize imports from the United States and Mexico to avert a potential food crisis amid a severe drought, officials said.
Almost 90 percent of maize in South Africa is genetically modified and the country bans commodities with strains not approved by the government and does not allow imports to be stored, stipulating they must be transported immediately from ports to mills.
Makenosi Maroo, spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture, told Reuters on Tuesday that the government planned to permit importers to temporarily store consignments of GM maize at pre-designated facilities, to allow much bigger import volumes.
"In anticipation of the volumes expected to be imported into South Africa, the (GMO) Executive Council has approved the adjustment of a permit condition which relates to the handling requirement," Maroo said.
"There is therefore no intention to relax safety assessment or risk management procedures prescribed." Continuación...