GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

3-Food: UK GM-free food 'is contaminated'



-----------------------
genet-news mailing list
-----------------------

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  UK GM-free food 'is contaminated'
SOURCE: Sunday Herlad, UK, by Rob Edwards
        http://www.sundayherald.com/34928
DATE:   Jun 29, 2003 


------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


UK GM-free food 'is contaminated'
Campaigners accuse US-based multinationals of holding the world to ransom
in order to promote their products

Food on sale in Britain labelled 'GM-free' has been contaminated with
genetically modified soya made by US multinational Monsanto, a new survey
by the food safety watchdog reveals.

The contamination is condemned by GM critics as being part of a
deliberate campaign by the American biotechnology industry, backed by the
administration of President George Bush, to force feed GM food to
unwilling consumers in Britain and around the world.

The latest tactic is to insist that African countries who want help in
combating the Aids epidemic must accept GM food. Bush has also accused
Europe of prolonging famine in Africa by encouraging opposition to GM food.

'The ploy of the US government and biotechnology industry is to force GM
food onto the world market either by stealth or bullying. People should
be worried that their food is contaminated,' said Adrian Bebb from
Friends of the Earth Europe.

In a series of checks on the labelling of GM foods for the European
Commission, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has just tested a wide
range of foods for the presence of GM organisms. It detected traces of GM
in eight soya products, including beans, flour and protein concentrate.

In three samples -- textured vegetable protein, vegetable protein mince
and protein isolate -- they found GM soya despite the fact that the
products were labelled 'GM-free'. GM soya, known as 'roundup ready', is
made and marketed by Monsanto.

The FSA didn't say precisely which brands of which foodstuffs were
contaminated by GM. But it pointed out that a wide variety of food was
derived from soya, including bread, pizza bases, tofu and meat substitutes.

The levels found were all under 1% and hence within European labelling
regulations, which are up for review by the European parliament this
week. Nevertheless, manufacturers were warned by local authorities to
improve their labelling, and one product was withdrawn. The contamination
occurs because GM crops are grown next to non-GM crops and in the
processing and manufacturing it is difficult to separate them. This means
that Monsanto's GM soya, one of the world's biggest GM crops, is steadily
infiltrating all soya production. But the contamination of conventional
food is seen by GM opponents as just one of the weapons deployed by the
GM industry to win markets for its products. Obliging developing
countries to accept GM food aid is another.

The US Congress has recently passed a new law which for the first time
links GM food aid with assistance in fighting HIV/Aids, the sexually
transmitted disease which is killing millions across the African
continent. 'United States food assistance should be accepted by countries
with large populations of individuals infected or living with HIV/Aids,
particularly African countries, in order to help feed such individuals,'
the legislation says.

This has provoked fury among environmental groups in Africa. 'The US
should stop playing with hunger,' said Nnimmo Bassey, director of
Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria. 'African nations should have the
right to decide what their people are fed. It is immoral for the US to
exploit famine and the Aids crisis in this way.'

Over the past two years there have been a series of clashes between the
Bush administration and African countries over the provision of GM food
as aid. Zambia rejected any GM food, while Mozambique and Zimbabwe turned
down GM corn grain but had to accept milled GM corn.

Bush now blames opposition in Europe for stirring up unwarranted alarm
about the safety of GM products among African nations. At a biotechnology
industry conference in Washington DC last week, he accused European
governments of blocking the import of GM crops 'based on unfounded and
unscientific fears'.

As a result, many African nations were afraid to use GM crops for fear
that they would not get access to European markets, he argued. 'For the
sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments
to end their opposition to biotechnology.'

The US government has lodged a formal complaint with the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) about the European Union's five-year moratorium on GM
food. Earlier this month, it ended negotiations aimed at resolving the
dispute, and referred the matter to a WTO arbitration panel.

'Food aid is being used, particularly by the US, as a marketing tool to
capture new markets. Big agribusinesses are huge beneficiaries of the
current food aid system,' alleged Ricardo Navarro, the Salvadorean
chairman of Friends of the Earth International.

'GM crops are not the solution to hunger. If Bush wanted to tackle hunger
he would be answering the real causes of hunger, like poverty, debt, lack
of infrastructure that make it impossible for small farmers to compete in
world markets.'

His accusation is backed up by a new study of GM food in Africa by Aaron
deGrassi from the University of Sussex's Institute of Development
Studies. DeGrassi argued that the introduction of crops such as GM sweet
potatoes, GM cotton and GM maize has not led to any major environmental
or economic gains.

'There has been a great deal of excitement over these new engineered
crops despite their low sustainability. The maximum gains from genetic
modification are small, much lower than with either conventional breeding
or agroecology based techniques,' he concluded. DeGrassi highlighted
several examples in which multinational GM companies have used a handful
of relatively well-off African farmers to promote GM in sceptical
developed countries. He recounted how last month Monsanto flew four black
pro-GM South African farmers to speak at a London conference.

