Greenpeace has been running a kept Australia GE free campaign for some time. The campaign should have got a boost over the last couple of weeks with findings of minuscule, but detectable quantities, of GM material in Australian canola. The material was first found in Victoria and more recently in WA. For some background on the origin of the GM material see a previous blog post here at http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/000741.html .
Greenpeace campaigner Jeremy Tager is claiming,
This is the most serious genetic contamination event that Australia has ever faced, … and the response from State Governments in the coming days will determine their commitment to upholding Australia’s GE free status.
But the reality is that while Greenpeace through their campaigning managed to get state governments to ban the commercial planting of GM canola in Australia, we are importing and eating a range of GM foods from overseas including canola – and of course there is the vegetable oil from locally grown GM cotton (cotton seed oil).
On Sunday Robyn Williams (ABC Radio, Ockham’s Razor) interviewed Craig Cormick from Biotechnology Australia who had the following comments,
According to the supermarket chains, although they are often on the receiving end of anti-GM campaigns about their foods, there has been little to no diminution in sales of those foods that are labelled as containing GM ingredients.
Could this be put down to consumers simply not being able to find the fact that the food has a GM ingredient on the label? Perhaps. But at the deli counter in Woolworth’s, all across Australia, there are usually two or three types of sliced chicken loaf that is clearly labelled ‘contains genetically modified soy’ on a plastic label, standing up by the meat. It is clear and prominent, and I make it a habit of always asking the person in the deli, wherever I travel, whether anybody comments or complains about the GM ingredients. Invariably I’m met with a blank look and the response that nobody seems fussed about it.
The complete transcript is here http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1430804.htm .
I reckon Greenpeace really needs a new campaign.
Maybe i’m not observant enough but i don’t recall ever seeing any product labelled as containing genetically modified food. I certainly see plenty of products labelled as containing 100% organic, free of GMO.
I’m ambivalent to whether GMO is good or bad, but -a biotech guy saying he asks deli staff whether people have a problem with GMO and they look at him blankly- is not particularly compelling evidence of anything, other than perhaps that working customer service in a supermarket chain must be fairly mindnumbing work.
Also, who eats chicken loaf these days? yuk!
Jennifer Marohasy says
I have just done a check. My local Woolworths (Sherwood, Brisbane) does sell chicken loaf but not with with GM soy. The next closest Woolies (Indooroopilly, Brisbane) does sell chicken loaf, but again not with GM soy. I wonder where it is sold?
Greenpeace have done surveys of foods in OZ supermarkets and found many examples of shops that use GM based ingredients, see
They are mostly ‘junk’ food so I dont expect many gourmet foodies would ever be buying them any way. But their survey does make you wonder why Greenpeace are trying to “keep” a country “GM free” when they know that aussie shops are already selling stuff that uses GM.
How processed sugar syrups from GM corn can possibly harm you I dont see either.
My understanding is that there is no difference between a GM and a non GM product; it is the method of production that is in dispute.
Roger Kalla says
Food Safety Australia New Zeeland performed a compliance review in 2003 of the recently introduced GM labelling regulations which states that foods need to be labelled ‘contains GM’ if they contain more than 1% of allowed GM ingredient.
FSANZ tested 50 select food items of shelves in supermarkets in South Australia which contained a largish content of maize ( starch or protein) or soy ( protein or oil)using forensic DNA testing technology. The rationale for this selection being that we import these fillers from North and South America for use by our own food processing industry.
Eleven of the food samples tested (22%) showed detectable trace levels ( down to 0.01%) of allowed GM maize and soy content.
However they were all deemed to comply with the regulations and the foods containing these traces didn’t need to be labelled ‘contains GM’.
If you repeated this excercise today I would safely predict that you get the same answer or possibly even more foods come up with trace levels showing. This is why you don’t see GM labelled foods on the shelves (unlike the doughnuts that are soaked in soy fat which is derived from GM soy). Likewise not many food manufacturers will label their produce as ‘GM free’ since it exposes them to claims of breaches of Trade Practices Act like the case of the ‘GM free’ chicken fed GM soy successfully prosecuted by Greenpeace.
Greenpeace knows this but publicly adheres to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy because when thresholds are introduced that make sense they loose some of their political leverage in Australia and globally.