We have nothing to hide – Meatco
The Meat Corporation of Namibia made it clear this week that they are operating according to high food safety and quality standards after the Namibia Consumer Trust claimed it had found genetically modified organism in their canned beef product.
The consumer trust tested Meatco’s canned beef for the presence of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and confirmed that its soya is 6.45% genetically modified.
Meatco said that the competent authority that inspects their canning production is the Namibia Standards Institution (NSI), with an inspector from the institution on site overlooking the processing. The meat company said the inspector is also responsible for testing their products before releasing it into the market.
Confirming that their canned beef does indeed contain genetically modified organisms, the meat kingpin feels it is not fair for them to be asked to label their GMO containing products.
“In terms of percentages of GMO it is not fair to ask us to indicate this as currently most products like vegetables, fruit or chicken contain GMO but where are the percentages indicated? Why a special interest all of a sudden with our canned products? How is it different from other products with GMO? The meat ingredients like beef products and Mechanically Deboned Meat used are Halaal certified,” communications specialist at Meatco, Neu-nique Rittmann told the Economist.
“The regulations in terms of the Bio-safety Act have not yet been passed and therefore, as an industry there is nothing irregular that we are doing by using GMO ingredients in our products, Rittmann added. Meatco further elaborated that the Namibia Commission for Research Science and Technology (NCRST) is mandated with the implementation of the Act and is required to come up with regulations which will inform industries on the compliance requirements when dealing with products that contain GMO, like labelling or marketing.
The consumer trust tested the maize and soya used in the canned beef for GMO and only found it in the soya. Mr Michael Gawiseb, Executive Director of the consumer trust said although the bio-safety law is not enforced as of yet, “Meatco and others are required to label their products when the GMO content is above 0.9%. Ethics dictates that they should inform customers pro-actively.”
“Meatco did not mention the existence of GMO in its product on the label therefore violated the consumer’s right to know as agreed to by Namibia through its membership of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which issues guidelines on consumer protection,” Gawiseb stressed.
Gawiseb further suggested that when Namibian farmers are allowed to eventually plant GMO in Namibia, the law must make provision for farmers who don’t want GMO to be compensated adequately by GMO planting farmers when they lose the ability to produce GMO-free food.
The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation is supposed to regulate Genetically Modified Organisms, however, Gawiseb said, the minister makes no mention of this and there may not have been publicly expressed commitment to consumer protection by the minister. “Additionally the minister could enable consumer representation on the Bio-safety Council,” he said.