Genetically Modified Food and Feed in South Africa: Labelling and the Right to Disclosure of Information
Authors Odile Juliette Lim Tung
Affiliations: Post-doctoral Fellow (Mandela Institute), School of Law, University of Witwatersrand
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 133 Issue 3, 2016, p. 600 – 628
When genetically modified organisms (‘GMOs’) were first commercialised in South Africa towards the end of the 1990s, there was no specific labelling obligation for such products apart from general requirements on labelling and advertising of foodstuffs. As from 2004, regulations on the labelling of food obtained through genetic modification came into existence when the Department of Health required GMOs to be labelled if they are significantly different from their traditional counterparts. The local labelling framework for GMOs evolved to a stricter regime under the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008. Although South Africa is currently one of the ten biggest world producers of genetically modified (‘GM’) crops, GM labels for food on the local market are scarce. This article examines the South African labelling regime for GM food and feed in the light of the right of consumers to disclosure of information under its consumer protection law. It seeks to shed light on the practical difficulties which may arise regarding the implementation of this labelling regime, and the need for the strengthening and monitoring of labelling obligations.