20/11/2009

Support for Inghams from An Unlikely Source!

 

Chicken-producer Inghams, under fire for misleading consumers is being offered support from a most unlikely source: GE free NZ (in food and environment).

GE Free NZ has offered support to the manufacturer in living up to its promise of a GM-free Policy, and keeping faith with its customers, even though there is still the risk of accidental GM contamination in future.

It seems Inghams itself has been misled or has been misinformed about the 'non-effect' of GM feed on animals, leading to them deliberately using GM soy in feed despite telling their customers the opposite.

Inghams had assumed 'it makes no difference'to the animals, and used this belief to justify feeding chickens GM soy when it was convenient to their business. But they were wrong.The science does not support their assumption, as shown by the independent advice used by the Commerce Commission in ruling Inghams had been misleading consumers.

"Like many consumers, we have been misled over Ingham's chicken advertisment. We understood they were using Identity Preserved(IP), non-GM ingredients, and even gave them free advertising," says Claire Bleakley from GE free NZ in food and environment. "They now need to live up to their GM-free policy claims, keep faith with consumers."

"What Inghams does now is of great importance to the future of their brand and the trust consumers can have in it," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"To abandon efforts to keep their products GM-free would be the ultimate betrayal of their customers, and present a public health-risk."

The science does not support Inghams previous claims that GM feed makes no difference. Rather the evidence is that individual GM feed-products may or may not cause changes in the organism and may or may not result in novel genetic elements being integrated into the animal, with a range of impacts varying from negligible to anti-nutritional, sub-clinical or actual toxicity.

Consumers should support manufacturers genuinely pursuing a GM-free policy for their products, and GE Free NZ has extended this offer to Inghams if they promise to be genuine about their previously-promoted GM-Free policy.

In this absence of proper testing to verify the effects of each type of GE product available for animal feed, it would be unethical for Inghams to continue to use them. Though Inghams may be try to persuade themselves that 'cheap chicken' will meet the needs of impoverished, uninformed or non-concerned segments of the market, it would transfer the risks to the most vulnerable parts of the community: people who are forced to buy the cheapest products available no matter the damage to their health or the wider environment.

GE Free NZ has written to Inghams offering suport for a genuine GM-free policy and a response is awaited.

ENDS

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

Claire Bleakley 06-3089842 / 027 348 6731

References
Issued 18 November 2009/no 50

Inghams warned over GM free chicken claims

The poultry producer Inghams Enterprises (NZ) Pty. Limited (Inghams) has received a warning from the Commerce Commission that it risked breaching the Fair Trading Act with claims that its chickens contained no genetically modified ingredients.

The Commission has completed an investigation into allegations that claims made in consumer and trade magazines and on television between January 2008 and June 2009 were false or misleading under the Fair Trading Act.

In the advertising, Inghams stated that its chicken products contained “No … GM ingredients” and “have no added hormones, GM ingredients or artificial colours” when the chickens had been fed soya feed which comprised 13 per cent genetically modified soy. Inghams also stated on its website that “Inghams GM policy is clear. Our poultry contains no GM content and are not genetically modified.”

The Commission engaged Jack Heinemann, Professor of Genetics and Molecular biology at Canterbury University to research and report on the question of whether animals exposed to feed containing genetically modified material (GM Feed) do in fact contain ‘no GM ingredients’.

In his report, a copy of which is available on the Commission’s website, Professor Heinemann concluded, “The cumulative strength of the positive detections reviewed …leave me in no reasonable uncertainty that GM plant material can transfer to animals exposed to GM feed in their diets or environment, and that there can be a residual difference in animals or animal-products as a result of exposure to GM feed …”

“Many consumers wish to avoid food products that contain GM ingredients and this is why food manufacturers like to position themselves as GM free. However consumers ought to be able to rely on the statements made in advertising,” said Commerce Commission Director Fair Trading, Adrian Sparrow.

“To consumers, perception is everything. Someone buying a chicken that is promoted as containing no GM ingredients, would not expect that the chickens had been fed on 13 per cent GM soya feed,” said Mr Sparrow.

Inghams ceased the advertising once the Commission began its investigation. The Commission has decided to issue a warning in this instance but will continue to monitor Inghams’ representations on this subject.

“The message to all food manufacturers is clear – consumers want to be able to make informed choices. Breaches of the Fair Trading Act undermine consumer confidence in your products, so compliance, through honest representations in labelling and advertising, is actually good for business,” said Mr Sparrow.
Background

The Fair Trading Act. Only the courts can decide if the Fair Trading Act has actually been breached. Breaches of the Fair Trading Act may result in prosecution in court. Companies found guilty of breaching provisions of the Fair Trading Act may be fined up to $200,000 and individuals up to $60,000.

Fair Trading Act Compliance resources are available on the Commerce Commission’s website www.comcom.govt.nz under Fair Trading/Developing a Fair Trading Compliance Program/compliance resources

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