04.Can you avoid GM foods?
Our lax labelling laws make it almost impossible to avoid GM foods. Most processed foods contain at least one ingredient derived from soya, corn or canola (the table gives some examples). Cottonseed oil is often used for frying by fast food outlets or as an ingredient in foods such as mayonnaise (it’s labelled simply as “vegetable oil”).
- Some manufacturers volunteer information about GM on the label – though very few foods actually claim to be “GM-free”. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned food producers that “free” must mean “free”. Steggles and Lilydale chickens, for example, stopped making statements such as “not genetically modified” on their packaging when the ACCC ruled this could be misleading given the chickens had been given GM feed. Two major brands of cooking oil (Crisco and Gold’n Canola) say their canola and vegetable oil blends are “non-GM”, while Soylife and Vitasoy brands of soy milk claim to be “made from non-GM soy”. These products are all made from Australian produced canola or soy, which can have good non-GM provenance. No GM soy is grown in Australia as yet and Graincorp, which handles the bulk of the harvest, segregates GM canola. There are, though, some concerns about misrepresentation – particularly as non-GM canola commands a premium price.)
- Greenpeace has issued a Truefood Guide with a “green list” of brands that actively avoid ingredients from GM crops and a “red list” of those that may allow GM ingredients to contaminate their supply. The guide is based on the companies’ responses to a questionnaire, often with follow-up questions for further clarification. It’s a useful listing of those brands with a policy of avoiding GM ingredients and which have made a written commitment to that effect. But Woolworths (whose generic brands are in the red list) told CHOICE they also avoid GM ingredients, but couldn’t guarantee non-GM stockfeed is always used in the production of their meat and dairy products or that trace levels of GM ingredients are not added unintentionally to processed foods.
- Certified organic food should be free from GM ingredients. The Australian Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce prohibits all use of GM crop varieties or any products made from them; it also excludes any use of animal feed derived from GM crops. So buying processed food that’s certified organic is one way to be reasonably confident of avoiding all use of GM.
Here is a guide to some of the foods likely to contain GM ingredients: