South Africa is the only country that has allowed the genetic modification (GM) of its staple food – maize.
Elsewhere in the world this crop is grown primarily for the global livestock sector. However, in South Africa some 77% of our maize production is genetically modified and provides the nation with their daily intake of carbohydrates. The debate on the long term health impacts of GM foods has raged around the globe for almost 2 decades now and to date there is no scientific agreement on their safety. The United Nation’s Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is based on the Precautionary Principle in recognition of this lack of scientific knowledge and agreement. Our own GMO regulations, paraphrasing the Precautionary Principle set out in the 1992 Rio Declaration on the environment and development, stipulate that a lack of scientific knowledge or scientific consensus shall not be indicative of an absence of risk. Our GMO Act also allows the Executive Council to revise any decisions made in the light of new scientific evidence.