CONCERNS OVER GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS
By: Zanele Mbatha
The agricultural sector absolutely must struggle to survive and grow financially as it is one of the key economic contributors for South Africa. Over the past two decades this sector has experienced major economic changes due to factors such as climate change and the scarcity of natural resources such as water and land.
As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy there has been a remarkable emergence of innovations and technological advances that are generating promising changes and opportunities for sustainable agriculture. These innovations have made South Africa dependant on the modernisation of agriculture through the application of science and technology, which has led South Africa to take full advantage of the commercial potential of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Genetically modified crops are plants that have been genetically enhanced in order to produce desired characteristics in a plant. These crops have caused disputes as scientist and bio-technology companies say food derived from these crops poses no greater risk to human health while there are concerns among the public that eating genetically modified foods may be harmful and may have long term effects such as organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility.
Lindy Zungu, a Plant Production graduate said, “Most South Africans consume GM brands and they are unaware of it because of very little awareness and incorrect labelling of food packages.”
In South Africa there has been an identification of labelling errors and concerns of processed food.
According to the Consumer Protection Act, food producers, importers and packagers are required to label food products in which GMOs make up more than five percent of the product and state the level of the GMO content. There should be warning labels on any product containing genetically modified ingredients as this will make it easier for consumers to compare foods and make decisions regarding their health.
According to thenct.org.za, genetically modified foods have the potential to solve problems relating to hunger and malnutrition, increase yield and reduce reliance upon chemical pesticides but there are many challenges causing harm to human health and the environment. The Agricultural sector plays a vital role towards shaping the economy hence there is a lot that needs to be done to promote this sector. There should be an introduction of crops that are able to survive well in the different types of soil to boost the sector even further.