7-Misc: Brit Advertising Standards Authority slams Monsanto
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- Date: Tue, 2 Mar 99 09:53:15 -0000
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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
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
'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.'
-| Hartmut Meyer
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax : #49-551-7701672
-| email: firstname.lastname@example.org