He said: 'Biotechnology firms have been eager to use philanthropic
African projects for public relations purposes. Such public legitimacy
may be needed by companies in their attempts to reduce trade
restrictions, biosafety controls and monopoly regulations.' The
accusations are, however, rejected by Monsanto and the other
biotechnology multinationals such as Bayer, DuPont and BASF. 'Nobody has
ever claimed that GM is the answer to world hunger. What we would say is
that it has a part to play,' argued Tony Combes, Monsanto UK's director
of corporate affairs and spokesman for the UK GM industry's Agricultural
Biotechnology Council.

He pointed out that nearly six million farmers in 16 countries planted GM
crops in 2002, three-quarters of them in developing countries. 'That's
not us, the multinationals, forcing anything down anybody's throat.
They've got a choice,' he said. The contamination of GM food on sale in
Britain was an inevitable fact of life when GM crops were grown beside
conventional crops, and was within legal limits, Combes added. 'You can't
have zero thresholds on anything.'

Not surprisingly, the industry's arguments failed to convince the Green's
environment spokesman in the Scottish parliament, Mark Ruskell. He is
promoting a bill to make GM companies legally liable for any
contamination they cause.

'As far as the US and the biotechnology companies are concerned the GM
debate doesn't exist -- you will eat it and you will grow it,' he said.
The UK government is currently sponsoring a debate on the future of GM
foods, but it has been widely attacked as a sham with a predetermined
pro-GM outcome.

'If GM is commercialised in Scotland, widespread contamination will turn
consumer against farmer, and farmer against farmer. The legacy of
Scottish Executive and Westminster inaction on GM will be the biggest
erosion of the rights of consumers and farmers ever seen in Scotland,'
declared Ruskell.

'Only strict liability for the harmful effects of GM placed at the door
of the GM companies will force them to confront the defects of their own
technology head on.'


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Report published on checks on labelling of GM foods
SOURCE: Food Standards Agency, UK
        http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/
        gmlabellingchecks20june2003
DATE:   Jun 20, 2003

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


Report published on checks on labelling of GM foods

The Food Standards Agency is today publishing a UK report to the European
Commission on the EC co-ordinated programme of checks on the labelling of
genetically modified foods.

The European Commission requested Member States to conduct checks on
certain types of foodstuffs to ensure that, if they contained any
genetically modified ingredients, they complied with the appropriate
labelling rules. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked the Local
Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to co-ordinate
the UK element of the EC Programme.

Current EC regulation for GM labelling requires labelling of any GM
ingredient (at any percentage) if it has been used intentionally, but
allows a 1% threshold for adventitious presence if manufacturers can show
that they have attempted to avoid using GM ingredients in their product.
Labelling is based on the presence of GM material (DNA or protein).

Of the 91 samples tested for the presence of GM, none contained GM above
the 1% limit for adventitious presence. 8 samples contained traces of GM
below the 1% threshold for adventitious presence, three of which were
labelled 'GM-Free'. These three were soya textured vegetable protein,
soya textured vegetable protein mince, and soya protein isolate.

Samples were tested for GM ingredients in the following proportions: 45
soya; 42 maize, two rapeseed oil and two tomatoes.

Where GM-Free claims were made, local authority representatives visited
manufacturers to remind them of their responsibility to ensure that
claims made on labels are representative of the contents to avoid
misleading consumers. However, there is no specific legislation covering
the use of the term GM-Free on food labels, despite calls from the FSA
for EC labelling regulations to include the development of a GM-Free label.

Provided that the manufacturers can show that GMOs detected below the 1%
threshold are not present intentionally, they are not required to label
it on the product. Nevertheless, where any GM was detected, Local
Authority representatives ensured that manufacturers were aware of
labelling requirements for the use of GM ingredients.

[for download go to web page] Table of foods tested for GM ingredients


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  UK report to the Commission on the EC co-ordinated programme for
        the official control of foodstuffs for 2002: Labelling of
        genetically modified foodstuffs
SOURCE: Food Standards Agency, UK
        http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/multimedia/webpage/labelgmfoodstuffs
DATE:   Jun 20, 2003

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


UK report to the Commission on the EC co-ordinated programme for the
official control of foodstuffs for 2002: Labelling of genetically
modified foodstuffs

The European Commission requested Member States to conduct checks on
certain types of foodstuffs to ensure that, if they contained any
genetically modified ingredients, they complied with the appropriate
labelling rules. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked The Local
Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to co-ordinate
the UK element of the 2002 EC Programme.

LACORS invited a number of geographically representative local
authorities to obtain appropriate samples for analysis by their Public
Analyst. All samples were taken as formal samples under the Food Safety
Act 1990 and were taken during the period September to December 2002.

