cautious welcome for mandatory labelling of GM foods

Submitted by incoming on Wed, 2011-04-20 13:12

Via email from the African Centre for Biosafety and SAFEAGE

On the 1st April 2011, final regulations were published in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, on the labeling of GM foods. These regulations will come into effect on the 1 October 2011.

Its been a long and anxious wait to see what the final regulations governing the labelling of Genetically Modified GM Foods would entail. We are not ecstatic about the regulations, its more of a cautious welcome, please see our press release at

We originally asked for the regulations to:

  1. Extend to all approved GMOs and food derived from such GMOs;
  2. Set the threshold at 1% for technically unavoidable presence and thus GM content above 1% and not 5% should be labeled;
  3. Exclude loopholes for companies to avoid testing and correct labeling.

What we ended up with, is the possibility of up to 5 different labels on GM foods:

  1. Where the GM content is at least 5%, the food will be labeled as 'containing GMOs'. Cereals containing maize and soy could fall into this category as well as many supermarket breads that usually contain some soy.
  2. Where food is produced directly from GMO, like Maize Meal or Polenta, there will be no need for testing and the food packaging must be labeled as 'produced using genetic modification'.
  3. In cases where companies are able to argue that it is scientifically impractical and not feasible to test food for GM content, they may opt for the 'may contain GMO's' label. THIS OPTION IS OF GRAVE CONCERN because it provides industry with broad latititude to circumvent the labelling regime and the need for testing, thus undermining consumer choice.
  4. Where the GM content is less than 0.9% companies may voluntarily apply a 'does not contain GMOs' label.
  5. Where the GM content is between 1% and 4.9% companies may voluntarily apply a 'GM content is less than 5%' label.

Labelling applies to all GMOs approved for commercialisation in South Africa.

Clearly, the complex labelling will require a massive education and awareness campaign as well as all of us being vigilant about products on the supermarket shelves. We will have to remain vigilant and challenge labeling claims to safeguard the consumers Right to Know.

Issued by
Mariam Mayet and Zakiyya Ismail on behalf of African Centre for Biosafety
Fahri Hassan on behalf of SAFEAGE

The African Centre for Biosafety and SAFEAGE rely on financial resources to continue the good work they are doing. If you would like to make a donation or host a movie screening, highlighting the dangers of GMO's and corporate controlled food systems please email zakiyy [at]