Soil Association call for GM labels

Soil Association calls for compulsory labelling of food from GM crops in light of new FSA research

The Soil Association today wrote to the new Chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Lord Rooker, asking him to support the compulsory labelling of any meat or dairy products from animals fed on GM animal feed in the light of the findings of research published yesterday (25 November) by the FSA.

The FSA report ‘Exploring attitudes to GM food’ [1] states that: “The principles of transparency and consumer choice were clearly a priority for people holding a range of attitudes towards GM foods and this shaped their views on regulation and labelling.” In what will be a controversial finding for the UK Government, but supports the Scottish and Welsh governments’ opposition to GM, the study states that those consulted thought that “GM food was considered potentially unsafe and harmful or expressed concerns about the use of GM animal feed”.

The study states that “People in this study felt strongly that all products which involve GM processes should be labelled. This included products produced with GM technology and products from animals fed on GM animal feed, which do not currently have to be labelled.” The researchers note that these views were held by people in favour as well as those opposed to GM food.

As a result, the report concluded “There was widespread support for labelling of all GM food products, including where GM is used as a processing aid or in animal feed”.

There is significant evidence that consumers respond to labelling of products from animals given GM hormones or fed GM feed. For example, when American milk was labelled as GM hormone-free, sales of GM milk dropped, and in response to their customers’ wishes, major companies like Walmart, Safeway, Starbucks and Kraft insisted on buying hormone free milk for their own label products. [2] Accurate labelling has always been vigorously opposed by GM companies in the USA and in Europe.

In Europe, GM labelling laws in Germany and Austria have made clear that only if products are produced by animals not fed with GM feed can they be labelled as GM free.

Although little research has been done in this area, it is clear that plant chloroplast DNA from GM feed survives in eggs, meat and milk from animals that are fed GM maize and soya. In three published scientific studies, three separate teams of researchers have found GM DNA from animal feed (Roundup Ready oilseed rape, Monsanto’s GM MON 810 maize and GM soya) in meat and milk. [3]

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “Many years ago when he was a minister at the then Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Lord Rooker spoke passionately in the House of Commons about the need to protect consumers’ right to choose non-GM and organic food if that is what they want. [4] We are asking him to deliver on that promise by ensuring consumers have accurate information on whether the pork, beef and dairy products they buy come from GM-fed animals – chicken and eggs should be fine, as almost all UK chickens are already fed non-GM feed.”

“This research seems to be a bit of an own goal for the FSA. It released this study in advance of the start of what is meant to be a neutral consultation with the British public about GM food, because it thought it contained a pro-GM message. When the clear results on labelling were pointed out, it dismissed its own study as unrepresentative. This raises the question – why spend taxpayers’ money on it and why hold a major press conference to release it?”

Ends

For more information call press and e comms officer Jack Hunter 0117 3145170

Notes to editors

[1] Exploring attitudes to GM food exec summary and Exploring attitudes to GM food full report

[2] Land of the GM Free: How the American public are starting to turn against GM

[3] Silent Invasion: the hidden use of GM crops in livestock feed

[4] 30th July 1998. Hansard (House of Commons Debates), Volume 317, Column 626

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