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Canadian Supermarkets Ban the Use of "GMO Free" Labels

Canadian Supermarkets Ban the Use
of "GMO Free" Labels

Environmental Press Releases Free ENS Daily News

Lack of GMO Labeling Turns Canadians Towards Organic Foods
By Neville Judd

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, August 16, 2000 (ENS) - A
new survey shows more Canadians are buying their food from health
food stores because of concerns over genetically modified ingredients.

The poll commissioned by the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA)
found that 95 percent of Canadians believe they should have the right
to choose whether or not they buy foods containing genetically
modified ingredients.

But health product manufacturers increasingly complain that their
attempts to inform consumers with labels are being thwarted by
retailers.

Genetically modified ingredients contain organisms whose genetic DNA
(deoxyribonucleic acid) has been altered in a way that does not occur
naturally by mating or natural recombination. Recombinant DNA
technology, or genetic engineering, allows selected individual genes
to be transferred from one organism into another, sometimes between
non-related species.

Genetic engineering is routinely used in thousands of research
laboratories worldwide and has resulted in many new products and
processes such as industrial enzymes and medicines such as insulin and
vaccines.

But the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture
and the food industry is currently the focus of intense public and
political debate.

Consumers, environmentalists and some scientists worry about risks to
human health and the environment. Among their concerns are that GM
crops that rely upon high amounts of pesticides and fertilizers could
cause toxic or allergenic effects and large scale elimination of
indigenous agricultural and natural species.

In the CHFA Health Study, more than one quarter of Canadians indicated
they are more likely to shop at a health food store as compared to two
years ago. Knowing that certified organic foods are free of GMOs, more
than one third of Canadians said they are more likely to purchase
organic foods now than they were two years ago.

"The CHFA Health Study results demonstrate that Canadians clearly
believe that they are being denied freedom of choice," said CHFA
president Donna Herringer.

"This survey confirms what we have instinctively known for years -
Canadians do not want to blindly consume foods that contain GMOs.
People want the right to read a label and make an informed decision
about what they put in their bodies."

The federal government department Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada is in the process of setting standards for voluntary labeling,
but Herringer says the government is not moving quickly enough.
The Canadian Health Food Association is lobbying for mandatory
labeling of all genetically modified foods. The CHFA strongly agrees
that the government should develop national standards, but this
process is not moving forward at a pace that meets the needs of
Canadian consumers, Herringer says.

"The Canadian public is concerned about the effects of genetically
modified organisms on their health and the environment," said
Herringer. "Canada's health food stores are in the process of creating
labeling and signage that will identify foods that are free of
genetically modified ingredients in order to provide consumer choice."
We are calling on Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief to make those
labelling standards mandatory so Canadians can make an informed
decision about what they're eating," Herringer told ENS.
"Right now, we don't even have voluntary labeling standards," she
said.

Respondents to a Health Canada website poll last year voted
overwhelmingly in favour of mandatory nutrition labeling.
Respondents voiced frustration with the incomplete nutrient
information available on food, and many said they simply do not buy
products without labels.

The nonprofit CHFA is the professional voice of Canada's natural
health products industry. It represents 1,200 members including
retailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers of supplements,
vitamins, herbals, homeopathics, sports and nutrition supplements,
packaged foods and organic foods.

Some CHFA members use GMO-free labels, which has led to certain
products being pulled from major retailers' shelves.
"We are hearing that our members are being required to sticker over
the GMO-free label at certain retail locations," said Herringer.
Michael Theodor, a CHFA director and broker for White Wave Silk Soy
Beverage, told ENS how that product had to be relabeled in Loblaws
supermarkets across Canada earlier this year.

"White Wave only uses one farmer to grow its soy beans so the paper
trail is very simple," said Theodor. "It is a certified organic
product meaning it is GMO-free and the genetic identification is
provided on each lot number of the product."

"It is an irrefutable, lock tight guarantee that the product is
GMO-free so we labeled it accordingly."

Loblaws ordered the company to sticker over the labels if it wanted
the store to carry the beverage.

"Loblaws didn't dispute our claims but had made it general policy not
to approve the labels for liability reasons," said Theodor.

A spokesperson for the Ontario based Loblaws chain was unavailable for
comment.

Theodor said White Wave had to print hundreds of thousands of new
stickers at considerable expense. Other retailers, including
Overwaitea and IGA Quebec, continue to carry the product complete with
GMO-free label.

"The solution for manufacturers who refuse to comply with this demand
is to sell through natural health food stores who can offer clearly
labeled GMO-free products," said Herringer. "The solution for
consumers is to shop at natural health food stores as they provide
certified organic, GMO-free products."

The CHFA Health Survey polled 1,000 Canadian adults and was conducted
by Omnitel, a division of the market research company Thompson
Lightstone. The survey found: ·

· 94 percent believe foods containing GMOs should have a label
indicating the products contain genetically modified ingredients
· Two thirds of Canadians believe it is important to know whether the
foods they eat contain GMOs
· Close to 60 percent of Canadians believe that GMOs pose a risk to
the Canadian food supply
· More than one quarter of Canadians are more likely to shop at a
health food store as compared to two years ago
· Upon learning that certified organic foods do not contain GMOs, 38
percent of Canadians said they are more likely to buy organic foods.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 15-member European
Union, recently announced plans to end a two year moratorium on its
approval of GMOs with stronger laws on labelling.

Earlier this month, health ministers from Australia and New Zealand
rejected lobbying by the food industry and agreed to adopt a zero
threshold standard for the labelling of genetically modified foods.

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