The Potential of Genetically Modified Soy to Manage HIV/AIDS in Africa


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Solae, a US-based soy ingredient company, last week announced that it has commissioned a study to establish if soy products can be used to improve the health of HIV/AIDS sufferers in South Africa.

In collaboration with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, Solae aims to make soy protein-enhanced drinks for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

This, inarguably, is an interesting venture, but the million-dollar question is, “Will politics derail it?

I pose this question because the soy Solae will use to develop these drinks will be genetically modified. About 90 per cent of soy grown in the U. S. is genetically modified.

South Africa, on the other hand, is steadily becoming a hub of genetically modified crops. According to the latest report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), the bulk of soy currently being grown in South Africa is genetically engineered.

Already, there are whispers out there that this is just another conspiracy between the biotech industry and the academia to exploit the vulnerability of HIV/AIDS sufferers in Africa to market genetically modified products. This is gross distortion of facts.

Solae and other collaborating partners have committed to let the findings of this study peer-reviewed and published in a respectable scientific journal. The argument that junk science will be used to develop this drink is, therefore, null and void.

Predictably, opponents of genetically modified foods will be out in droves to condemn Solae for trying “to force-feed Africans with genetically modified Organisms (GMOs). ”

If such were to happen, anti-biotech activists will be the most absurd lot in the world. They will be laying bare their hypocrisy and ignorance about genetic engineering.

Anti-biotech activists have been shouting from the rooftops that pharmaceutical companies lower the prices of anti-retroviral drugs, themselves products of genetic engineering (GE).

If genetic engineering is such an unsafe and unacceptable technology, why are anti-GE activists not condemning biotech companies that manufacture anti-retroviral drugs?

The envisaged soy protein-enhanced drink to manage HIV/AIDS should be supported by all. It will be cheap and readily available to many HIV/AIDS sufferers who can’t afford anti-retroviral drugs since Solae plans to make it available in supermarkets and other retail outlets.

'James uses his communication expertise to create awareness about GM food. To read more about him, go to


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