GMO Foods Are Here To Stay: But let’s broaden the debate

A few weeks ago we ran a story about the global march against Monsanto, the multinational that catches most of the flack from the anti GMO protestors. Subsequently an irate public relations officer complained to The Journalist at length about the coverage of the march. We are publishing his feedback alongside the latest findings from the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) on GM maize.

In response to our recent article on the global march against Monsanto Hans Lombard, a GM lobbyist and Public Relations Consultant, has asked us to use the following piece. He describes himself as an international agricultural analyst and consultant to the biotech Industry:

The article “Africa joins the world global march” in The Journalist 27 May refers, claiming that Monsanto:

  • Produces GMOs that are toxic causing widespread ill health, i.e. cancer, and food allergies that are skyrocketing. Produced Agent Orange with its main poison Dioxin.
  • Manufactured DDT

These allegations are devoid of truth. In the first place, Monsanto is not alone in the GMO market. It is one of eight companies producing GMO seed for commercial crops worldwide. As far as GMO foods are concerned, their safety is undisputed. There is no scientific or medically substantiated evidence anywhere in the world to prove that GM foods have caused adverse effects to humans, animals or the environment.

Science tells a different story to the one painted in the article under dispute:

  • A scientific study conducted by the European Commission over 25 years involving more than 500 independent scientific studies on GMOs and costing over Є300 million, came to the conclusion: “Biotechnology, and particularly GMOs, are not more risky than conventional breeding.”
  • The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) states: “Food derived from GM plants poses no greater risk than conventional food. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health.”


Dr Richard Goodman, University of Nebraska, USA says: “There is absolutely no evidence of any increase in allergies related to GMOs.” (Goodman 2008).

The Royal Scientific Society, London: “There is no evidence that GM foods can cause allergic reactions greater than conventional crops.” (Royal Society Report 2002)

There is no greater proof of the safety of GM foods than South Africa. We are the world’s largest consumers of GM food – maize is our staple diet. According to a Maize Trust survey over a 12-year period 2002 – 2012, GM maize was planted accumulative on 16 million hectares in South Africa. This produced a grain crop of over 40 million tonnes of maize consumed annually by 50 million people, 800 million broilers, 1.4 million cattle in feedlots and three million pigs, without any substantiated scientifically or medically proven adverse effects to humans, animals or the environment. Not even a tummy ache.


No company anywhere in the world has ever produced a product known as Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War the USA army commissioned seven chemical companies in the USA, including Monsanto, to develop a herbicide required for defoliation of forests in Vietnam. They were USA government contractors. The products were 2,4D and 2,4.5-T. The US army specified the chemical composition where the material was to be used, including application rates. President John F. Kennedy approved the product.

The army mixed the herbicide 50/50 and dispatched it to Vietnam in drums marked red, blue, orange and white and each batch was code named Agent Red, Agent Blue, Agent Orange and Agent White. The product was only used between 1965 and 1969.


Monsanto had nothing to do with DDT. The product was synthesised in 1874 by the Swiss Chemist, Paul Müller. Monsanto was founded in 1901. DDT was manufactured in the USA by Ciba Montrose Chemical Company and Velsical Chemical Corporation.

The article mentions that 10 000 people marched against GMOs. However, it is interesting to note that during that period of the march 18 million farmers in 28 countries, where more than half the world’s population live, planted 181 million hectares of GM crops. (ISAAA survey 2015)


Findings from the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) on GM maize

The latest ACB test results show an increase in the percentage of GM maize in several popular brands. The average amount of GM maize in a packet of maize meal is now 80%.

The ACB has re-tested four popular maize products as well as 16 baby and breakfast cereals containing maize and/or soya ingredients in order to gauge the extent to which food producers are responding to consumer pressure.

The latest results of maize meal samples tested by the University of Free State’s GM Testing Laboratory reveal:

  • Premier’s Iwisa Maize Meal contains 91% GM Maize—up by 10 percentage points in 2013
  • Tiger Brand’s Ace Maize Meal contains 87% GM Maize—up by 9 percentage points in 2013
  • Foodcorp’s Tafelberg Maize Meal contains 88% GM Maize—up by 27 percentage points from 2014
  • Pioneer’s White Star Maize Meal contains 55% GM Maize—down by 17 percentage points from 2013 but up by 7 percentage points from 2014

With regard to the baby cereals market, the ACB tested two products, Tiger Brand’s Purity Nutripak and Nestle’s Cerelac Maize and found that these contain very low levels of GM maize. The test results of the 14 processed breakfast cereals vary considerably. While popular brands such as Pronutro Wheatfree, Nestle Milo and Cheerios all showed very low percentages of GM maize—low enough not to trigger required labelling of 5% GM content—others, such as Bokomo Oatees and Tiger Brand Jungle Ultra, still contain high levels of GM ingredients. However, eight brands of corn flakes were tested and showed either no GM content or unquantifiable GM or very low levels that would not trigger labelling.

According to Zakiyya Ismail, Consumer Campaigner for the ACB, “Given that around 87% of the total maize crop planted in SA in 2014 was GM maize, these results point to one of two scenarios. Either food producers in South Africa have turned away from using ingredients derived from GMOs for breakfast cereals, or there are fundamental flaws in the way that the labelling of food products derived from GMOs is approached.”

Tests on processed cereals revealed the following:

  • Pioneer’s Bokomo Pronutro Wheatfree contained 3.18% GM maize; GM soya was not detected
  • Pioneer’s Bokomo Pronutro Toddlers Apple and Banana contained 18% GM maize and 15% GM soya
  • Pioneer’s Bokomo Oatees contained 46% GM maize
  • Tiger Brands Jungle Energy contained 57% GM maize; GM soya was detected but at a level too low to quantify
  • Nestle’s Milo Cereal contained GM maize but this was below the level of quantification
  • Nestle’s Cheerios contained 0.52% GM maize
  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Porridge contained 1.56% GM maize
  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes contained GM maize but the level was not quantifiable due to low copies of DNA
  • Pioneer’s Bokomo Corn Flakes contained GM maize but the level was not quantifiable due to low copies of DNA
  • Pick n Pay, Heartlands, Spar, Woolworths and Checkers cornflakes —GM maize not detected
  • Tiger Brand’s Purity Nutripak contained GM maize but below the level of quantification
  • Nestle’s Cerelac Maize contained 0.45% GM maize.