Public rejection of GM food mounts
to non-GM alternatives as new evidence from the UK shows British
consumers will continue to refuse to buy foods containing biotech
In fact, a new report from consumer group Which? shows that consumers in the UK feel even more strongly about this than they did two years ago.
"Consumers clearly don't want GM food and are hardening their stance against it. It's hardly surprising when questions still remain about the risks for health and the environment," said Malcolm Coles, editor of Which?.
More than six out of 10 people (61 per cent) polled on behalf of the consumer magazine said they were concerned about the use of GM material in food production - up from 56 per cent in 2002.
The survey of almost 1,000 people also recorded a rise in the number who said they tried to avoid GM food and a fall in the percentage who backed the widespread growth of GM crops in the UK.
"The government has ignored public opinion on this subject for long enough. It needs to rethink its policy before going ahead with growing GM crops commercially," added Coles.
Igniting the wrath of consumer groups, the UK government approved the commercial growing of one variety of genetically-modified maize earlier this year. Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett gave a qualified green light to the herbicide-tolerant maize for animal feed but rejected commercial cultivation of GM beet and oilseed rape.
The survey also highlighted problems relating to the labelling of GM material, new rules for which were introduced by Brussels just a few months ago. Foods that contain GM ingredients or derivatives should say so on the label, but foods can contain a small amount of GM material (0.9 per cent) without being labelled as GM if the manufacturer can show that contamination could not be avoided.
"It's easy for soya and maize - used in a huge range of processed foods - to become contaminated with GM material. Tests by Warwickshire Trading Standards found soya mince that was more than 50 per cent GM material - even though the label didn't mention GM," said Which?.
Shoppers are not only concerned about GM ingredients in food; 68 per cent want manufacturers to go one step further and source non-GM animal feed, so meat and dairy products would have no links with the GM process.
"At the moment, all supermarkets' own brand milk and much of their meat comes from animals fed on GM feed. The only milks that make the grade are M&S milk and Sainsbury's Selected Farm semi-skimmed milk, and milk labelled organic," claims the Which? report.