Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
IN the interest of public health and the environment, Government should clarify the ambiguity surrounding its anti-genetically modified organisms (GMOs) policy and the continued, uncontrolled influx of such foods from neighbouring South Africa.
It needs to be explained whether Zimbabwe’s bio-safety laws have been twisted to allow GMO consumption during emergency situations, even in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence on their long-term impact on human health and biodiversity.
Revelations last week that 121 000 metric tonnes of genetically modified maize was imported from South Africa for food and processing between February and July this year have reduced consumers to guinea pigs.
We are not certain the grain was even labelled to identify it as GMO before distribution, depriving consumers the inalienable right to make choices based on the provision of correct information.
Such kind of labelling should become mandatory if Zimbabwe ever considers which it should not, to exempt GMO imports in times of food shortages.
It is unlikely Zimbabwean consumers are ready for GMOs. Millions of them remain ill-informed of the true impacts of genetically modified foods on human health.
The Government itself is not adequately informed about GMOs.
The policy against GMO use is more of a moral issue; a cautious tact for fear of the unknown, than it is scientific.
It is common knowledge that there is no baseline data on the safety of GMOs to the environment and human health in most African countries of the east and south, hence no foundation for the assessment of food and feed safety.
GMO foods should be consumed only by those willing to, with the aid of unambiguous labelling.
I do not believe that it is Government policy that untested foods should be forced on hungry communities in the name of food assistance.
If any such policy should be implemented, then the necessary assessments for risks, as provided for in the National Biotechnology Act, must and need to be pursued fully.
Without the direct GMO maize imports, there is already great risk of contamination or of traces of genetically modified foods in the bulk of products on shelves.
The failures of Zimbabwe’s agriculture and manufacturing industries during the last decade, and continuing still, is creating wealth for South African businessmen, from where two thirds of our food needs are sourced.
There is genuine concern of contamination in products such as chicken, cereal and potatoes from South Africa, a producer of genetically modified foods.
With a large portion of our food consisting of South African produce, most Zimbabweans do not know what they are eating any more.
Government should tighten control on food imports and closely monitor those with traces of GMOs, if it’s serious about immunising the economy from potential harmful effects of such products.
Genetically modified foods are widely considered unsafe for human consumption.
They are suspected of causing or multiplying the risks of an array of illnesses, including cancers.
The foods are produced from seed whose genes have been altered in test tubes, supposedly making them resistant to disease.
Worldwide, the anti-GMO resistance movement is growing.
The EU, Russia and China have banned imports of genetically modified foods. In countries where GMOs are grown, serious problems are beginning to emerge.
Farmers in Pakistan are seeing bollworms increasingly becoming resistant to Bt cotton, a seed variety created by its manufacturers supposedly to fight against such pests.
In Brazil, several farmers are seeking compensation from four major manufacturers of Bt maize 1507 after incurring losses for applying further pesticides.
Studies have shown that pests became resistant to the GMO maize variety by the third year of cultivation.
In 2013 Australian farmers found problems with a GM Roundup Ready canola, which failed to germinate properly, and asked for compensation.
Roundup is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide.
Most GMOs are engineered to carry the herbicide.
Only the profit-driven American companies including Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow Chemical, the biggest manufacturers of genetically modified seed, are singing praise of their own product, and, of course, with pliant echoes from their government.
South Africa, whose economy is driven by Western capitalist capital, is among a handful of African countries to have sanctified the unholy production of GMOs, now infiltrating neighbouring economies.
God is faithful.