The implications of the proposed Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal are far-reaching than ordinary people realize or can imagine. Almost all the articles and submissions I have read and heard only point to the corrupt ruling elite’s desire to cover their dirty tracks through these two repressive instruments. However, there is no mention of the adverse international trade agreements and their attendant vices such as the widespread use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Companies are not required to label foodstuffs containing GMO’s under the World Trade Organization rules.

Since proponents of the WTO-driven globalization are the US and Europe, the ANC ruling elite is inadvertently or consciously doing the bidding for imperialists and neo-colonialists. South Africa allows the use of GMO’s while in many European and African countries they are forbidden because of the environmental and health dangers they pose to societies. In Europe foodstuffs containing GMO’s are required to be properly labeled.

Some farmers in South Africa’s four of the nine provinces experienced crop failures after planting Monsanto’s three varieties of corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NR 603 which were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities. After this crop failure experienced by some South African farmers, Monsanto undertook to compensate them. Some activists and organizations in this country are calling on the government to investigate the damage that may have been caused. It is not clear what steps the government took to address this very grave environmental hazard. The damage could be permanent and cause the affected fields to reject natural seeds and allow only the genetically altered seeds to germinate. That would mean we should kiss goodbye to our food security when there are so many poor people to feed.

The damage to these farm lands is ecological. What about health implications? The International Journal of Biological Sciences reported that when analyzing the effects of GMO’s on mammalian health, researchers found that agricultural Monsanto’s GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats. The study concluded that side effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on the heart, renal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. The conclusion was that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal (liver and kidney) toxicity.

In reaction to the findings of the study cited above, Monsanto conducted its own statistical data after conducting a 90-day study even though chronic problems can rarely be found within 90 days, and concluded that the corn was safe for consumption. If the liver and blood cells are affected then there will be immuno suppression and the onset of opportunistic diseases. But our medical practitioners and scientists in South Africa are leading us through the garden path by pinning down immuno suppression only on HIV-AIDS.

If information contained in this article can be classified according to the provisions of the proposed Protection of Information Bill and become law; and its attendant Media Appeals Tribunal come into effect, I would not be able to raise the issues I raised in this article. It would mean the percolating-up process of activism will be squelched by the top-down approach envisaged by the ruling ANC elite and replacing the bottom-up democratic process, freedom of the press and of expression we cherish and fought for with our lives to enjoy.

By Sam Ditshego

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