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South Africa’s toxic staple diet, and the language of attack

I was interested to read a Greenpeace report that GMO maize may be toxic. Since maize is a staple diet in South Africa, especially for poor communities, it’s long been a concern that South Africa’s poor has been experimented on in this way, as in most countries, GMO foods are niche foods, not a staple.

Firstly, I don’t know whether the particular maize strain cited in the report, MON863, is actually grown in South Africa (I’ve asked SAFeAGE for details). The jury though still seems to be out on the evidence of toxicity. Greenpeace have given their interpretation, Monsanto of course deny any potential harm, but the actual report should be out soon, so perhaps others will be able to decide for themselves. Of course it would be prudent to insist on independent studies before unleashing the products upon the populace, rather than rely on assurances of safety from the very same company with the vast financial vested interest in selling it, as happens in practice.

I particularly want to comment on the general response to the report. The paid hacks from the GMO companies are of course leaping to the attack, but there are certainly many honest, well-meaning commentators who do believe Monsanto, and disagree with Greenpeace. There’s a common theme to the attacks. The gist is that Greenpeace (and by extension everyone opposing GMO’s) are anti-technology (perjorative terms such as nature freaks abound too).

This is the grand lie the GMO companies have propagated. If you’re not with us, you’re against us, a tree-hugging, hippy, nature-freak who’d like to send us all back to the dark ages. To the public they’re saying would you believe them, or us, the honest and reliable men and women in white coats.

There is a strong anti-technology streak in green circles. With good reason, as much technology has been harmful and alienating. But many, many of us would see ourselves as quite comfortable and embracing of technology, without being worshipers of Technology, the god of all things. So the anti-technology attack is simply a PR lie to confuse.

I’m quite happy with the principle of the technology of genetically modifying material. However, at present, with the secrecy and vested interests that abound, the biased studies, the dirty tricks, I’m completely against GMO’s in our food. The intention is to make money, nothing else. The incentive is there to cover up research that might get in the way. It undoubtedly happens.

In the absence of reliable data, I’d much rather believe the scores of scientists who’ve been ostracised for speaking out, and the volunteers who do try do the research, than the massively wealthy organisation out to enrich itself and its shareholders as quicky as possible.

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2 replies on “South Africa’s toxic staple diet, and the language of attack”

Commodity clearance of MON863 is still on hold. The Executive Council’s decision of
21 June 2005 re Commodity clearance of MON863 is still in place, namely “The application
will remain pending until the study pertaining to the impact of commodity clearance
approvals on trade, have been concluded and made available to Council to assist a policy
decision in this regard. This decision will apply to all pending applications for commodity
clearance. The Council recognises the importance of resolving this matter and therefore
requested DTI to inform the Council of the outcome of the studies at the next meeting…”

This means it is illegal to grow or import this specific variety here. This does not mean that imported maize is NOT contaminated by this variety, or that imported processed foods do not contain it. Our concern however, is with all the GM varieties which are grown here – it has not been conclusively proven that any of them are safe for human consumption. We therefore advise that the precautionary principle be followed, or at the very least, that the GM foods be labelled as such to enable consumers to choose whether they want to eat it or not.

Maarten Bazuin

im trying to find all the research on the toxic-ness of GMO’ also trying to find out if the nutrients in GMO’s are digestable and if they are healthy.its for a biology project.could you please give me the web adresses of where you found your information?
it would help a lot!

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