ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

3 May 2002

Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg, South Africa)
May 3, 2002

Genetically modified (GM) foods contribute to the inflationary trend in the cost of food to South Africans, according to Glenn Ashton, a prominent anti-GM product campaigner.

The issue was raised at the third annual food and beverage safety compliance conference in Rosebank, Johannesburg, held earlier this week under the auspices of the Institute of International Research. Concerns were also raised about the lack of consultation over the introduction of GM foods and crops in South Africa.

The conference heard that, due to market demands, many producers and suppliers now insist on GM-free products and ingredients. Ashton said that the estimated increase of between 0,5% and 5% that the segregation of GM and non-GM crops costs, introduced an unnecessary and uninvited inflationary trend. He said that neither farmers nor food producers would willingly accept the cost of segregating GM products. Instead this would be passed on to consumers.

Several speakers said that the current types of GM crops offer consumers no advantage whatsoever. It is therefore unacceptable that users bear the costs should negative financial, health or environmental effects occur.

Ashton highlighted the fact that any negative health, environmental or financial results of using GM crops or food are uninsurable. Recent Australian and British insurance industry sources claimed that GM food and crops are as uninsurable as war or nuclear accidents.

"It seems crazy that those who benefit most from these crops ­ the multi- national corporations that are introducing these crops into the food chain - do not bear full liability. On the other hand, the food and beverage industry and consumers are expected to bear not only the costs
of segregation but also the significant risks introduced by this untested technology," said Ashton.

Ashton cited several animal-feeding studies that linked problems with the digestive system and other serious ailments to the use of GM products. These studies warned of the dangers posed by the introduction of GM white maize into the market this year.

"It is really ironic that our government interrogates the scientific and economic issues surrounding the HIV/Aids debate and the vested interests of the pharmaceutical industry on one hand, yet on the other allows the poorest, least informed majority of our nation to be involuntarily involved in an unprecedented dietary experiment by multinational corporations," said Ashton. "This must be seen in light of a recent article raising concerns around potentially negative effects of GM crops, particularly on immuno- suppressed individuals."

Ashton said that the fact that the public is being forced to accept these crops and products into their diet without consultation defies all the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution.

ngin bulletin archive