Lax food labelling rules leave consumers in dark
CHOICE says that lax food labelling laws make it almost impossible for those who want to avoid genetically modified food.
The consumer group says supermarkets are now full of foods with ingredients that are likely to be derived from GM crops, such as soy, corn, canola and cotton.
The list of foods that could contain GM ingredients is endless and includes breakfast cereals, breads, cakes, biscuits, sauces, cooking oils, margarine spreads, confectionery, chocolate and snack foods.
“When consumers see ‘vegetable oil’ on a label they have no way of knowing if its GM canola or cottonseed oil. Glucose syrup, maltodextrin and thickeners used in everything from biscuits to breakfast cereals are often imported from the US where they’re made from corn, the bulk of which is GM.
In addition, many of Australia’s meat, egg and dairy products could also come from animals fed GM feed, such as canola or soy meal. Yet this doesn’t need to be disclosed on the label.
Our GM labelling laws were supposed to allow consumers so see which products contain GM ingredients. Instead we end up with a situation where most products that contain GM ingredients don’t have to be labelled as GM.
While most scientific evidence suggests these foods are probably harmless CHOICE says a lack of evidence of harm isn’t proof of safety. And much of the research into the safety of GM foods is done by the very companies who are producing the GM crops – they’re kept confidential and not subject to academic scrutiny. There are also environmental and ethical issues around GM food that may mean consumers want to avoid it.
“You have a right to know if your food comes from GM crops or GM fed animals, directly or indirectly. The law should require full disclosure of any GM ingredients so that consumers have all the information they need to make a truly informed choice,” says CHOICE senior campaigner Clare Hughes.
With a government review of food labelling underway in Australia, CHOICE is encouraging consumers to take action by sending a message to the Food Labelling Review Panel asking for better GM labelling on all foods.