Menu Close

South African GM label confusion

Most maize and soy products sold in South African food stores contain detectable amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including products that are labeled ‘non-GMO,’ ‘GMO-free,’ or ‘organic,’ reveals a study by the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in South Africa.

Of 20 products carrying one of these labels, randomly selected in major supermarkets and health-food stores, 14 tested positive for genetically modified (GM) organisms. “It appears that the vacuum in [South African] regulations … in terms of non-GM food has also left a vacuum in the use of such labels,” lead researcher Chris Viljoen and coauthors write in the African Journal of Biotechnology (5, 73–82, 2006).

South Africa currently has no laws defining negative GM labels. Viljoen, who heads a GMO-testing facility affiliated with international company Genescan of Freiburg, Germany, did no quantitative tests, so some or all cases may concern trace amounts.

Nonetheless, Julian Kinderlerer, a bioethicist and a professor at the department of law and ethics at the University of Sheffield, UK, says he finds it of concern “that the [research] finds little truth in [the] assertions [on labels].” He adds: “we need to ask what the purpose of labeling is, and then assure that the label meets that purpose.”

South Africa is currently the only country in Africa that allows the growing of GM crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton.

doi:10.1038/nbt0306-233

Related Posts