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Mandatory labeling pushes GM
foods off grocery shelves


Anna May Kinney

As someone who has fought for mandatory labeling on all genetically engineered foods, I was thrilled to read that our Health Minister Allan Rock stated that he believed these foods should be labeled. Then in October, when the measure was considered by Parliament and he had the chance to stand up and support such labeling legislation, Mr. Rock failed to even cast a vote and our Parliament rejected the legislation by a 126 to 91 vote.

According to the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, Catherine Lappe, a spokeswoman for Allan Rock, said he still supports mandatory labeling. She also indicated that the health committee would be looking into the issue of future labeling, suggesting that legislation was not the only way to get labeling implemented.

In a statement to Reuters news, Pat Venditti, Greenpeace campaigner said that grocers, the biotech industry and the government "seem to be in bed together."
"They are taking a stick-your-head-in-the-sand approach, waiting till this all goes away. They do not have any justification for not labeling."

You may be wondering why industry and government is so reluctant to label these foods. From everything we have seen in the past, when consumers are given the option of buying food with or without GM ingredients, most people choose foods without biotech ingredients.

As the following examples show, wherever mandatory labeling has been enforced, foods containing GM ingredients have been forced off the shelves. Manufacturers would rather eliminate genetically engineered ingredients from their products than be required to label them.

Back in May 1998, the 15 European Union (EU) countries implemented mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered soy and corn. Starting on December 7, food manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia must have all processed food products containing genetically engineered ingredients labeled. Those products manufactured before the December deadline will not be affected.

It is estimated that between 40 and 60 of processed foods contain GM ingredients, this new regulation will include foods that have already been approved, like GM cottonseed oil, canola, soybean, sugar beets, and potatoes. From December 7, all packaged food will have to list their GM ingredients with the exception of highly refined oils, sugars and flavorings.

Even though the industry says that some packaged foods will have to change their recipes in order to meet these tough new GM labeling rules, it does not expect these products to increase in price.

By the end of 1998, the year that the EU made labeling mandatory, nearly all fast food restaurants and grocery chains in the 15 country union had eliminated genetically engineered ingredients from their products.

Now as a result of this new labeling requirement, Goodman Fielder, Australia's largest food conglomerate is eliminating genetically engineered ingredients from all of their products. While other grocery chains and manufacturers are following their lead and moving rapidly to do the same.

Many people feel that genetically engineered foods should be tested before allowing these products lose on the unsuspecting population. Others ask what should these products be tested for?

Whenever a new gene is placed into a food, whether through traditional breeding or genetic engineering, there are two main concerns. One is whether the new gene might produce a protein that could trigger an allergic reaction in the person eating it. The other is whether the new gene or proteins might produce toxins, something that could cause bodily harm in either the short or long term.

We have already seen scientist unwittingly transfer Brazil nut allergen to genetically modified soybeans, ones who had a gene from the brazil nut added. Thankfully this was caught in time and never marketed. This is a good example of the dangerous possibilities of GM foods.

We can also look at the StarLink corn fiasco. Where something that was never approved for human consumption wound up in our processed corn products.

For more information I urge you to contact
The Campaign, PO Box 55699, Seattle, WA 98155

You don't even need to invest in a postage stamp to write and voice your opinion to Allan Rock. Allan Rock, House of Commons, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6 The End.