GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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FED: CONSUMERS, FOOD CHIEFS AT LOGGERHEADS OVER 'GENE




FED: CONSUMERS, FOOD CHIEFS AT LOGGERHEADS OVER 'GENE 

AAP 11.12.96 12:51 

Copyright 1996 The Australian Associated Press. Redistribution unauthorised. 

By Bruce Walkley of AAP 

SYDNEY, Dec 12 AAP - Food products containing genetically engineered soybeans
should be labelled, the Australian Consumers' Association (ACA) said today, but food
producers countered the demand by saying labelling was "inappropriate, impractical and
meaningless". "New laws for both labelling and assessment are in the pipeline," ACA
policy officer Carole Renouf said in a news release. "But the 'gene bean' has managed to
sneak in under the closing regulatory door." 

Ms Renouf said giant agrochemical company Monsanto had "caught the government with
its pants down" with the first shipment into Australia of its new Roundup Ready
soybeans. She said the "gene bean" could be included in many everyday items on
supermarket shelves, including ice cream, pies, chocolate, chips, margarine, mayonnaise,
soup and salad dressing, without consumers knowing. "No efforts have been made to tell
consumers, and the products won't be labelled," Ms Renouf said. 

"In spite of surveys uniformly showing consumers demand to know when the genetic
engineering process has been used, it appears that manufacturers, processors and
retailers in Australia are simply shrugging this off." The executive director of the
Australian Food Council (AFC), Michael Hooke, said the new beans presented "no public
health or safety hazard whatsoever". 

"Roundup Ready soybeans are the same as conventionally produced soybeans," Mr
Hooke said in a news release. "They have the same function, the same composition, and
the same nutrition and processing characteristics as conventional soybeans. They are
every bit as safe." Mr Hooke said the processed food industry supported meaningful
labelling where a product was "no longer equivalent to a conventionally produced
counterpart". "This is not the case with Roundup Ready soybeans, which are equivalent,"
he said. 

"Compulsory labelling of substantially equivalent foods has been soundly rejected right
around the world as inappropriate, impractical and meaningless." Mr Hooke said the
industry rejected any suggestion that the new beans had been "sneaked" into Australia.
He said they had been approved by appropriate authorities. 

Ms Renouf told AAP later the AFC's reference to safety ignored the absence of any
reference to safety in the ACA's news release. 

"They're hiding behind the screen of safety to deflect attention from the real issue, which
is people's right to know what's in food products and decide for themselves whether they
want to eat them." 

AAP bzw/adh