A medical advocacy group has warned that the KwaZulu-Natal health department's decision to allow circumcisions of babies at state hospitals will fuel an illicit trade in foreskins, the Sowetan newspaper reported on Monday.
The newspaper reported that Medical Rights Advocacy Network head Dr Uttam Govind had written to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize and Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
He had urged them to stop the planned circumcision programme, which is due to start in April 2012.
Govind reportedly wrote that there were problems enforcing the Human Tissue Act, which required researchers to obtain a permit from the Health Ministry before exporting human tissue.
"Africa may be viewed as the new source of discarded virgin foreskins to sustain a multimillion dollar industry," the network wrote in a letter, according to the newspaper.
"Discarded human foreskins are used in the cosmetic industry and in the manufacturing of insulin and artificial skin.
"Regulations that allow the use of biosamples that would otherwise have been discarded as 'biohazardous waste', may be exported abroad to sustain a multi-million dollar industry without gaining appropriate consent.
"It is a dangerous presumption to believe the days of unethical conduct in research is over. Despite the South African Human Tissue Act requiring that researchers obtain a permit from the South African Ministry of Health to export human tissues, this law is difficult to enforce," the letter said.