An international organization that promotes the use of agricultural biotechnology ranked Egypt third in terms of the commercialization of genetically modified crops in Africa, in its 2012 annual report on the use of biotech crops worldwide.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) — funded by multinational biotechnology companies Monsanto and Bayer AG, as well as US government agencies USAID and the US Department of Agriculture — found that South Africa was the biggest biotechnology enthusiast on the continent, with 2.9 million planted hectares of genetically modified maize, soybeans and cotton, followed by Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan.
The ranking may worry some in Egypt, as controversy remains over the health and economic implications of genetically modified crops.
Although the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry made public its decision to destroy a 40-ton shipment of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize after it entered the country in January last year, the ISAAA reports that 1,000 hectares of the crop were actually planted. Monsanto is a US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation.
Osama El-Tayeb is a microbiology and immunology professor at the 6th of October University Faculty of Pharmacy and an adviser on biosafety issues. He says the shipment was imported without the formal approval of the Ministry of Environment, the ministry in charge of approving genetically-modified organisms’ import into the country.