South Africa has promulgated national legislation, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which creates an opportunity for the mandatory labelling of certain foodstuffs containing or which are genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The Act sets out a number of consumer rights that have relevance to the sale of products with genetically modified components. These include the right to choose; the right to disclosure and information; the right to fair and honest dealing; and the right to fair value, good quality and safety.

This report considers some of the issues relevant to the effective labelling of products containing GM ingredients in South Africa. Since the CPA only refers to food for human consumption in relation to labelling for GM products, the report narrowly focuses on this. The report starts with the objectives of labelling and the integrity of the labelling system; and what type of labelling could be used. It then considers the value chains for the three GM crops in South Africa – maize, soy and cotton – and considers where power lies in each chain. Demand for non-GM products in South Africa is considered next. This is important because, in a market-driven economy, premiums for non-GM products will determine the sustainability of segregation and labelling systems.

Segregation and testing systems underpin the verification process for information provided on labels. Possible and existing systems for segregating GM from non-GM produce are identified next, along with available testing systems to quantify GM content. Some reference is made to imports, because these will also require testing and segregation on arrival in South Africa if the overall labelling system is to have any integrity. Finally, the costs of segregation and identity preservation, testing and labelling are considered for key parts of the value chain. This includes some reflections on who should bear the costs of mandatory labelling, based on who the beneficiaries are. The paper concludes with some broad recommendations.

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