In April 2013 GMO watchdog organisation, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), sent two Purity products to an independent GMO testing laboratory to test for the presence of ingredients derived from GMOs. The results showed that Purity Baby?s First contained 56.25% GM maize while Purity Cream of Maize contained 71.47% GM maize. Neither of the products were labelled as containing GM, as required by law.
Consumers were shocked to learn that they were feeding their babies the controversial foodstuff and outraged at the lack of labelling. 1000 consumers sent a petition to Tiger Brands demanding that the company go GM-free, or at the very least, label their foodstuff so that consumers could avoid GM food if they wish. One signatory said, ?people need to be in charge of what they eat – NOT the biotech companies. ALL food containing any GM product MUST be labelled?.
Managing Executive of Tiger Brands, Mr Martin Lind, responded to the petition by assuring consumers that they are using ingredients that have been approved as safe by the Department of Agriculture. In his letter, Mr Lind explained how GMOs are regulated and supplied contact details for the GMO Registrar and the Consumer Goods Council, recommending that consumers take the issue up with them.
ACB director, Mariam Mayet, said that ?Tiger Brands did not even acknowledge consumers? concerns or preferences, or respond to their demands for labelling. Instead, Tiger Brands was very condescending, implying that consumers are ignorant and their concerns are baseless and referred consumers to government GMO regulators. The ACB is well aware how GMOs are regulated in this country; we have submitted detailed scientific comments in respect of over 50 GMO applications over the last 9 years to GMO regulators.?
Tiger Brands? response contrasts starkly with those from two other food companies who have responded positively to South African consumer concerns over GMOs ? FutureLife has pledged to go GM-free and Nestle has decided to take into account local needs and consumer preferences and refrain from using GM content in their baby food products.
Many of the petitioners sent messages to Tiger Brands along with their signatures and contact details. One concerned consumer stated that, ?for more than a decade the South African government has been force-feeding the nation with untested toxic food?. Another said that ?parents have the right to choose what they feed their children; not labelling GM content is unacceptable.? Many signatories stated that they were boycotting Tiger Brands products and encouraging others to do so until they went GM-free.
?Consumers detest producers that are indifferent to their wants and they will use their power and vote with their wallets when it comes to Tiger Brands products?, said Zakiyya Ismail, ACB?s Consumer Awareness Campaigner.
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Ms. Mariam Mayet, Director, African Centre for Biosafety: 083 269 4309
Ms. Zakiyya Ismail, Labelling Campaigner, African Centre for Biosafety: 083 273 7304
Notes to Editors:
- South Africa is the only nation in the world eating a GM staple food. Almost all of South Africa?s maize is now genetically modified. According to recent offical reports, more than 80% of white maize and as much as 93% of yellow maize is genetically modified.
- In Europe, consumers have so thoroughly rejected GMOs that major GM developer Monsanto announced last week that it will no longer attempt to gain regulatory approval for their products there. Monsanto?s GM maize, MON 810 is banned in eight European countries. This variety has been growing in South Africa since 1997. See http://www.agprofessional.com/news/Monsanto-backing-away-from-GMO-crops-in-Europe-209696391.html
- FutureLife has recently announced that their product will be GM free as of 1 July 2013 due to customer demand. FutureLife communique on going GM-free: http://www.futurelife.co.za/gmo/
- Media Statement to Cape Times and Sowetan by Nestle, Media Relations Manager, Millicent Molete, to the following effect: ?As a global food manufacturer, we take into consideration local needs and consumer preferences. It is for these reasons that all Nestle infant cereals manufactured in South Africa are now produced using non-GM maize?.