Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.06.2002

GM food OK if it's cheaper

GM food OK- if it's cheaper

RESEARCH PUBLISHED in the academic journal Economic Letters indicates that, despite the high level of opposition to genetically modified foods, Europeans aren't concerned enough to read ingredient lists on food packaging and will buy genetically modified (GM) food if the price is right.

The study found that consumers didn't notice a food contained genetically modified products even after they were seated and left for three minutes with nothing to look at but the ingredient label.

In the study, consumers were given 150 Francs (US$21) and asked to bid on a product. The consumers bid on large chocolate bars made by a major multinational company that produces both GM and non-GM foods. The study found that, even after they were told the chocolate bars contained GM ingredients, most of the consumers participating in the research were willing to buy those bars, but only if the price was about one-third less than conventional products.

The researchers are now advising European nations to put a large label on the foods indicating they contain genetically modified ingredients, in addition to putting the information in the list of ingredients. The study and subsequent report were funded by a partnership of 37 organisations, corporations and governmental agencies composed of groups as divergent as Monsanto and Greenpeace. The researchers worked under the aegis of the French agricultural ministry.

Source: AgAnswers

GM plants: how different to conventionally bred versions?

Toxicology study finds hardlyat all

A STUDY group appointed by the 5,200- member Society of Toxicology, based in Reston, Virginia (USA), recently issued a draft position paper affirming the safety of foods made from genetically modified (GM) crops. The paper supports scientists and industry advocates who argue that GM plants should be judged on the basis of their content - whether they are 'substantially equivalent' to cousins bred via traditional practices - rather than on the molecular procedures used to produce them. This position was waiting for official adoption by the Society as Ground Cover went to press.

The study concludes that, based on available tests, there is no reason to suspect that transgenic plants differ in any substantive way from traditional varieties. By affirming the substantial equivalence standard, the report indirectly questions the advisability of applying the 'precautionary principle' , long advocated by biotech critics as a strategy to ban the GM crops (see discussion on international biosafety protocal p23). Instead, it supports the view that GM crops should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Source: The Scientist, 16(8):22

Ethical issues

THE GENE Technology Ethics Committee (GTEC) held its first meeting in Canberra in December 2001. GTEC is an advisory committee on ethical issues for the Gene Technology Regulator. The Committee discussed the development of ethical guidelines for the new regulatory system, as well as the current and likely ethical issues in gene technology. GTEC identified the following priority areas:

  • assessment of the need to establish an ethical review process for all types of applications for genetic modification work in relation to plants and animals
  • the ethical aspects of risk in relation to GMOs
  • the institutional and commercial context of consent in relation to GMOs and their possible impact on the community
  • ethical matters in relation to genetically modified animals, including animal welfare considerations; and
  • ethical matters in relation to gene transfer across kingdoms, for example between animals and plants.

The Committee has formed working groups of members based on relevant expertise and interests. These working parties will research and prepare issues papers on these five topics for consideration at GTEC's next meeting in May.

Source: Office of the Gene Technology Regulator