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GMOs: understanding the issues

08 July 2013

The idea of modifying plant and even animal genes to increase their value and contribution to society is controversial...

As you know, this is a contentious issue in South Africa and indeed in many parts of the world. There is a powerful debate taking place between advocates of the technology, who believe it potentially holds the answer to food security at a time of growing demand for food, and opponents who argue that the environmental and other impacts of GMOs remains unproven.

These very different positions are extremely difficult to reconcile, and we believe it would be unfair of us to impose a decision one way or the other on our customers. Pick n Pay is therefore committed to informing and empowering our customers, particularly through labeling, so that they are able to make informed decisions for themselves.

We continue to engage with the government and other organisations to establish a common labeling system in South Africa. To date, this has been a challenging process. The Consumer Protection Act requires goods containing GM organisms to be labelled. However, it has been very difficult for organisations to interpret the Act, for example as to what thresholds should trigger the labeling requirement, what information should be labelled and what the labels should look like.

We are working with others, for example through the Food Safety Initiative of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, to seek progress and bring clarity to these questions. In the meantime, we are concerned that a lack of clarity should not translate into a lack of action.

We have therefore started rolling out a programme to ensure informative labeling of products containing GMO’s as per the requirements set out by the Consumer Protection Act.

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