FOLLOW UP ON GM FOODS
During the last instalment, the conclusion was reached that GM foods should be
Attached to a stringent code of labelling, to allow the customer to make an
Each individual new product should undergo strict and long term studies for
after effects and possible harmful consequences.
The following could be taken as a statement of intent.
Objectives of GM foods
Protection of crops against insects and viruses
Increased herbicide tolerance
If possible, to achieve these objectives together with a substantial cost
GM crops have successfully increased yields, lowered costs of labour and
production and reduced the use of chemicals. Genetic engineering allows for
enhancement of food security and improves the nutritional quality which is not
possible with current technology. All this is due to the fact that the seed
contains already all these mentioned benefits.
Some of these concerns have now been addressed and in the CIMMYT Newsletter of
October 01, 2004 it has been established, that most objections on the risks of
GM foods are not backed by evidence current studies by national and
international organizations have shown no demonstrable harmful nutritional
effects on foods The effects on consumers are still outstanding
or under study..
The WHO (World Health Organization) has answered 20 most
commonly asked questions of WHO member State Governments
1) A DEFINITION OF GM ORGANIZMS AND FOODS
Organisms in which the DNA has been artificially (not in a natural way) altered
by transferring genes from one organism to another ( even between non- related
2) THE OBJECTIVES OF GM FOODS
-A LOWER PRICE
-BETTER DURABILITY, GREATER YIELDS AND / OR NUTRITIONAL VALUE, OR BOTH
3) GM FOODS ARE ASSESED DIFFERENTLY THAN TRADITIONAL FOODS
They are assessed on their effects / risks to human health and the
This takes place prior to marketing.
4) THE POTENTIAL RISKS TO HUMAN HEALTH ARE DETERMINED BY
- Investigating toxicity
No toxic affects of existing GM foods have been documented so far.
No allergenic effects of GM foods currently on the market have been found..
- Gene transfer
No genes to be transferred trough the digestive process from food to the
This could for instance include antibiotic resistance which is created in some
! There is a low probability of transfer. For this reason, the use of
antibiotic resistance genes has been discouraged by a WHO expert panel
- Outcrossing ( the possible contamination of conventional crops in the wild by
means of cross pollination by insects and wind action)
There is a real risk! This risk is being lowered by creating clear field
Discussions on monitoring GM food products are underway at presen!
5) RISK ASSESMENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Cover the GMO and the receiving environment, also including unintentional
6+ 7) WHAT ISSUES CONCERN THE ENVIRONMENT?
- Possible escape of genes into the wild population
- Persistence of the gene after harvesting
- Effects on non- target organisms ( insects , plants and humans)
- Gene stability
- Loss of bio diversity
- Increased use of chemicals
Currently under investigation are:
-detrimental effects on beneficial insects, induction of resistant insects,
generation of new plant pathogens ( sicknesses),-detrimental consequences to
plant bio diversity and wildlife populations,- decreased use of current
principle of crop rotation ,the movement of herbicide resistant genes to other
8) SAFETY OF GM FOODS
-gm foods currently available have passed risk assessments. No adverse
effects on human
health have shown. BUT
CONTINUOUS RISK ASSESSMENT AND POST MARKET MONITORING ON ALL gm FOOD (EXISTING
AND NEW) IS IMPERATIVE!.
9) CONTIUOUS TESTING AND LABELING REGIMES LEGISLATION IS CONTINUING TO
EVOLVE GM FOOD TO BE LABELLED IN SA.
Labelling will be compulsory if there are significant differences of
composition and nutritional content against conventional foods. Storage and
preparation differences must also be noted on the label. Genes from animals or
humans must be declared on the label. Food improvements
( no allergens, more vitamins, less natural toxins ) must be proven and
GM foods may be more expensive due to these testing procedures.
Allergen containing foods including (crustaceans, eggs, fish, ground nuts,
milk, molluscs, Soya, tree nuts and wheat[gluten] must be labelled
To preserve bio diversity, a system of Identity preservation ((IPS) for non- GM
foods is being developed by the SABS, the government and other stakeholders, to
allow consumers to choose between GM and non-GM products.
Since 16 Jannuary 2006, all new applications for genetically modified organisms
are put on hold until the GMO amendment bill is revised (Public input on this
bill will be expected!
10) GM FOOD ON THE NATIONAL MARKET
MAIZE INSECT RESISTANT
SOY BEAN HERBICIDE TOLERANT
11) INTERNATIONAL TRADE OF gm FOODS, HOW IS IT GOVERNED?
The CODEX ALIMENTARIUS (INTERNATIONAL FOOD CODE)
DICTATES APRE MARKET ASESSMENT, CASE BY CASE, WHICH INCLUDES DIRECT AND
THE CARTAGENA PROTOCOL ON BIO SAFETY (CPB) is a LEGALLY BINDING TREATY
Wwhich regulates the movement of living, modified organisms (LMO’s) which are
capable of transferring or replicating genetic material. CONSENT FROM IMPORTERS
IS needed before the first shipment.
12) HAVE GM PRODUCTS CURRENTLY ON THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET PASSED A RISK
YES. NO RISKS WERE FOUND.
13) WHY HAS THERE BEEN CONCERN ABOUT FOOD SAFETY?
Due to a number of food scares not necessarily related to GM foods
14) THE EFFECT ON MARKETING GM FOODS IN THE EU
A moratorium was placed on GM foods and they are subject to extensive
Mandatory monitoring of long term effects was introduced. \ Also mandatory
labelling. A minimum threshold of 1% DNA or protein resulting from gene
modification was introduced. No need for labelling below 1%! This was to avoid
accidental contamination of conventional food by GM material.
15) THE STATE OF PUBLIC DEBATE
The outcome differs from country to country. There is NO CONSENSUS BUT
SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS ON HARMONIZATION OF VIEWS FOR RISK ASSESMENT
16) PEOPLES REACTIONS RELATED TO DIFFERENT ATTITUDES TO FOOD
GENETIC Modification of foods can evoke a negative response,
depending on effective communication of risk assessment and cost benefits
17) Implications to farmers rights to their own crops
Yes , Intellectual property rights issues ( patent rights) have created
18) WHAT ABOUT THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES ON
There is an undesirable level of control on seed markets. This may
lead to a reduction of available seeds to GM products only. With a
non-committant impact on the food basket of any society and on crop protection,
leading to farmer dependence.
THIS CONTROVERY IS ONGOING!
19) FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE gm FIELD
-Crops with improved draught and disease resistance
-Increased nutrient levels
-Enhanced growth of fish- and plant species
-Increased animal production of proteins used for vaccines
20) WHAT IS THE WHO DOING TO IMPROVE EVALUATION OF GM FOODS?
Develop a broader view. Not only considering food safety, but also
food security, social and ethical aspects, access and capacity building.
Striving to achieve international agreement on all GM food evaluations and
1) Development of GM foods is still taking place and will do so in the future.
2) Controversy about the effects on peoples health are still ongoing (report by
BBC on 18/04/06 , 5a.m. news. The “Friends of the Earth” organisation in USA
has complained about the health effects, concentrating on allergenic products)
Safety reports have been rejected by them, as the safety testing was done
largely “ in House”. It seems, that only the manufacturers are geared to test
for this and no outside agencies have the materiel or machinery or the know how
to do this)
3) Many countries do not have a labelling policy
4) The controversy is ongoing watch this space!