GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 30th October 2003

Government does "dirty work" for biotech industry in prosecuting GM-free food supplier.

The prosecution of Bean Supreme for a .002% GE content in a product labelled Non-GM is a case of double standards and a contemptable misuse of
government power.

The prosecution should not be of the manufacturer but those in the biotech industry like Monsanto and other Life Science Network members who allow GE
contamination to spread into the food chain and seek to deny people basic rights to avoid it.

The attack by government agencies on GM-free labelling is a calculated effort to create a "chilling effect" on food manufacturers and is effectively doing the dirty work for biotech industry bullies. It runs completely counter to the Royal Commission proposal for a voluntary labelling regime for GE-free produce to be introduced. 

Bean Supreme owner Paul Johnston said soy was only 2 per cent of the material in the sausages, so the GM soy was only 0.002 per cent of the final product.

"Bean Supreme have tried their best to be GE-free and the biotech industry itself should be held responsible for contamination. Monsanto has failed to contain its products, has failed to take action against illegal plantings, and should be held liable, ' says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

But instead of being prosecuted Monsanto - having quit Britain- may now be finding a foothold in New Zealand.

They are understood to be associated with the GE onions trial currently before ERMA though their involvement has been kept secret.

" It seems our Crown Research Institutes are now getting into bed with some of the most disreputable organisations in the world. If this is the Labour government's plan for New Zealand we do not want a bar of it."

The eagerness to prosecute Bean Supreme also smells of hypocrisy and double-standards. When exports were threatened because of hidden GE ingredients in Subway bread in Japan, the government has blamed everyone except their own lack of regulatory standards for the problem. Yet the company involved defended itself by claiming the GE-derived enzyme " was approved by authorities".

One use of GE was intentional but based on misguided trust of Australia/New Zealand Food Authorities, the other was accidental but a result of industry lobbying for contamination thresholds to prevent any GE-free labelling so consumers have no choice.

"It seems that neither Yarrows nor Bean Supreme are really at fault here: rather it is a conspiracy of government and unethical business interests pushing for allowing contamination, and then blaming the victim," says Mr Carapiet.

Jon Carapiet- 09 815 3370

By SIMON COLLINS science reporter
An Auckland tofu maker, who is opposed to genetic modification, is being prosecuted for falsely claiming that his vegetarian sausages were "non-GM".

An audit by the Food Safety Authority last year found that 0.1 per cent of the soy in the meat-, dairy- and gluten-free sausages made by Penrose-based Bean Supreme had been genetically modified to withstand Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.

Bean Supreme owner Paul Johnston said soy was only 2 per cent of the material in the sausages, so the GM soy was only 0.002 per cent, or one part in 50,000, of the total sausages. 

Unintended trace amounts of the GM product up to 1 per cent of the ingredient are legal in New Zealand.

But Commerce Commission communications adviser Gail Kernohan said the commission decided to prosecute because the label on the sausages claimed that they were "non-GM".

The! case was called in the Auckland District Court last Thursday and was adjourned until November 27. Mr Johnston, who employs 16 people, has yet to enter a plea.

"If a guilty plea means we do not have to defend it and do not have to pay costs, we'll probably go that way," he said. 

"The Commerce Commission recently took another labelling case to court, not involving GM, and it cost [the defendants] $30,000 and they still lost. I don't think we can afford to do that."

He said he dropped the "non-GM" label from the sausages in February after the audit picked up the trace GM product.

He also stopped buying soy from the United States, where most soy is genetically modified. He now buys soy directly from an organic supplier in China.

The audit did not find any GM material in Bean Supreme's other soy products, which include soy milk, tofu, tofu luncheon and vegetarian burgers.

But its overall ! audit of 117 samples of foods containing soy or maize made or imported by many companies found GM traces in 18 samples (15 per cent).

Soy and maize account for 81 per cent of the world's GM crops.

Other products in which GM traces were found included corn chips (7 cases), soy-based infant formulas (4), pork luncheon (2), sandwich ham (1) and meat sausage (1).

All traces were under 1 per cent and were not labelled as GM-free, and were therefore legal.

The audit also found a fermented soy bean curd in which 68 per cent of the soy had been genetically modified to withstand Roundup. Food Safety Authority compliance director Geoff Allen said the offender was a small Asian importer who immediately withdrew the product and the authority decided not to prosecute.

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