Biowatch SA: Tests on Health Effects of GM Crops in SA
Biowatch South Africa welcomes announcement that tests on health effects of genetically modified crops to start in South Africa
As consumers and farmers worldwide mark International Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Opposition Day on 8 April, Biowatch South Africa wishes to welcome the announcement that the University of the Free State’s GMO Testing Facility is preparing to embark on major research on the health effects of GM crops.
Professor Chris Viljoen who heads the independent testing facility – the only one of its kind in South Africa – made this announcement at a pubic talk about consumer choice in Cape Town.
According to Viljoen, feeding trials with animals should take about three years to complete. After these the testing facility would look at general allergic responses in humans.
Studies on the GM crops which have been released and commercialised suggest there are no long-term negative impacts. But in many cases scientists linked to the clutch of powerful multinational companies which dominate the seed industry have conducted these tests.
GM crops have been in South Africa since 1997 and the country is one of only eight countries worldwide which grow GM crops commercially.
About 50% of South Africa’s soy crop is GM, as is about 10% of its white maize crop, about 24% of its yellow maize and about 85% of its cotton.
But tests which the Free State University’s GMO Testing Facility did last year on soy and maize products showed that 90% of soy products and 61% of maize products tested contained traces of GMOs.
Increasingly GM products are sneaking into our food chain. In the absence of compulsory separation and labeling of GM products, South African consumers have been deprived of their right to choose whether to eat GM food. And farmers who opt for the GM-free route are being prejudiced.
Fifteen small-scale farmer groups have endorsed a Biowatch South Africa statement calling for compulsory labelling and separation of GM products and independent studies into the effects of GM crops. Twenty five scientists have also drawn up a statement of their own. Both statements are attached.
For more general information or queries please ring Leslie Liddell, Biowatch South Africa director, on 073 3078 873.
For more information or queries about the scientists' statement please ring Dr William Stafford on 082 567 4922