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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

FSA: Consumers demand better GM labelling

Immediate release (9 Jan 2012)

Calls to: Pete Riley 07903 341 065; Jane O’Meara 01258 861 023

Research sponsored by the Food Standards Agency (FSA, published today [1]) has found very strong support for comprehensive labelling on all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food chain, including labels for meat, milk, eggs and fish from animals reared on GM feed.

Both the qualitative and quantitative research found that around two thirds of people want all uses of GM products in food to be labelled to uphold their right to know and to enable them to avoid GM if they wish.

Currently all GM ingredients in food and animal feed must be labelled by law. This requirement applies to catering establishments and restaurants, which should inform customers if any GM ingredients are used in the production of their food (eg, oil used for frying).

However products from animals fed GM feed do not have to be labelled. The FSA research now reiterates [2] that there is very strong public support to change the law in this respect and require labels on this “hidden” GM use at industry expense, saying today:

When provided with information outlining likely regulatory cost implications of GM labelling, the sample tended not to alter opinions regarding what was important to label, with the suggestion that GM should be labelled and that consumers should not have to bear any cost involved.

Those taking part in the FSA consumer research also supported clear labelling of products produced without using GMOs as “GM-Free”. A number of companies in the EU, including the French supermarket giant Carrefour, already clearly label meat and dairy produced without GM feed.

GM Freeze welcomed the FSA results and has called on the Government to honour manifesto commitments [3] and put forward as soon as possible new and comprehensive GM labelling and enforcement rules for the whole EU. In the meantime the group maintains a table showing which lines from which supermarkets come from animals not fed GM feed. [4]

General awareness is low about the continuing bans on GM ingredients by supermarkets and food manufacturers, despite these having been in place for 15 years. Similarly most respondents to the FSA’s survey believed GM crops were being grown in the UK, when in fact there are no commercial crops grown here. Only half of respondents were aware that imported GM animal feed is used by UK farmers.

Jane O’Meara of GM Free Dorset said:

I first became aware of the presence of GM in food when I discovered baby milk powder I was giving to my children came from cows fed GM. The FSA’s research confirms what we find when we talk to the public – they want to know what is in their food and how it is produced. Clear labels on front of packs showing GM presence or absence are long overdue. The FSA and Government should take the lead and ensure that such labels become a legal requirement as soon as possible and that the laws are fully enforced.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The FSA, Government and supermarkets have kept people in the dark about where GM is and how much is used in the UK food chain, so it is not surprising that people are confused.

Nevertheless people are still asking for clear labels indicating the presence or absence of GM in the production of their food. So far the UK Government and FSA have ignored demands for labelling of products from GM-fed animals. Supermarkets and food manufacturers have also failed to respond to their customers’ wishes.

We want to see evidence that these positions are changing and that businesses who choose to not use GM are supported in establishing a transparent labelling schemes for GM-free products.

ENDs

 

Notes

[1] Food Standards Agency, 9 January 2013. GM Labelling: Exploring public responses to the labelling of GM food and the use of GM-free labelling. Qualitative and Quantitative Findings were based on research carried out by Define Research and Insight.

[2] GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth GfK/NOP poll results.

[3] General Election manifesto of the Conservatives pledged to:

“• Ensure that consumers have the right to choose non-GM foods through clear labelling.” (page 90 pdf)

David Cameron confirmed his support for “accurate labelling” in his answer to a Parliamentary Question from Roger Williams MP.

However Conservative MEPs voted against labelling of products from GM-fed animals in the European Parliament on the same day as the Prime Minister’s answer above.

[4] GM Freeze. Where to buy non-GM fed