Genetically Modified Organisms [GMOs] and Biotechnology

Commonly Asked Questions and Answers

For thousands of years farmers and scientists have practical plant selection and after breeding techniques to motion genes within the same species or from related wild relatives to improve the yield, safety and quality of the crops. A number of techniques are used widely in laboratories to innovate new traits in plants. Ane method is to employ certain chemicals to plants, which results in mutations. These plants may present with traits of involvement to farmers.

Since the mid-1970s, progress in biological science has enabled scientists to place, copy and delete genes from an organism and to insert them in another, maybe unrelated organism. This targeted transfer of genetic information is known equally cistron technology, genetic engineering science or genetic modification. This applied science is applied to produce new crop traits, medicines (insulin and vaccines produced in GM bacteria), diagnostics and intermediates in many chemic and biological processes (detergents, and food additives such as cheese chymosin (rennin) and waste product management).

The World Wellness Organisation (WHO) has published a number of answers to questions that are normally asked. Most of the information is still valid and important afterwards v years of product and trading in GM crops.  Considerable developments in the approach to risk and safe assessment of GM foods accept taken place since the publication of the WHO guidelines on safety assessment, which are referred to in the WHO publication of 1914.  The Organization for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD) has played a significant office in this field and a large number of guidelines and publications have followed since the WHO-Codex meetings. The WHO publication (above) provides general data on GMOs.  These questions and answers are applicative to the South African state of affairs.

  1. What are genetically modified organisms and foods?
    ‘Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined every bit organisms (i.east. plants, animals or microorganisms), in which the genetic material (Dna) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and natural recombination. The technology is oft called “modern biotechnology “or “factor technology”, and sometimes “recombinant DNA engineering “or “genetic applied science”. It allows selected individual genes to exist transferred from one organism into some other, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods’ (WHO 2014).
  2. Who checks the safety of GM products in Southward Africa?
    Due south Africa follows a precautionary approach to legislating the assessment and release of GMOs. The Genetically Modified Organisms Deed, No 15 of 1997, which was implemented in 1999 and revised in 2007, provides for a decision-making body, which consists of representatives from eight national government departments and constitutes the official GMO Executive Quango, and for an independent scientific informational committee (Ac), which comprises ten scientists. A subcommittee of the AC, which consists of about thirty academics and independent scientists, forms function of the review procedure. Xiv application forms have been designed to run into the requirements for safety assessments according to a tiered approach. These include independent employ, trial release, importation (commodity clearance) and general release. This regulatory framework is compliant with the Codex Alimentarius risk analysis model (CAC).
  3. What is the situation in Due south Africa with regard to the growing of GM crops?
    The South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has approved the planting of various insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant cotton wool, maize and soybean cultivars and a drought-tolerant maize diverseness, as single events and as stacked events. The yield from GM crops that are planted by farmers is greatly influenced past climate change. Summaries of crop production over a number of years are available from ISAAA Ingather-Biotech.
  4. What about the importation of GM foodstuffs into South Africa?
    All GMOs are discipline to a special import permit under the GMO Human action. GM maize, GM soybean and canola oil, which are all derived from GM canola, have been approved for import. Imported candy foods from countries such as the United states of america, Argentina and People’s republic of china may contain GM-derived, soya and maize ingredients.
  5. Does South Africa export GMOs?
    This is subject to an export permit and compliance past the importing country with the Cartagena Protocol. Major regular exports are commodity GM maize.
  6. Labelling GM foods is important. What is the situation in South Africa?
    ‘The Section of Health is responsible for the implementation of legislation governing the labeling of GM foods, and currently requires that a GM nutrient be labelled if it differs significantly in composition, nutritional value, or in style of storage, preparation or cooking from that of the respective existing foodstuff. The regulations as well require a GM food to be labelled as such if a plant-derived food contains genetic material that is derived from a human or an animal, or if an animal-derived food contains genetic material derived from a human or from a different taxonomic animal family unit. The information on the characterization is non a alarm that these foods are unsafe. It is important to realize that authorities declares that these foods are as safe as conventional foods before they are released for human consumption. The label merely gives information on the ingredients of the foodstuff or product as an internationally acceptable standard’ (DAFF online) The Section of Trade and Manufacture has published regulations, which to some extent are in disharmonize with those of the Department of Health. This department requires labeling when a sure percentage of GM is nowadays in food. Where Department of Health bases its regulations on food safety, the DTI bases it on information to consumers.
  7. Are at that place any new developments of interest in biotechnology?
    The progress in biological technological enquiry is dynamic. It is now possible to introduce new traits or remove unwanted effects by even more precise techniques of engineering the organism’southward ain genes. This is called genome editing, of which the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) system is gaining a great bargain of attending. These new techniques are far less expensive and quicker to perform than the older ones. But at that place is controversy amongst countries over whether to classify the products of these technologies as genetic modification or not.
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Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). Procedural Manual. Available from: Viewed on 25 February 2019

Department of Agronomics, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Biosafety. Available from:  Viewed on 18 February 2019

International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).  Available from: Viewed on 18 February 2019

Organization for Economic Coordination and Evolution (OECD). Bachelor from: Viewed on 18 February 2019

World Health Organisation (WHO) (2014). Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods. Available from

Viewed on 1 February 2019

Updated for FACS by WWa & WRi (2019).