Greenpeace protests against Nestle’s double standards on genetically engineered food

World's largest food producer must change ways

Feature story - 6 June, 2002
Greenpeace carried out an action today to illustrate how Nestle is force-feeding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to consumers in Asian countries.

Greenpeace action at Swiss Nestle headquarters, over repeated discovery of GE ingredients in their Asian products.

Greenpeace today stepped up pressure against the world´s largest food producer Nestlé for continuing to sell genetically contaminated food, including baby food, in several Asian countries.

Over the last year, testing of food in Thailand, the Philippines and China/Hong Kong has repeatedly shown contamination in products of the Swiss-based food giant, which despite local opposition to GE in food has refused to stop the use of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, or label GE food.

To symbolise Nestlé´s ruthless overseas practice, 40 Greenpeace activists dressed in black suits force-fed baby dolls with the company´s Asian GE food products in front of the company´s headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland. In a banner, Nestlé´s logo featured an aggressive black bird nesting with the text 'Shut up and Eat'.

In Hong Kong, Greenpeace activists gathered in a football stadium and used nearly 10,000 petition postcards collected from consumers in the past few weeks to compose a gigantic X over the Nestlé logo to show their disapproval of GE food the company is sneaking into the local market. In Bangkok, Greenpeace dumped boxes of GE contaminated Nestlé baby food at the Consumer Services Department of Nestlé´s head office in Thailand.

"The fact that we have signatures from nearly 10,000 consumers shows that the Hong Kong public have become sick and tired of the lack of action by food companies such as Nestlé. Nestlé should not be allowed to continue trampling on the rights of consumers to access GE-free food. This company has the worst record and the worst attitude," said Sze Pang Cheung, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace China.

In recent replies to Greenpeace concerning their policy in these countries, Nestlé said that they "… take into consideration local needs, cultural differences and consumer preferences as well as attitudes concerning the use of ingredients derived from genetically modified crops". In May, Greenpeace representatives met with Nestlé at its headquarters but with disappointing results.

"Is Nestlé seriously suggesting that there is a local, or a cultural need or preference for the use of GE ingredients in Thai baby food? Nestlé is practising a cowardly policy: It avoids GE ingredients only in the countries where labelling is required but continues to sneak them into countries that do not yet have adequate labelling legislation. Nestlé knows fully well that consumers don´t want GE in their food - not in Asia any more than in Europe. We demand that Nestlé quit its double standards and adopt a single policy of no GE," said Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner, in Thailand.

Greenpeace opposes the genetic manipulation of food because of its potential danger to the environment and human health. There are concerns that GE foods may trigger new allergic reactions, affect antibiotic treatments, or introduce new toxins.