Victory for GMO-free bread

2014-07-05 00:00

A DURBAN food activist is celebrating victory after convincing his local Spar to buck the trend and bake GMO-free bread in response to his complaint about the proliferation of GMOs in staple foods.

Neil Snyman (57) hopes Queensmead Spar’s bold baking decision will set a trend in Durban that could see more supermarkets baking bread the “old fashioned” way in future.

Snyman’s victory comes hot out of the oven after the controversial African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) report, “GM Contamination, Cartels and Collusion in South Africa’s Bread Industry”, revealed the high content of genetically modified organisms in soya bean flour used to bake bread sold in South Africa.

The ACB report tested eight loaves of white bread and found the GM content in soya flour to be 91,09% in Checkers bread, 85,62% in Woolworths bread, 72,69% in Spar bread, 64,9% in Blue Ribbon bread, 42,82% in Pick n Pay bread, 23,23% in Albany Superior bread and 20,46% in Sunbake bread. Woolworths bread was labelled “may be genetically modified”. No GMOs were detected in Sasko’s white bread but it was labelled “produced using genetic modification”. The other brands did not have GMO labelling.

According to the report, a significant portion of South Africa’s soya bean crop is produced through genetic modification.

ACB consumer campaigner Zakiyya Ismail said this week the industry seemed to have taken a wait and see approach before amending labels as Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies was expected to release amendments to the GMO labelling regulations under the Consumer Protection Act later this month.

“GM soya in South Africa is sprayed with liberal doses of the harmful chemical glyphosate. Despite the manufacturers’ assurances that glyphosate does not accumulate in the human body, tests conducted on behalf of ‘Moms Across America’ on human breast milk, urine and drinking water have shown the presence of glyphosate residue,” Ismail said.

However, the industry responded saying soya forms part of a premix that comprises less than five percent of a loaf, so there is no legal requirement under the Consumer Protection Act to label the bread as containing GMOs.

Cindy Jenks, head of Pick n Pay’s technical division, said: “Pick n Pay’s bread contains less than 0,5% soya. As per the CPA, it is our policy to label any products as containing GM when the GM level may be over five percent. In this case, the GM ­content falls well below that threshold.”

Shoprite Checkers spokesperson Sarita van Wyk said the retailer disagreed with the “sensational allegations” of the ACB report. She said the retailer supported the consumer right to ­informed choice.

“Checkers white bread contains only 0,5% soya, while the rest of the loaf consists of wheat flour (67% of the total ingredients), water, yeast and salt. It is entirely possible that 91,09% of the soya flour component is genetically modified soya, which means the GM ingredient in the loaf represents 0,45% of the total loaf,” Van Wyk said.

Van Wyk said Checkers was in the process of auditing all suppliers to ensure products containing GM ingredients were correctly labelled.

Woolworths food managing director Zyda ­Rylands said Woolworths preferred to remove GMOs from its food or label products containing GMs. “We have always engaged our customers on GMOs in foods and we will continue to listen to their concerns and produce foods that meet their requirements,” Rylands said.

Pioneer Foods spokesperson Lulu Khumalo said the company had labelled its bread correctly as containing GMOs, despite the fact that the level was untraceable, to comply with labelling regulations.

Ismail said she agreed with the interpretation of regulations that required individual ingredients that contained more than five percent of GMO to be labelled.

Snyman said he was perplexed by the proliferation of GMOs in food products, which was why he had complained to Spar manager Chris Murch about the lack of a GMO-free bread choice.

Snyman said he was elated when the store agreed to bake a batch of GMO-free bread daily.

Murch said he had contacted the group’s food specialists, including a dietitian, before agreeing to bake an experimental GMO-free loaf.

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