Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
12 September 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Arbor tree plant
To celebrate National Arbor Week the University of the Free State has embarked on a drive to plant 150 trees during the month of September

If you’ve wondered whether Arbor Month was important, you only have to look at the destruction and long-term damage that deforestation causes to the environment and the world’s inhabitants. To observe National Arbor Month, the University of the Free State’s has (UFS) kick-started a drive to plant 150 trees during the month of September.

To launch this initiative, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, alongside members of the rectorate, assisted the University Estates team in planting the first 10 of 100 trees at the Bloemfontein Campus on Wednesday 4 September 2019. A total of 50 trees will be planted on the Qwaqwa Campus.

Towards a sustainable future

“We have gone through periods of drought in the Free State that have severely impacted not only the plants but the trees on our campuses. The idea is to emphasise sustainability, and as a university, we believe that sustainability is important. As an education institution, we have to look at the generations that are still to come to our campuses,” said Prof Petersen.

He urged the Kovsie community to ensure that all practices across the campuses are linked to global standards of sustainability. “As we develop over the next couple of months and years, we will get much closer alignment between what we are doing as a university and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Drought-resistant man-made forests

Clusters of mini forests across the campuses will be created with a variety of trees including the karee, white karee, white stinkwood, and wild olive. These indigenous trees can adapt well to different soils including those that are poorly drained.

Celebrating Arbor Week

This year’s campaign was held under the theme Forests and Sustainable Cities. As part of the celebration, University Estates made a commitment to the environment by embarking on the green initiative which includes other project such as the upgrade of Red Square on the Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

UFS professor addresses genetically modified food in South Africa in inaugural lecture
2016-09-23

Description: Chris Viljoen inaugural lecture Tags: Chris Viljoen inaugural lecture

At the inaugural lecture were, from the left front,
Prof Lis Lange, Vice Rector: Academic;
Prof Chris Viljoen; Prof Gert van Zyl,
Dean: Faculty of Health Sciences; back: Prof Marius Coetzee,
Head of Department of Haematology and Cell Biology;
and Dr Lynette van der Merwe, Undergraduate
Programme Director.
Photo: Stephen Collett

The first genetically modified (GM) crops in South Africa were planted in 1998. Eighteen years later, the country is one of the largest producers of GM food in the world. Those in support of genetically modified crops say this process is the only way to feed a rapidly growing world population. But those who criticise GM food describe it as a threat to the environment and safety of the population. Who is right? According to Prof Chris Viljoen of the Department of Haematology and Cell Biology at the University of the Free State, neither position is well-founded.

GM crops play a vital role in food security

While GM crops have an important role to play in increasing food production, the technology is only part of the solution to providing sufficient food for a growing world population. The major genetically modified crops produced in the world include soybean, cotton, maize and canola. However, the authenticity of food labelling and the long-term safety of GM food are issues that consumers are concerned about.

Safety and labelling of GM food important in South Africa
In his inaugural lecture on the subject “Are you really going to eat that?” Prof Viljoen addressed the importance of the safety and labelling of GM food in the country. “In order for food to be sustainable, production needs to be economically and environmentally sustainable. On the other hand, food integrity, including food quality, authenticity and safety need to be ensured,” Prof Viljoen said. 

Labelling of food products for genetic modification was mandatory in South Africa, he went on to say. “It allows consumers the right of choice whether to eat genetically modified foods or not.” The Consumer Protection Act of 2008 requires food ingredients containing more than 5% of GM content to be labelled. 

GMO Testing Facility world leader in food diagnostic testing
In 1999, Prof Viljoen spearheaded research in developing a GM diagnostic testing platform, and in 2003, a commercial diagnostic platform for GM status certification, called the GMO Testing Facility, was founded. The facility is a licensed Eurofins GeneScan laboratory   a world leader in food diagnostic testing   and provides diagnostic detection and quantification of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in grain and processed foods for the local and international market.

Molecular diagnostic technology the future of food integrity, authenticity and safety
With GM labelling now well-established in South Africa, the next challenge is to establish the use of molecular diagnostic technology to ensure that food integrity, including food authenticity and safety is maintained, said Prof Viljoen.

“To the question ‘Are you really going to eat that?’ the answer is ‘yes’, but let’s continue doing research to make sure that what we eat is safe and authentic.”

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept