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How to have a party without serving GMO

Sad but true. I try to make up for that lack of talent by serving the highest quality, most nutritious food I can find and then cook it simply so the tastiness of the food speaks for itself. That is easy in Tanzania – high quality fresh food was and is always abundant.

We wanted to serve food that was pesticide free and not genetically modified. On July 5, 2011 Codex Alimentarius, the international food safety body, recognized the right of countries to label GMO foods. This ended 20 years of an international struggle. As Consumer International states: “The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.” A few months later in South Africa, on October 1, 2011, a law was passed that food producers, importers and packagers are required in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, to label GM foods and marketing materials where the genetically
modified contest is five per cent or more.

Early this year the independent GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State conducted several thorough screenings for GMO in different products. Some of the results are as follows: Nestle’s Infant cereal, Cerelac Honey, was found to contain 78% GM maize in comparison to total maize. Bokomo’s Wheat-free Pronutro was found to contain GM maize and GM soya: 90% GM maize and 71% GM soya; this in spite of the fact that the Bokomo staff gave verbal assurances that the products were non-GM.

Future life Energy Meal, a dietary supplement advertised as “perfect for athletes of all levels and for high performance sports”, was found to have 100% of the corn and 36% of the soybeans genetically engineered. Impala maize meal was found to contain 66% GM maize. An earlier study published in the African Journal of Biotechnology, found that of 58 products labeled as GMO free or organic sampled randomly, 44 tested positive for GM (Viljoen, Dajee, Botha, 2006).

It is very difficult to know which foods being brought in from outside are genetically engineered. With that in mind, when a friend offered to bring cole slaw we had to think it through. I love the mixture of cabbage, carrots and dressing. We discussed the dressing. I doubted the mayonnaise.

I asked her to read the label over the phone. She read, “American Garden 100% Real Mayonnaise. Ingredients: Vegetable oil (Soybean Canola), water, egg yolk, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, contains two per cent or less of salt, spice (mustard seed), calcium disodium EDTA to protect quality.” Product of USA. It is a shame these days, that a product of USA containing corn or soybeans has 80-90% probability of being genetically engineered. In the mayonnaise are two such ingredients: soybeans and corn.

The EDTA is a chelating agent classified as a persistent organic pollutant. The United States government does not yet require corporations to label whether their food products are genetically modified or not. It is very difficult to know which foods are genetically engineered because the companies want to hide it; companies will not label the product as genetically engineered, unless forced to do so. Why?

Because they know people will usually reject it if they understand that it is genetically modified. (Which is why Europe is more or less GMO free in spite of intense pressure from the United States: they require labeling of products that contain genetically engineered ingredients). Since in the United States the products are not labeled as to whether they are made from GMOs or not, we have to assume anything from North America that contains corn or soybeans is genetically engineered.

Therefore my friend made the cole slaw with half-half sunflower dressing and yogurt. It was delicious. GM products are coming into Tanzania through the supermarkets. It is best to stay away from South African and North American food
products unless they are labeled GM free, and then even if they are, you have to wonder.

LAST week, following the inauguration of the newlyelected ...


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