Biz-Community (Cape Town)

15 March 2012

South Africa: Ignoring of Genetically Modified -Labelling Laws Sparks Outrage

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) is has expressed outrage after finding that several food products, including baby cereal, maize meal, a dietary supplement for active sports people and wheat-free cereal, have tested positive for genetically modified (GM) content, but are all unlabelled.

From 1 October, 2011, food producers, importers and packagers are required by law, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act and its Regulations, to label GM foods and marketing materials where the genetically modified (GM) content is at least 5%. In other words, the trigger for labelling is where the GM content is 5% or more.

The independent GMO-testing facility at the University of the Free State conducted several thorough qualitative PCR screenings: GMO double screens for the ACB in respect of a number of food samples.

Here are the results from the test:

Nestle's Infant cereal, Cerelac Honey was found to contain 77.65% of GM maize DNA in relation to the total maize DNA.

Bokomo's Wheat-free Pronutro was found to contain both GM maize and GM soya: 90.36% GM maize and 71.42% GM soya. "This despite verbal assurances given to us telephonically by Bokomo staff that the product was non-GM," said Zakiyya Ismail, from the ACB who has been investigating GM labelling in South Africa.

Futurelife Energy meal, an ubiquitous dietary supplement, found also at health stores and heavily promoted publically as being "perfect for athletes of all levels and for high-performance sports" is, ironically, the only product that tested 100% positive for GM maize! It also contains 36.13% of GM soya.

Impala maize meal was found to contain 66.18% GM maize. This maize is consumed daily by millions of South Africans as an integral part of their staple diet.

Totally unacceptable

"This is totally unacceptable. Food producers are being disingenuous in flouting the law in this way. Consumers in South Africa are wilfully being deceived and deprived of their right to know and to make informed choices," said Mariam Mayet, director of the ACB.

The ACB is taking legal advice on the matter and intends to utilise the remedies contained in the Consumer Protection Act fully, to ensure that the rights of consumers are fully enforced.

According to Mayet: "GMOs present unacceptable risks to human health, the environment and society.

Consumers who want to avoid GM products are currently not being allowed to do so, despite the law providing for such choice to be protected, exercised and enforced."

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