A new French study conducted on the long-term health impacts of genetically modified (GM) maize has found that the maize poses a threat to South African consumers, the only consumers of GM in Africa.
EXPERIMENT: Lab rat has a tumour
Maize meal is South Africa's main staple food and consumed mostly by the black community. Results of the study were released internationally last week and they showed that GM Foods caused cancer and had serious impacts on liver and kidney functioning.
Conducted by French scientists, the study was released last week in France.
It was conducted on rats for two years. Genetically modified seeds are developed in a laboratory by inserting genes from another species into a crop.
The rats that were fed GM maize diet had a higher mortality rate of up to 50% of males, and 70% for females than those that were eating other types of food.
The study also reveals that at the beginning of the 24th month, 50% to 80% of females fed GM diets had developed tumours around the body, while male rats showed liver congestion.
Miriam Mayet, director of the African Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, said it was possible that many local brands were affected because 40% of maize is grown with a variety called NK603.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, Mexico and South Korea were reported to be unaware that they were importing the GM maize.
"Countries such as Swaziland and Mozambique know that they are buying GM maize from South Africa," Mayet said.
"GM maize is impossible to detect, because there is no labelling unless you test it."
She said SA was the only country where people consumed about 70% of genetically modified food. In other countries GM maize meal is not consumed by humans.