Retailers demand GM labelling

2010-03-23 14:30

Cape Town - While the debate rages on the science of genetically modified foods, retailers insist that GM food or products with GM ingredients be labelled to allow consumers a choice.

"Scientific evidence has not proven one way or the other at this point whether GM foods are safe for human consumption.

"Given this situation, we are strongly of the view that all GM foods be adequately labelled in order to keep consumers fully informed and give them the opportunity for informed choice," Pick n Pay's Tamra Veley told News24.

Woolworths said that it has removed all food containing GM products from its shelves or labelled them appropriately.

"Woolworths is committed to responding to customer needs. As a result we have undertaken to eliminate genetically modified ingredients wherever possible.

"Where we are not able to remove these ingredients, we will label them so that customers can make informed choices when they shop at Woolworths," Julian Novak of Woolworths Food told News24.


The National Consumer Forum (NCF) says it supports the labelling of GM food, so that consumers can make an informed choice.

"As part of the world consumer movement, we've supported the proper labelling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). According to the Consumer Protection Act, to be legislated in October 2010, food needs to be properly labelled," NCF chair Thami Bolani told News24.

He said that there was scientific division of whether GMOs were safe, and the new Act would ensure that companies complied with labelling.

"The world is divided on the safety of GMOs, we cannot say these foods are 100% safe, but these companies have been against labelling," he said.

Bolani warned that control of GM food production was risky.

"If GMOs continue unchecked, companies like Monsanto will control food production. These companies fund research into GMOs and that's why the research produced by these scientists is debateable," he said.


Bolani said that the NCF would conduct testing of food in order to establish whether it contained any GM ingredients and ensure proper labelling.

"We are joining an international research group and we'll be testing products that people consume to test for GMOs. Then we'll be able to take legal action against companies that don't comply," he said.

He added that, according to the Act, the government would fund the NCF and tribunal decisions would be binding.

He also said that there were already food in circulation that contained GMOs, but that was not labelled.

"We know that mielie meal is a staple diet and it's got GM elements, but the law at the moment does not forbid it. But even if we have the law and labelling, people need to be educated about GMOs," he added.

Dr Wynand van der Walt warned that labelling would increase the price of foods and that said that labelling posed logistical problems such as the informal market.

"How do you enforce labelling at spaza shop or street vendor level? How do you label loose potatoes? Table grapes or fresh maize cobs on the sidewalk? Are we going to label T shirts made from GM cotton?" he told News24 on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnological Industry.

"GM crops and their products are not inherently dangerous to human or animal health, or the environment. Unlike foods from conventional origin, they are scrutinised extensively for safety before approval is granted for commercial release," he added.

Van der Walt also questioned whether the government had the capacity to accurately test for GMOs in food, saying that labelling "must be voluntary for those who want it".

  • MarcE - 2010-03-23 14:52

    Watch the documentary "The World According to Monsanto" (alternatively, read the Wiki)

  • Johnathan - 2010-03-23 14:52

    Good. I want the food to be labeled so I can make sure that I choose the GM food. I know that GM crops have been subjected to many tests to ensure safety. Meanwhile, a crop that is not GM, doesn't have to undergo any safety tests, it's just assumed that it's safe.

  • Derek@Johnathan - 2010-03-23 15:12

    You do that Johnathan - there are still far too many unknowns with GMOs. If you do eat only GM foods, don't be surprised if in 10 years time you grow a vagina :)

  • Ryan - 2010-03-23 15:14

    About time. I don trust GM food!

  • @Derek - 2010-03-23 17:09

    Good one Derek!

  • Brad R Hayman - 2010-03-23 19:39

    GMO companies shouldn't lament about the extra costs for labelling their product. This should have been factored into their pricing bluprint. Its rediculous to warn of price increases because of compliance with proper labelling. After all haven't we been told GMO is far cheaper.(so this should not be a problem) The only significant tests todate have been by GMO companies are there are many documented lies and coverups to date, not to mention the creation of sterile land and superbugs. GMO companies have one goal and it is not benefit mankind - it is to take control of the food chain and make massive profit.

