( This is false information published by our biggest food chain store )
Keen to understand food’s journey from farm to fork, and the health implications? We give you the lowdown on genetic modification.
We’re all bombarded with reports on hidden fats, hormones, preservatives and other undesirable ingredients in food. So, it’s no surprise that many of our customers have expressed concern about genetically modified (GM) foods. We’ve noticed that many of you are worried about whether GM foods and ingredients are safe to eat, and how these foods impact the environment.
Interestingly, the term “genetic modification” doesn’t refer to the effect the food may have on you, the consumer. Instead, it describes a step in the food product’s production phase where an organism, like a seed, is modified in a way that doesn’t occur naturally. A prime example is where a maize plant is modified to contain a gene from a soil bacterium, giving it a built-in resistance to the maize stalk borer, an insect that attacks and destroys maize crops.
Genetic modification isn’t restricted to the food industry and there are many useful applications, for instance in the production of insulin used by diabetics.
In agriculture, however, there are various benefits:
- Plants are modified to increase their resistance to insects, disease and other pests capable of destroying or damaging crops.
- Because of the above, there’s a reduced need for pesticides.
- This, in turn, leads to less pollution and greater safety for farm workers and animals.
- Food quality is improved – the risk for fungal infection and insect damage is cut, and very little pesticide is left over in the food that reaches the supermarket.
Safe to eat
The concept may sound strange, but all GM foods are thoroughly assessed to ensure that they’re safe to eat. This is done long before the product reaches your shopping trolley.
If you’re still concerned about the effect GM foods could have on your body, however, rest assured that the foreign gene introduced to the food is made up of protein. This means it’s easily digestible, like all other food proteins.
Worldwide, very strict safety guidelines for the production of GM foods are in place. The Codex Alimentarius, an international body involved in food safety, along with the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation developed these requirements.
South Africa also implemented the Genetically Modified Organisms Act that regulates the safe introduction of GM foods into this country. In addition, the International Biosafety Protocol prevents the exportation of GM crops without the prior permission of the importing country.
Right here in South Africa, we also produce and sell some GM products, including insect-resistant cotton, insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant maize, and herbicide-tolerant soybeans. These three crops have been thoroughly tested before they were made available on the market.
So, although the safety of GM products is ensured though strict regulation, and import and export of these products are controlled, you may still be wondering how you’ll know whether you’re consuming a GM product, or not.
Regulations under the Consumer Protection Act requires that all goods containing more than 5% GM soya, maize and cotton should be labelled. But since the food industry couldn’t clarify the definition of the word “goods”, they have unfortunately postponed the implementation of this regulation.