The South African Constitution, signed into being in 1996, is possibly the most liberal constitution in the world. Amoungst many other rights granted to South Africans in the constitution are the rights to physical well being and access to sufficient food.
Now, in 2012, the government is still attempting to secure those rights for South African’s across the board. According to some, genetically modified organisms are the solution to the food crisis in South Africa and other developing countries around the world, with promises of ‘greater yields and higher drought and pest resistance.
However, relatively little is publicly known of the side effects and negative impacts GM crops and their associated pesticides, may have on human and environmental health. Large bodies of research and testimony illustrate that they can and do cause everything from genetic mutations, birth defects and cancer, to massive crop injury and uncertain impacts on entire ecosystems.
Yet, due to the power of the massive corporations that push profit over the environment and social good, the legalisation of these dangerous chemicals and insufficiently tested crops are being steam-rolled through governmental structures in South Africa, and across the world as we know it.
The argument falls back to the need to provided food for the masses, with basic yield being rated an accurate proxy for the quality, safety, and health of a crop.
The question is, is sufficient access to food good enough, if the food one accesses causes lasting, generational disease, mutation and environmental degradation? In the Western Cape alone, 77 percent of the grain crops produced have been genetically modified, with very little scientific understanding of how the altered proteins in the crops can effect human health.
The situation in South Africa is unnerving to say the least, with massive multinational mergers happening behind closed doors, and very little public awareness of the extent to which our food security lies in the hands of faceless corporations and dubious ‘scientific’ studies.
For example, a multinational chemical company, Dow Chemicals, has just been granted rights to import a highly controversial
GM maize variety tolerant to 2,4-D, a potent herbicide that forms one of two active ingredients in the infamous chemical weapon know as ‘Agent Orange’
. By importing 2,4-D resistant maize, the use of the deadly herbicide it is designed to resist is anticipated to increase 30 fold, with massive, untold effects on the environment and human health.
The African Center for Biosafety
(ACB), an NGO campaigning for food sovereignty in South Africa, has this to say about 2,4-D, “Dozens of human and animal studies have shown 2,4-D to cause birth defects, neurological damage, and interference with reproductive function. The use of 2,4-D in Sweden, Norway and Denmark is banned because of these well publicised links.
The environmental risks of 2,4-D are no less acute, and will increase manifold with the introduction of 2,4-D tolerant maize; the use of 2,4-D in maize farming is expected to increase 30 fold with the cultivation of this new variety.
Total use in US agriculture is expected to nearly quadruple, from 12,000 tons to 45,000 tons. Two surveys of US state pesticide regulators have already established that 2,4-D drift is responsible for more episodes of crop injury than any other herbicide. The impact of 2,4-D on the animal kingdom has been felt by species as diverse as fish, amphibians and reptiles. (1)”
Furthermore, Mariam Mayet, the director of ACB, argues that South Africans are at acute risk of serious health threats due to the fact that we, unlike any country in the world, eat GM maize directly, as opposed to using it as a feedstock for agriculture. She states “The potential impact of this upon public health does not bear thinking about. GM crops have long been held as the cure to wean industrial agriculture from its dependence on fossil fuels and toxic agro-chemicals. Decisions such as this merely serve to confirm that these promises are nothing but a placebo, and that for the agro-chemical giants and our government- it is very much business as usual".
Internationally, things aren't looking much more positive. Monsanto, a massive international corporation that controls 91% of the worlds GM food market
, has ambitions to commercialise and control 100% of the world's agricultural seeds, entrenching a food system reliant on a single entity for world food security. The company has a long history of political interference, dubious 'scientific' methodology and numerous lawsuits that have been crushed by heavyweight lawyers and legal loopholes.
However, despite their strategy to dominate world food production, people around the globe are rallying against this behemouth and bringing awareness of their short sighted, dangerous policies and practises to light. In just under one month, from activists around the world will unite against Monsanto's global domination and nefarious practises. From September 17th there will be one week of global events and demonstrations against Monsanto's increasing control of the world's global food supply and its continued development of GMOs. In order for this movement to be successful, public participation is desperately required, so follow the links at the bottom of this article and see how you can get involved in protecting the health of yourselves and your loved ones.
For more information on the very real threat of GM crops and pesticides to the health of the South African Public click here
Follow ACB on facebook here
To support the action against this GM maize sign the petition here
To find out more about the international occupy Monsanto week and information on how and where you can get involved visit the Occupy Monsanto website
, which provides a wealth of information including a list of Monsanto owned locations around the world, including South Africa.