International environmental group Greenpeace today revealed the
presence of GMOs in baby food products sold in Thailand by
multinational food giants Novartis and Nestle. Novartis,
manufacturer of Gerber baby food products just last week vowed to
remove GMO contaminated products in the Philippines. Now, a Gerber
product bought in a Thai supermarket was found to contain GM
roundup ready soya.
In a press conference at the Emerald Hotel this morning,
Greenpeace launched its first version of its "True Food" shopping
list, which is essentially a green and black list of products which
tested negative or positive for GMO contamination.(1) The list also
provides information about food companies' policy on GM food and
these companies' contact details. The green list informs the
consumer about products which tested negative and for which the
companies provided clear statement that they would refrain from
using GMOs. It also shows companies whose products were initially
found to contain GE ingredients at the time of testing but has
switched to a GMO-free policy later on. The black list discloses
products that tested positive and where the companies have not
issued any clear statements. The gray list composes of products
that tested negative, but the company has not given any clear
statement if they refrain from using GMOs.
"The "True Food" list is meant as a guide to help consumers
avoid GMO-tainted products particularly in the absence of a
stronger, more progressive labeling regime in Thailand. We want to
alert the Thai public about these very popular brands which happen
to be GMO-contaminated. The delay in enacting a mandatory labeling
law affects consumers directly and leave them to buy GM products
blindly," says Auiaporn Suthonthanyakorn, Genetic Engineering
Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Greenpeace presented the products in black, green and gray lists
visually by placing them on specific tables corresponding to the
color of the tablecloths. Two mock-ups of Gerber and Nestle Cerelac
brand labels were used by Greenpeace as backdrop. A giant box of
Gerber showing a monstrous-looking baby replaced the cute baby logo
of the company's product. Similarly, the cuddly blue bear of Nestle
Cerelac was replaced by a scary-looking bear.
Greenpeace's new round of tests revealed three food products
including Gerber Rice with Fruits Baby Cereal, Goldroast Instant
Cereal Beverage with Vanilla Flavor and Vienna Pork C.P. tested
positive. Nestle, Gerber, Nissin, and Procter and Gamble are among
the major global food manufacturers whose products have tested
positive and which have not yet taken steps to remove the GMOs and,
thus, appear in the blacklist.
While Gerber has declared a GE-free policy globally, the cases
in the Philippines and Thailand demonstrate that they do not comply
with their own rhetoric. In August this year, Greenpeace reported
that three Gerber products manufactured in Indonesia and sold in
the Philippines had extremely high levels of roundup ready soya.
(2) Gerber recently vowed that they would take steps to eliminate
GE ingredients in their products in the Philippines.
In a last minute communication with Greenpeace Southeast Asia
prior to the release of the black list on October 15, Novartis sent
a letter saying they do not use GMOs in their products around the
world. Greenpeace says it welcomes this statement from
Novartis/Gerber that it is applying its global policy of being
GMO-free but urged the company to look into the high level of
contamination of one of its most popular rice cereals for babies.
"Thai consumers are being used as guinea pigs by big
multinational companies whose standard practice is to bend
environmental standards in developing countries in order to sell
products they no longer offer to their customers in their own
markets. How can they sell GM-free products in Europe and other
places but continue to sell GM products here? This is scandalous
behavior and Thai authorities must put a stop to this by ordering
the companies to pull-out all of their GM products from
supermarkets all over the country," said Suthonthanyakorn.
Greenpeace calls on the FDA to immediately ban the use of GMOs
in baby food as promised and implement a full and strict mandatory
labeling system for food and food ingredients containing or derived
from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Furthermore it called
on the Thai government to set up a segregation system for crop
imports and approve strong GMO legislation based on the
Notes: *Gerber has sent a letter to Greenpeace Southeast Asia at the last minute prior to the release of our Green and Black List set for October 15. See note (3) for details.
(1) Greenpeace sent samples of products to the Hong Kong DNA Chips, Ltd for testing in December 2000, May 2001 and September 2001.
(2) Quantitative tests of roundup ready soya levels in the three Gerber products that tested positive in the Philippines were as follows: Green Monggo 66.7%, Cream of Brown Rice 52.2%, and Mixed Fruits 34.3%.
(3) Copies of the letters from the companies are available from Greenpeace including that from Novartis/Gerber head office. While Greenpeace welcomes the company statement, the Gerber rice cereal named as of press time remains on the black list until such time when the company is able to demonstrate that its PCR tests for the product is negative for GM contamination.