How are biotech crops created?

Farmers have been using traditional breeding methods for millennia to obtain higher yielding crops and foods with improved nutrition. They did this through a variety of methods, such as crossbreeding and selective breeding, to ensure the most desirable traits (characteristics) of plants were carried into the next generation. Plant biotechnology is a continuation of this time-tested plant breeding process. Read more…


Available plant biotech traits

Traits in plant biotechnology refer to specific, desirable characteristics in a plant, some of which can be found in insect resistant or herbicide tolerant crops, crops with improved nutrition, and crops that are better able to withstand environmental stressors such as drought or floods. Researchers now have the precise tools to copy a gene with a desired trait in one organism and put it into another through genetic engineering. Read more...

Biotech crops in South Africa

The plant biotechnology industry in South Africa compares well with international trends. Although climatic conditions have been challenging since 2014, South Africa is still ranked as the World’s 8th largest producer of biotech crops based on the 2018 figures, with an 87% adoption of biotech maize, 95% adoption of biotech soybean and 100% adoption of biotech cotton.

In order to provide our farmers with the best possible plant protection tools to grow these healthy crops, CropLife promotes the principles of integrated pest management which involves using the best combination of cultural, biological and chemical measures for particular circumstances, including plant biotechnology.

Know your pests

Pests such as Fall armyworm, Cotton bollworm and Maize stem borers can have devastating results on their preferred host plants, which is why it is imperative that farmers can identify these pests early to ensure effective management with the right set of tools.

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Benefits of biotech

While genetic modification technology has been around for almost 30 years, biotech crops on the market have been dominated by input traits that assist farmers improve their production efficiencies by minimising crop losses due to pests and diseases. These improved production efficiencies have not only brought benefits to agriculture, but significant increases in yield have also ensured that consumers have continuous access to an affordable and safe food supply. This has also translated into food being produced more sustainably, using less land and inputs with reduced environmental impact.

Biotech crops that directly address consumer needs include crops with enhanced nutritional qualities, as well as those that limit food spoilage and waste, such as canola and soybean with higher levels of healthy fats, “golden rice” varieties with extra beta carotene to prevent vitamin A deficiency and arctic apples that do not turn brown after slicing.

Watch our video series below to learn more about the benefits of plant biotechnology:

Access to Safe and Affordable Food

Protecting the Environment

Food Security

Food Safety and Nutrition



In South Africa, the Genetically Modified Organisms Act, 1997 provides regulatory oversight over GMOs ensuring rigorous safety assessment of biotech crops by an Advisory panel of independent scientists to minimise potential risks to human health, animal health as well as the environment.

Government Liaison

CropLife SA acts as liaison between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and the plant science industry so as to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the GMO Act, 1997.

In addition, CropLife SA offers the following to its members:

  • Monitor and update members on plant biotech policy developments at national, regional, or international levels.
  • Support members with regulatory compliance e.g. GM labelling, procedures and processes for GM cultivation and trade, etc.
  • Communication and outreach activities around impacts of plant biotechnology and product stewardship


Under the GMO act, approved GMO activities are regulated by permits with accompanying permit conditions to ensure compliance and that activities are carried out in a responsible manner. In this regard CropLife SA liaises closely with the grain industry to facilitate annual reporting of approved GM Commodity Clearance events.

Commodity Clearance permits approved under the GMO Act, includes permit conditions requiring that annual reports be submitted regarding any unanticipated adverse effects arising from the handling and use of the approved GMO commodity. As the permit holders (technology developers) are not directly involved in the trade and import of commodities, annual commodity reporting is facilitated by CropLife SA, in liaison with grain traders associations, SACOTA and AFMA.

Useful Documents
Annual report of approved GM Commodities


Policy Issues

CropLife SA advocates for a science based regulatory environment that safeguards human health, animal health and environmental safety while supporting biotech innovation, commercialization and trade. CropLife SA continues to work with regulators to shape sound regulatory policy that facilitates access to modern breeding innovations and their potential to contribute to sustainable agricultural development and food security.

CropLife SA’s advocacy efforts focus on key regulatory policy issues such as:

Regulatory harmonisation for biotech crops

Regulation of stacked traits

Plant breeding innovation/genome editing

Low level presence (LLP)

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Within the plant biotechnology context, stewardship is defined as the responsible introduction and use of biotech-derived products across the entire plant product life cycle, from idea, through development and launch, to discontinuation. Stewardship extends beyond regulatory compliance. It requires a coordinated effort from stakeholders along the product value chain to preserve the efficacy of the introduced biotech trait and ensure that the benefits to sustainable agriculture are realised.


Download the stewardship infographic here.


Why Does Stewardship Matter?

Considering that it takes on average more than a decade and an investment of more than $150 million to develop a biotech crop, stewardship is critical to ensure that the required controls are in place throughout the biotech product’s life cycle to certify its safety and efficacy and also to encourage responsible management and use as a pest management tool.

Plant biotech stewardship encourages responsible management and use by:

  • Ensuring safe, effective and responsible use of the technology
  • Maintaining product integrity and longevity
  • Maximising the benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment
  • Minimising the risks associated with biotech resistance development
  • Facilitating regulatory compliance and monitoring

CropLife SA and its plant biotechnology members are committed to the responsible management and use of plant biotech products as part of the product stewardship life-cycle approach. Stewardship initiatives that support training and outreach on resistance management practices and compliance will be leveraged in partnership with government extension agencies, industry associations and related stakeholder organisations to ensure successful realisation of benefits and minimisation of risks due to plant biotech product utilisation.

Resistance Management

Agricultural production has historically endured huge losses due to pests and diseases. With pests having the ability to develop resistance, the long-term utilisation of pest control methods has a limited lifespan.

The evolution of resistance to various forms of pest management applications is an ongoing concern for all crop protection users. Resistance is not unique to plant biotechnology, although biotech crops do bring some unique considerations which must be addressed by technology providers and farmers. Read more…

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