Press Statement By
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Member Of Parliament
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
And Traditional Prime Minister To The Zulu Monarch And Nation
South Africa is the only country in the world that allows our staple foods to be genetically modified. Why are we willing, when no one else is? And perhaps more importantly, why is no one else willing?
The IFP believes that the right to health includes the right to know what we are consuming and whether we are exposing ourselves to health risks through our diet. We have therefore followed, with growing concern, the international debate on the use of the herbicide Glyphosate in the agricultural sector, as evidence has emerged that Glyphosate causes Cancer.
In South Africa, our staple crops like white maize and soya have been specifically engineered, through artificial genetic mutation of the plant’s DNA, to be resistant to Glyphosate, so that this broad-spectrum herbicide can be sprayed from the air over commercial farms, bought over the counter by subsistence farmers, and widely used in the production of the food we eat.
Not surprisingly then, Glyphosate is found in our bread flour and maize meal.
But if the World Health Organisation has listed Glyphosate as a known Cancer-causing agent, why is no move being made to withdraw the use of this carcinogen in South Africa?
There is no question that Cancer is a burgeoning pandemic throughout the world, and few South Africans are untouched by some form of Cancer in their own family. From the human perspective, the journey through Cancer is traumatic, whether or not it is fatal. From a healthcare perspective, our country’s economy is just not equipped to cope with the extent of treatment that will be needed ten or even five years from now.
It is thus not only a moral imperative that we arrest the surge of Cancer, but a financial imperative. This should be common cause within Government and amongst politicians. It is not just the domain of doctors.
For this reason, I have joined the South African Traditional Doctors Union in their effort to mobilise an investigation into genetically modified foods and the possible dangers their consumption poses to all our people, as well as an investigation into the pervasive use of Glyphosate, which has serious implications for the health of farm workers, environmental contamination, and the health of every man, woman and child who eats food produced on our soil.
For a number of years, the IFP has urged Government to consider the health safety of genetically modified foods, particularly in respect of long-term human consumption. Unfortunately, Government has been largely unresponsive.
It is disturbing that Government has abandoned its responsibility for the wellbeing of South Africans. Considering the serious implications for our nation’s future health, I approached the Office of the Public Protector on 8 December 2015. A few days later, Advocate Madonsela responded to my written request, advising that her office would establish whether the law allows the Public Protector to investigate this matter. She indicated that once this process was completed, they would revert to me and advise me accordingly.
Having heard nothing further, on 19 February 2016 my office reminded the Public Protector’s office of my correspondence and enquired whether a determination had yet been made on whether this falls within the scope of investigation of the Public Protector. We noted that this matter had taken on added significance, as the Environmental Protection Agency in California had just taken a decision to list Glyphosate as a known Cancer-causing agent, following the lead of the WHO.
No response was received.
Thus, on 7 June 2016, my office again reminded the Public Protector’s office that a response was outstanding. We also noted that the European Union had recently refused to grant the multinational giant Monsanto a new licence for Glyphosate, its flagship product.
Had we been waiting for the outcome of an investigation, I would have accepted that more time was needed. However, we were simply waiting on the outcome of a determination of whether this falls within the scope of what the Public Protector may investigate. With that in mind, the delay in response had been inordinately protracted.
While this cannot necessarily be seen as a refusal to address the issue, I felt that we needed to take the next step. Thus, on 16 September 2016 I wrote to the Chairperson and Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission. Together with the South African Traditional Doctors Union, we requested an urgent investigation.
The office of the CEO of the SAHRC acknowledged receipt, indicating that a representative would be in contact with my office in due course. A few days later, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) wrote to the SAHRC supporting our request for investigation, detailing the danger posed by Glyphosate as a cancer-causing toxin.
On 17 October, a month after sending our original correspondence, we sent a reminder to the SAHRC requesting feedback on any progress. Unfortunately, another month has passed since then, and we are yet to hear back from the SAHRC as to whether they are willing investigate.
If Government is unwilling to explain why South Africa is feeding its people toxins, thus feeding the Cancer pandemic, and the Public Protector is unresponsive in the face of this crisis, one would hope that the SAHRC will stand up for the right to health and life.
While we wait for a response, the IFP will keep pushing this issue into the public debate.
The Hon. Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa
071 111 0539
Mr Toren Wing
Chairperson of the South African Traditional Doctors’ Union
082 417 6808
Dr Kora Brian Damonse
General Secretary of the South African Traditional Doctors’ Union
073 507 8979