01/02/2008

Food Companies Keep Faith with Consumers Over GE-Free Policy

 

Major food companies are keeping faith with their customers in New Zealand and in export markets, by adopting GE-free policies for their products.

But shoppers should be wary that a few household-name brands may be using hidden GE-derived ingredients without labelling them or telling customers on their company websites.

The results of the Greenpeace NZ audit of companies just published (1), is a major help to shoppers wanting to support GE-free companies and to avoid GM ingredients for health, environmental or ethical reasons.

The British Medical Association has previously warned that some GE foods could present particular risks for the elderly, pregnant women and infants, as well as those with reduced immunity.

The Australian Insurance Council has also warned food manufacturers that they could face asbestos-type law suits in decades ahead if they use novel GE ingredients are harmful.

The New Zealand and Australian food authorities refuse to independently safety-test GE ingredients, but have approved many for sale in both countries. Despite public concerns there is no monitoring by the authorities of where these approved GE ingredients are used.

"In the absence of tracking through the food chain, or honest labelling that warns consumers clearly, the Greenpeace guide is a valuable tool for people to exercise their rights to choose what they eat," says Jon Carapiet, spokesperson for GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"Brands that listen to their customers are to be congratulated. But the companies on the red list of the Greenpeace audit are betraying consumer trust as many people will have assumed their products would be GE-Free and trusted them to say otherwise (2)."

New Zealand as a nation continues to benefit from producing food that is GE-Free, and being able to market fruit, vegetables, meat and milk that fits with our clean, green, natural image.
ENDS.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507681

REFERENCES

1) Copies of the guide can be downloaded at:
http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/downloads/GreenpeaceGEFreeFoodGuide08.pdf

2) See www.gmfreepolicy.com

3) Greenpeace PR Auckland January 30 2008
­
The latest Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide reflects a strong ongoing
non-GE position from New Zealand food companies and an unprecedented
anti-GE stance from Australasiaıs largest food company.

Late last year, Goodman Fielder - umbrella company for brands like
Edmonds, Meadow Lea, Meadow Fresh and Irvines - spoke out against the
lifting of Australian State bans on genetically engineered (GE) food crops,
urging all Australian State Premiers and Agriculture Ministers to keep
the oilseed crop (canola) GE free.

Goodman Fielder cited consumer opposition to GE foods and Australiaıs
best interests as reasons for its unprecedented public step into the
wider GE debate (1).

³Goodman Fielder had shown itıs in touch with consumers and very
conscious of the wider economic advantages of producing GE free crops for
export markets and ensuring its own products are non-GE,² said Greenpeace
GE spokesman Mike Hagler.

³Given Australia is the biggest source of New Zealandıs canola and many
other processed foods we consume, this directly impacts us.

³People believe they have a basic right to know if the food theyıre
eating is made from GE crops or not, and thatıs what the Greenpeace GE
guide informs them of,² said Mr Hagler.

³And given that the New Zealand government recently approved a
potentially cancer-causing GE animal feed for human consumption, the Guide is
needed more than ever to allow consumers to avoid GE food.² (2)

The Guide is now into its sixth edition; past editions have been used
by thousands of New Zealanders as a consumer tool, and the GE Free Food
Guide has remained the most popular section of the Greenpeace NZ
website for a number of years.

All companies featured in the Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide are colour
coded according to their policy on avoidance of GE-derived ingredients.

All Goodman Fielder products are now in the green section, meaning they
donıt contain GE-originated plant and animal ingredients, including
animal feed. Other popular food brands and companies that continue to
enjoy a green categorisation include PAMs (Foodstuffs), Heinz Watties,
Unilever, Tegel, Whittakers chocolate, Sanitarium and Phoenix.

One company that has descended into the red (may contain GE) category
is Bluebird (due to their new ownership by PepsiCo, who lack a non-GE
policy). Cadbury and Nestle also remain in the red category.

Two products on New Zealand shelves are actually labelled as containing
GE ingredients - ProNutro (Bokomo Foods) ­ a GE maize breakfast cereal
from South Africa and Stagg Chili Beans (Hormel Foods) ­ a GE labelled
canned bean product from the US.

As a general guideline, Mr Hagler said the four potentially GE
ingredients to really look out for in New Zealand are soy, maize or corn,
canola and cottonseed oil.


Contact: Mike Hagler, Greenpeace campaigner - 021 321 379 Suzette
Jackson , Greenpeace communications ­ 021 614 899
Kathy Cumming- Communications Officer- Greenpeace NZ
+64 9 630 6317 ext 320

(1) Western Australia Agriculture Ministerıs press release 9/11/07:
³Goodman Fielder chief executive officer Peter Margin cited increasing
consumer uncertainty about the long term effects of eating GM food;
consumer preference for foods that are not genetically modified;
Australiaıs current international competitive advantage for its GM-free status
and continuing uncertainty about the performance of GM crops in
Australian conditions as reasons for continuing the moratorium.²

(2) High-lysine GM corn LY038, made by Monsanto and intended as animal
fodder, was approved for human consumption in New Zealand in December
2007. There are scientific indications that if the corn accidentally
gets into the human food-chain and is then cooked, it could potentially
cause cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's disease.

How the guide works

Green: Companies that are not using GE-originated plant and animal
ingredients. This includes a policy of no GE animal feed. Also included are
certified organic products - the best guarantee of GE free.

Orange: Companies who have committed to removing GE originated plant
and animal ingredients and are in the process of doing so.

Red: Companies that have no clear policy of removing GE originated
ingredients. This category can include companies that did not respond
adequately to Greenpeace enquiries.

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