Nestle and Gerber* Top Black List of GMO contaminated Products

Greenpeace reveals brands of baby food products containing GMOs

Press release - October 15, 2001
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.

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. (3)

"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 precautionary principle.

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.