Daily News Archive

Genetically Modified Soya Contaminates Organic and "GM Free" Food in UK
(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2004) Researchers at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, Wales found 10 out of the 25 soya foods tested positive for genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Their findings, to be published in the April issue of British Food Journal, show that eight out of the ten GM-positive samples were either labeled as "GM free" and/or were labeled as "organic," both of which imply the absence of GM ingredients.

"We have recently observed that many soya products now carry 'GM free' or 'organic' labels, both of which imply an absence of GM ingredients in these foods," said Professor Denis Murphy, head of the unit. "However, most of the soya now produced in the world comes from GM varieties. Nearly all our soya is imported from the U.S. (80% GM), Argentina (95% GM), and Brazil (over 30% GM and growing)."

An article about the study that appears in the February 6th issue of Nature stated "In many countries, GM-free crops are often mixed with transgenic varieties after harvesting. And batches of soya seed sold as non-GM can contain 1-2% from transgenic varieties."

Soya is a key ingredient in many organic and health foods. It is readily found in meat substitutes and desserts as well as in tofu, soymilk, flour, beans and sauces. The study, conducted in South Wales and Yorkshire during the summer of 2003, used an EU-approved method, called an ELISA, to detect any GM proteins. One food, a vegetarian sausage mix that was labeled 'GM free', contained 0.7% GM soya. This is close to the 0.9% mandatory EU threshold that would require it to be labeled as a GM product. Three other foods contained 0.1-0.4% GM soya; this is above the Soil Association (a UK organic certifier) limit for organic foods.

"Given that GM soya production is set to increase even more over the coming years, it is difficult to see how 'GM free' labels can be justified unless there is much more rigorous testing of such foods," continued Professor Murphy. "In view of these findings, [UK's] organic food industry may need to reconsider the 0.1% threshold for GM presence in organic foods; an alternative is to remove organic status from all soya products, unless these have been rigorously tested for GM."

"The Government appears to be about to allow GM maize to be grown in the UK - these plans must be scrapped," said Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's Policy Director. "The public does not want GM food and the food industry continues to struggle to keep GM out of products. If GM crops are grown in this country, we will see more contamination problems and consumers will be faced with higher costs to stay GM-free."

The Soil Association, and many other organizations and experts on the Government's Organic Action Plan Group, is calling on the entire food industry to aim for 0.1% (surrogate zero) GM contamination - the lowest reliable and repeatable level of detection - at every stage in the food chain.

Take Action: In the United States, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will prepare an environmental impact statement evaluating the current biotechnology regulations along with the possible regulation changes, with public comment on the scope of the impact statement due by March 23, 2004. The proposed rules can be viewed at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2004_register&docid=fr23ja04-11.pdf.

To submit comments to USDA APHIS, send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 03-031-2, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238. If you use e-mail, address comments to mailto:[email protected] Comments must be contained in the body the message; do not send attached files. Please include your name and address in the body of the message and use "Docket No. 03-031-2" on the subject line.

See Beyond Pesticides, Genetic Engineering issue page for more information.