  • Fahrie - 2010-03-24 17:44

    What Jonathan fails to understand is that most of the so-called rigorous testing done to assess safety has been conducted by the industry, such as, Monsanto and co. themselves. When government and/or independent researchers wanted to access the Monsanto safety studies, theseresearchers had to go to court to obtain this information. Only after a lengthy court battle did Monsanto release the data. The French researchers, led by Dr Seralini found the numerous anamolies in the studies conducted by Monsanto, many of which was found to be underreporting of the negative effects of GMO foods on rats (mammalian). In fact, when Dr Seralini conducted their own independent study (published in January of this year) on the same Monsanto GM maize varieties, they found the rats to suffer from hepatorenal (liver and kidney) toxicity and several other negative health complications. As an aside you may wish to know that Dr Wynand van der Walt has long been an advocate of industry solutions to our agriculture and food crisis. Suffice to say that he is the former general manager of SANSOR, the national seed organisation, who has as their members, none other than, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred, all the GM giants, so much for an independent and unbiased thinker. Jonathan, I hope you still feel so confident about eating GM foods.

  • Peter - 2010-03-25 06:25

    GM has nothing to do about health - only profit! I always ask, 'If GM is so good, why are GM products always marked "vitamin enriched"?' People have been on the planet for generations and generations - without GM products on the supermarket shelves. Why the need now? Wake up people - GM is not about health! Watch closely - GM produce is first exported from the rich countries (who produce it) to the poor countries (who unknowingly/unwittingly consume it) for the poor to be the 'lab rats'. Of course, before the truth is known, a fat profit has conveniently been made in the meantime. Catch a wake up!

  • Richard - 2010-03-25 14:30

    @ Fahrie. Here is a bit from the review of the report by Dr seralini 13. NZFSA’s resident toxicologist reviewed the Séralini et al study. NZFSA’s toxicologist
    was of the opinion that the re-analysis confirmed the original findings of FSANZ and
    other regulatory authorities: that MON863 corn poses no greater risk to consumers
    than non-genetically modified corn. The following conclusions were drawn by
    NZFSA’s toxicologist:
    • the Séralini et al study claimed to have found differences indicating liver and
    kidney toxicity in rats fed MON863 genetically modified corn. However the
    differences found were all small and within the normal physiological ranges for
    • changes in physiology can occur randomly and without any toxicity. For the
    parameters measured to have any value in assessing possible risk, there would
    have to have been changes seen in the pathology of the organs identified as
    affected. These were not seen; and
    • despite claims by the authors to the contrary, there was no dose response seen in
    the re-analysis. Rats fed 11% modified corn showed a claimed effect, while rats
    fed 33% modified corn showed no effects.

  • Marion - 2010-03-25 17:23

    Yes, I want to avoid GM foods and request proper and truthful labeling. I do not want my family eating stuff that has the genes of other species. A few years down the road we may all have illnesses that can't even be predicted yet as the results of eating GM foods.

  • Ann - 2010-03-25 19:39

    There is so much wrong with this information.
    The SA food companies have always supported labelling of GM foods - that's clear from the Ministry of Health consultations in the '90s. It is the cost that is prohibitive in a country where food costs are critical to most of the population. Also, testing is not a reliable way to find GM ingredients in all foods.
    Instead, the gov set out a mass awareness campaign: foods with maize, soya, canola and cotton seed oil are likely to have GM ingredients. Any food processed by enzymes: chocolates with soft centres, cheese, etc. are likely derived from GM ingredients. With those two messages you are free to enjoy or avoid GM. This way, the poor don't pay for the rich peoples' food fetish. And, GMO foods are undeniably safer - just look at aflotoxin levels in organic maize vs GM maize. I know which product I trust for my kids. Do you?

  • Ann - 2010-03-25 21:14

    Brad, GM companies don't pay for labelling - we do. That's why we need to ask if it is essential.

    The regulators require food labelling if there is a safety issue. GM foods are all carefully tested and approved - there is no safety issue that justifies increasing food costs unnecessarily.

    These are the people who need inexpensive, safe food:
    "According to World Bank estimates, some 1.4 billion people were already living in poverty in 2005, well before the 2007 food price increases and the 2008 financial crisis. Since the financial crisis, an additional 100 million people are now believed to have joined the ranks of the poor and hungry, according to both FAO and World Bank estimates."

    Those of us who can afford choice need to see the bigger picture before we demand labelling that is less effective than good information and will cost the poor dearly.

  • Richard - 2010-03-26 09:37

    Ann you speak a lot of sense. When it comes down to it technology is what is going to provide a solution and burocracy will be our worst enemy. People are just getting hyped up about new technologies. There are negatives and positives to GM foods. the same cane be said though of developments in IT. They promote fraud and hacking to name a few. Cell phones open children up to abuse through applications like mixit. Scams I can go on and on. Do you want to see all the positive or all the negative?

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