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Genetically Modified products in South Africa

Compiled by Lela Rabie

What is a GMO?

When an organisms genetic material has been changed, basically its DNA has been tampered with, using genetic engineering techniques, it is known as a GMO, a Genetically Modified Organism. In some cases, it can also be known as a GEO or genetically engineered organism.1

How does Genetic Modification work?

Genetic engineering takes a short cut to the usual process where individuals of the same species mate and the species grows stronger through inherited genes. In genetic engineering genes are physically transferred from one living thing directly into the centre of a cell (called the nucleus) of something else, which is often from a completely different species. For example, contrary to what normally happens in nature, in the process of genetic engineering, genes can be transferred between animals and plants.2

Are GM Foods safe?

The answer is, we don’t really know. No adequate human testing has been done and the long term effects of consuming GM foods are unpredictable in the extreme. Some of the possible dangers associated with the consumption of GM foods are:

-          Increased resistance to antibiotics

-         -   Immune system damage

-         - The creation of new toxins

-         -  The creation of new allergens 3

Is it possible to avoid GM food?

It should be. In an ideal world it would be. Unfortunately, labelling laws in South Africa are yet to come into force and currently there are many products on our shelves which could contain GM soy or maize. These could include a variety of products such as bread, chocolate, crisps, porridge, soy milks, soy milk powders, vegetarian soy products, corn flakes and many more.

Some particular ingredients to look out for include: Soy derivatives, maize derivatives, canola, cotton derivatives, potatoes and vegetable oil.

GM in our milk?

According to industry experts, unfortunately, the South African Department of Agriculture permits the domestic use of rBGH/rBST or genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. IGF-1 is an insulin-like substance which has been linked to increased cancer incidence in humans and milk from rBST or rBGH treated cows has been found to contain higher than the usual levels of IGF-1. Interestingly the use of rBST/rBGH is banned in many other countries.

An Action Plan:

-         -  Boost the micro economy and safeguard your health by supporting local small scale organic farmers and farmers markets (www.shoporganic.co.za ), organic dairy producers (http://www.shoporganic.co.za/food-a-wine ), and local box schemes.

-          - Support the African Centre for Biosafety by following their campaigns and spreading their research:  www.acbio.org.za

FuFurther reading of interest:

http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-2-6-genetically-modified-foods-19358.html
http://biophile.co.za/genetic-engineering/gm-food-and-crops-whats-happening-in-south-africa
http://www.healthmakers.co.za/list-of-gmo-products/
http://www.elasa.co.za/uploads/1/1/8/2/11823994/odile_lim_tung.pdf

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References:

1 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMO

2 – http://www.safeage.org/index.php?option=com_content&;view=article&id=80&Itemid=88 (unfortunately this site seems to no longer exist).

3 - http://www.safeage.org/index.php?option=com_content&;view=article&id=53&Itemid=38 (unfortunately this site seems to no longer exist).