Woolworths Manipulating GMO Semantics Yet Again?

African Centre for Biosafety unmasked Woolworths yet again. ACB tests discovered that Woolworths White Sandwhich Bread contains 85.62% of GM Soya. Yet this product label remains “May Contain GM”.

Woolworths Answers Their Concerned Customers:

Woolworths Statement on May 30, 2014
“We have recently received quite a few queries about GMO in our food. For those of you as yet unaware, our bread was recently tested, and the soya flour component (which is significantly less than 1%) was found to contain GMO which we have labelled. I am aware that some of our customers are concerned by these reports.
We’re taking these questions very seriously. We’re consolidating all your queries on GMO and gathering all the facts we need to get back to you with a response, which we will put up on our website. We’ll share the link as soon as we can.” Zyda Rylands, MD of Woolworths Foods.

“Only 5.3% of Woolworths private label food products contain ingredients from potential GM sources. Our wide organic offering also does not allow GMOs, while no fruit and veg grown commercially in SA contain GMOs. There are arguments for and against GMO and we believe our customers should be empowered to make their own decisions.”

Grass asks Woolworths for a list of these 5.3% Woolworths private label food products that contain ingredients from potential GM sources. Since these 5.3% of products are known  to contain GM then why are they not accurately and lawfully labelled as “Contains GM”?  How can Woolworths talk about empowering their customers when they are so blatantly misleading them? Does Woolworths not see the irony in this above statement?

“Woolworths checks all ingredients back to source, and where we cannot guarantee that the ingredient was not derived from a GM crop, we label the product as “May be Genetically Modified (GM)”. We use this statement if the origin of the crop is from an area where GM versions of the particular crop is cultivated .”

Grass asks Woolworths why then is their GM derived products not lawfully labelled? Not even their Woolworths GM Maize which proved to contain over 79.78% GM maize is labelled as “Contains GM”.

“The recent study of a loaf of our white bread found that the soy flour component (which makes up significantly less than 1% of the whole loaf) contained 85% GMO… not the whole loaf itself ”  

Grass would like to help Woolworths to further understand the international testing protocol: 

ACB use a Real-time PCR method that determines the genome copy number of the soy in the product as well as the number of genomes containing the genetically modified RR soy (GTS40-3-2).  The number of GM containing genomes is expressed as a percentage of soy genomes to calculate the % soy GM.  We do not calculate this as a percentage of the total product but according to the requirements in the CPA as a % of the ingredient – as is international practice.

Grass yet again requests that Woolworths abides by the South African GM labelling law and label products that contain more than 5% GM material as “Contains GM” and stop using the misleading label of “May Contain”. Woolworths, your customers and ex-customers are pleading with you.
See background to the story here:
Grass has formally laid a complaint, on 30 October 2013, with the National Consumer Commission requesting that Woolworths comply with the GMO labelling law and correctly label their products that contain 5% or more GMO content. Grass has also asked for a formal apology to Woolworths customers for not complying with the GMO labelling law and the Consumer Protection Act thereby misinforming their customers with the misleading label of “may contain GMO”.

Woolworths: manipulating math or semantic science?

Grass looked at another Woolworths product recently, Oatmeal Digestives. Although the product is named Oatmeal Digestives, there is only 3% oatmeal in the product. Rather astonishing to label a product as being Oatmeal when less than 5% content is oatmeal. On the other hand, Woolworths maintained that they could not accurately label GM products since it was difficult to verify. Even though their Woolworths Super Maize was tested and shown to contain 79.78% GM content it was still labeled as “may be genetically modified”.


Helping you find integrity in the food chain soniam@eategrity.co.za

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2 comments on “Woolworths Manipulating GMO Semantics Yet Again?
  1. Shelley Kirsten says:

    Good day

    I see that Woolworths says below, “while no fruit and veg grown commercially in SA contain GMO’s”.

    I thought that most/all corn (mielies), are now GM unless they are labelled organic? As WW hasn’t had organic mielies for weeks now, I refuse to buy mielies in case they are GM. Thanks.

    Shelley Kirsten


    • GRASS says:

      Hi there Kirsten

      I avoid all non organic corn as we can’t be certain what type of corn is GM or not. We were pretty sure until just a week ago that all popcorn corn was not GM (a different type of maize) but now we are not so sure as some manufacturers are admitting that their popcorn brand is GMO. Still need to find out which brands are okay. I suggest you ask the Woolworths store manager when they will be stocking organic again as they need to be aware that there is a demand for it. It is all very frustrating due to the fact that Woolworths refuses to accurately and lawfully label GM content products. Grass will be offering a list of a non GM suppliers shortly so watch for it.


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