Insight into Africa’s GM product labeIing
Created on Thursday, 26 May 2011 16:46
South Africa is Africa’s leading producer of biotechnology products, including genetically modified (GM) crops.
GM crops include food and non-food crops that scientists developed by altering the structure of their genetic material (DNA) to make them exhibit specific new traits such as resistance to pests, tolerance to drought or increased yields.
In 1999 the country approved the commercial release of transgenic (Bt) cotton and subsequently maize and soybean using the 1997 GMO Act, overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The newly introduced technology has triggered polarised debate in South Africa. In an effort to promote awareness and understanding about the issue, AfricaBio was established in 1999 as a biotechnology stakeholder association. The umbrella association is a platform for the key stakeholders in the sector to interact dialogue and disseminate information about biotechnology in South Africa and the region.
The mandatory GM labeling provision is envisaged to prevent exploitation or harm of consumers and promote their social well being, which critics like the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) feel is currently not the case. BioAfrica maintains that currently available biotech crops or biotech-derived products in South Africa have been proven to be as safe as their conventional counterpart.