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7-Misc: Brit Advertising Standards Authority slams Monsanto



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Brit Advertising Standards Authority slams Monsanto
By John Arlidge
Observer (London) Sunday February 28, 1999

Monsanto, the US company at the centre of the storm over genetically 
modified food, has been condemned for making 'wrong, unproven, misleading 
and confusing' claims in a #1m advertising campaign.
The ruling, by the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry's 
official watchdog, is a humiliating blow to the company which is 
struggling to persuade sceptical consumers that food from genetically 
modified crops is safe.
THE OBSERVER has obtained a draft report on the authority's investigation 
into more than 30 complaints about Monsanto's advertisements. It says the 
US giant expressed its own opinion 'as accepted fact' and published 
'wrong' and 'misleading' scientific claims.
The Green Party and food safety campaigners who are campaigning for a 
total ban on GM food welcomed the ruling yesterday. Patrick Spring, of 
the Green Party, said: 'Monsanto has been caught out misleading the 
public. They should apologise to consumers and print a retraction in 
full-page newspaper ads.
'If they are prepared to hoodwink the public, what have they been telling 
their friends in Government? We know they have been lobbying ministers 
and officials to try to get their products onto supermarket shelves. Have 
they been economical with the truth? The public need answers.'
The Greens, GeneWatch, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the 
Soil Association and members of the public wrote to the Advertising 
Standards Authority last year complaining that Monsanto had breached the 
ASA's rules.
The series of commercials, by the London-based advertising agency Bartle 
Bogle Hegarty, began with a full-page ad which read: 'Food biotechnology 
is a matter of opinions. Monsanto believes you should hear all of them.'
Over the next few weeks the company went on to describe 'the real 
benefits of biotechnology for both consumers and the environment'. GM 
foods were 'grown in a more environmentally sustainable way, less 
dependent on the earth's scarce mineral resources'.
GM technology had undergone 'rigorous tests throughout Monsanto's 20-year 
biotech history to ensure our food crops are as safe and nutritious as 
the standard alternatives'. Government agencies in 20 countries, 
including Britain, had approved them as safe.
In its report the ASA criticised the firm for wrongly giving the 
impression that genetically modified potatoes and tomatoes had been 
tested and approved for sale in Britain. The authority also dismissed 
Monsanto's assertion that GM crops were grown 'in a more environmentally 
sustainable way' than ordinary crops as unproven.
Monsanto has seven days to challenge the draft report before it is 
submitted to the full council of the ASA. If it is approved, the 
criticism will be published in full next month.
Dan Verakis, spokesman for Monsanto, expressed disappointment last night 
at the ASA's report but pointed out that some advertisements had already 
been amended.
'We were the first biotech company to attempt to explain this complicated 
science and to help consumer understand it better. We expected it to be 
controversial and we expected the activist industry to be very critical,' 
he said. 'We do not wish to mislead anyone.'


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