Reported increase in genetically modified crops in South Africa emphasises need for compulsory separation and labeling
Reported increase in genetically modified crops in South Africa emphasises need for compulsory separation and labelingBiowatch South Africa welcomes a statement by Department of Health spokesperson Solly Mabotha that new draft regulations to ensure compulsory labeling of genetically modified crops and food are at an advanced stage.
The ability to trace food from farm to fork and labeling of food is particularly important in the light of reported increases in the planting of genetically modified crops in South Africa – especially the planting of white maize which is a staple food.
Recent tests done on randomly selected soy and maize products on supermarket shelves showed that 90% of soy products and 61% of maize products tested contain traces of genetic modification. At the time of the tests, it was estimated that only about 50% of South Africa’s soy crop, about 10% of its white maize crop and about 24% of its yellow maize was genetically modified.
Now, a press release from FoodNCropBio this week, which carried out a survey of genetically modified soy, maize and cotton, claims that the planting of these crops has increased.
But as genetically modified crops are reportedly on the increase, so too is organic agricultural production.
According to Organics SA, the organic agricultural sector earned about R155 million in 2005, compared to about R3 million in 2003. A total of about 515 000 hectares is under organic farming. About 500 000 hectares of this total is used for pasture beef cattle, about 11 000 is used for growing rooibos tea and the rest is used for growing fruit, vegetables, some grains and essential oils.
A Research Surveys poll conducted towards the end of 2005 found almost one in six South Africans either reject or avoid genetically modified food. The poll indicated an improved knowledge about the issue from a survey done in 2001.
Biowatch South Africa has consistently argued that until it can be shown beyond reasonable doubt that genetically modified crops have no long-term negative effects on human health and the environment this new technology should be treated with caution.
At least, those genetically modified crops that have been released commercially should be kept separate from non-genetically modified crops and should be labeled. This would enable consumers to exercise choice when they buy food. It would also make it easier for farmers and producers who have opted for non-genetically modified crops and food.
For more information, please contact Leslie Liddell, Biowatch South Africa director, on 073 307 8873 or 021 447 5939.