Current EC regulation for GM labelling requires labelling of any GM
ingredient (at any percentage) if it has been used intentionally, but
allows a 1% threshold for adventitious presence provided manufactures can
show that they have attempted to avoid using GM ingredients in their
product. Labelling is based on the presence of GM material (DNA or protein).

Samples were tested for GM ingredients in the following proportions: 45
soya; 42 maize, two rapeseed oil and two tomatoes.


Key findings

18 samples made 'GM Free' claims, three of which were found to contain
undeclared GM ingredients. The GM DNA found in all three products was
believed to be adventitious, and was only found at levels below the 1%
threshold for adventitious presence. Local Authorities visited
manufacturers to remind them of their responsibility to ensure that
claims made on labels are representative of the contents to avoid
misleading consumers.

Five samples were found to contain GM ingredients below the 1% threshold
for adventitious presence of GMOs. Provided that the manufacturers can
show that the GMOs below the 1% threshold were not present intentionally,
they are not required to list it on the product label. Nevertheless,
Local Authority representatives visited all five manufacturers to discuss
labelling requirements for the use of GM ingredients, particularly when
Identity Preserved sources are not used.

Three samples declared the presence of GM ingredients on their label but
none were found on analysis. The manufacturers may have been applying the
precautionary principle.


Sample Selection

The sampling programme concentrated on the following EC approved GM
ingredients:

MAIZE: Avetis t25; Monsanto Mon 810; Novartis CG00526-176 and Bt11; and
Pioneer MON809

OILSEED RAPE: Agrvo-transformation event TOPAS 19/2; Hoechst - Falcon
GS40/90, Liberator; Monsanto - GT73; PGS - lines MS1Bn (B91- ), RF2Bn
(Bn( B94-2), RF1Bn (NB93-101), MS8 (DBN230-0028), RF (DBN212-0005),
MS1xRF2, MS1xRF2, MS8xRF3

SOYA: Monsanto line 40-3-2 (Roundup Ready)

TOMATO: Zeneca - Nema 1401F, H28F (tomato paste only, approved in the UK
in 1995)

The following commodities, raw materials and foodstuffs were recommended
for sampling and following global market share and product inclusion
rates emphasis was placed on items containing maize and soya:

FOODSTUFFS DERIVED FROM SOYA: Soya beans; Soya Flour; Soya Meal; Tofu;
Bakery Products; Bread; Pizza Bases; Meat Substitutes (eg Soya Mince;
Meat Seasoning Mixes).

FOODSTUFFS DERIVED FROM MAIZE: Maize; Maize Flour; Maize Snacks; Maize
chips; Maize Bakery Products; Polenta

FOODSTUFFS DERIVED FROM SOYA AND MAIZE: Baby Foods; Biscuits; Raw
Materials for Food Supplements

The following minimum amounts were taken for analysis:

Commodities/Raw Materials: 2.5kg; Processed Foodstuffs: 250g

For pre-packed products complete unopened packs were taken to prevent
adventitious contamination at the sampling stage. Perishable products
were frozen prior to their dispatch to the Public Analyst to avoid
deterioration.

Analysis Analysis was carried out at Public Analysts laboratories
accredited for GM analysis and covered the following aspects:
- a general screen for genetic modification using 35s promoter and NOS
detection
- approved varieties of maize and soya based GM foods
- non-approved varieties of maize and soya based GM foods

Where positives were found these were considered for further quantitative
analysis at Official Laboratories accredited for quantitative GM
analysis. The limit of detection was 0.1%.

All positives were reported to the sampling officer as they were found so
that detailed audits of records/identity preserved systems could be
undertaken without delay.

The attention of Public Analysts was drawn to the 'Recommendations
Concerning Analysis of Foodstuffs For GMOs' contained in the Official
Journal. Sampling and Analytical results were recorded on a standard
results form.

The presence of GM ingredients at any level must be labelled, except
where documentary evidence can be provided to prove that manufacturers
have attempted to avoid the use of GMOs, usually through the use of
Identity Preserved materials. A provision applies of 1% or less for the
adventitious presence of GM DNA or protein. There is no level set for the
adventitious presence of non-approved GM varieties.


Sample Results

A total of 91 analytical results were received. A table of results is
attached.


Commentary

A range of raw materials, ingredients and foodstuffs were sampled at a
variety of locations including factories, catering establishments and
retail premises during the period September to December 2002. Products
included food coatings (batter mixes), textured vegetable protein, soya
beans and flour, corn snacks, pizza bases, cakes and biscuits.

Products described as Imported were wholly produced and packed outside
the UK. Products described as UK produced were wholly produced in the UK,
although possibly containing some ingredients sourced outside the UK.




--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)xs4all.be