will you choose to eat GM potatoes?

Submitted by turbosprout on Wed, 2007-04-25 13:26

An article appeared in the Business Report on Monday essentially about the choices retailers are soon going to have to make if the SA government continues with it's GM-friendly policies thereby allowing GM produce to get to market. Are food retailers going to allow GM produce on their shelves or not?

Woolworths and Pick 'n Pay are following international food retailer trends and putting more weight behind their organic lines. Woolworths recently announced it's Good Business Journey which aims to increase it's organic food offering four-fold and Pick n' Pay is involved in the Organic Freedom Project to create 100 000 jobs on 20 000 hectares by 2014.

Will we have genetically modified produce sitting alongside organic produce on supermarket shelves? Well Pick 'n Pay said it would not stock the government endorsed GM potato which the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) hopes to commercialise later this year "until the council could provide conclusive scientific evidence on the biosafety of the product." [Business Report]

So this doesn't rule out the possibility of GM potatoes finding their way on to Pick 'n Pay shelves, just that the science would have to be convincing. And who will be providing the impartial convincing science, I ask? It certainly can't be the ARC who have a commercial interest in seeing their potatos proliferated! I just hope that the supermarkets and the public won't be duped by sham science.

Biowatch's Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss said, back in 2004, "We got scientists from the University of the Western Cape to analyse data from previous trials and they found it to be flawed." [IOL]

Will we as consumers even know we are buying GM-modified potatoes? No we won't as food labelling laws in this country don't require the disclosure of genetically modified food unless there is a "significant difference" between the GM and the non-GM product. To quote from a Dec 2006 University of Pretoria report:

"The circumstances where food is considered substantially different are if it has human or animal genes, allergens, if it requires different storage, preparation or cooking, or if it has an altered nutritional composition. Thus, no GM foods currently imported, marketed and released in South Africa qualify for mandatory labelling."

So if your GM potato looks like a tomato then maybe it will required to be labled as GM, otherwise, sorry for you! Essentially the South African GM food labling laws are a complete sham that were based on the US model, "where the use of GM techniques per se is not itself a trigger for labelling." [University of Pretoria]

You will never see GM food labled under the current legislation, for it was designed to protect biotech companies not consumers. Our food supply is being tampered with and we're not even going to be informed!

So why are GM potatoes being developed? Purely for commercial reasons. Of course these reasons have to be window-dressed with positive spin-offs like "potato tubermoth resistance" otherwise no-one would bother listening, but it's obvious that the ARC and it's funders stand to make lots of money if GM Potatoes are commercialised in this country.

South Africa is a partner of USAID's Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) whose goal is to support research, product development and policy development for the commercialisation of GM crops. Private partners of ABSP include Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and DNA Plant Technology. [African Centre for Biosafety]

The resistance of consumers against the GM potatoes in the US forced them to be withdrawn from the US market and so the technology is being flogged in the developing world, hence USAID's involvement in SA.

Field trials of genetically modified potatoes have been going on around the country at secret locations since 2004.

More on GM Potatoes in South Africa: