National survey shows strong demand for GMO Labeling

Press release - April 19, 2001
More than ninety percent (90%) of Filipinos who are aware of the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food believe that the Philippines should set up a labeling system to inform consumers about the presence of GMOs in food products, according to the results of a Greenpeace commissioned nationwide survey conducted by Pulse Asia last March.

More than ninety percent (90%) of Filipinos who are aware of the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food believe that the Philippines should set up a labeling system to inform consumers about the presence of GMOs in food products, according to the results of a Greenpeace commissioned nationwide survey conducted by Pulse Asia last March.

The survey indicated that while only 11% of respondents nationwide were aware of the GMO issue, 94% of this base group of aware individuals think it is necessary for food manufacturers and retailers to provide information to the public about the use of genetically engineered ingredients in their products.

"It is obvious from these survey results that Filipinos who are aware of the GMO issue want to exercise their right to choose food products which do not contain genetically engineered ingredients. We must have mandatory labeling for food products containing GMOs to allow consumers to practice their basic rights. The government, the food manufacturers and the retailers should pay serious attention to this unambiguous public sentiment," said Beau Baconguis, Genetic Engineering campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

When asked if they would eat food containing GMOs, a significant 47% of the informed respondents in the survey said they will not eat such food, while 11% did not know. 51% of aware respondents also believed that GMOs are likely to be bad for people. The specific probe on GMOs is actually part of the latest Ulat ng Bayan national survey, which interviewed 1,200 adult respondents nationwide during the period March 8 to 21, 2001.

Last month, Greenpeace announced the results of sampling tests on Philippine food products which confirmed the presence of GMOs in eleven everyday food items like hotdogs, soya drinks, corn soup, and even infant formula sold widely in local stores[i]. The environmental group stressed that the initial list of confirmed GMO containing products represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of all genetically engineered foods and products sold in the country.

Greenpeace challenged the Philippine government to follow the lead of other countries that have taken responsible action to uphold consumers' rights. Recently, the Thai government announced that it will develop a mandatory labeling system for products containing GMOs. This follows an earlier Thai government decision to ban all field trials of genetically modified crops and to put more resources in organic agriculture[ii].

"Thailand has taken the first step to protect Asia from the threats of genetic engineering. We call on the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia to take prudent action now to resist the biotech juggernaut in order to protect our region's environment and food supply from the potentially far-reaching and irreversible hazards of genetic pollution," said ecologist Jiragorn Gajaseni, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

To end, Mr. Nicanor Perlas of the Center for Alternative Development Initiatives said, "This will finally put to rest the whole debate of whether to label or not GMOs as this survey results indicate a resounding call for the labeling of GE products in the market". "This neutralizes the superficial regulatory process that has taken place on this issue", he further added.

Notes: [i] Last March 15, Greenpeace released the results of tests commissioned by the group on 30 consumer food products bought from a Metro Manila supermarket. Eleven products proved positive for GMO contamination. These products include the following: Bonus Vienna franks, Rica Protina hotdogs, Campo Carne Moby hotdogs, Purefoods Beefy hotdogs, Quality Foods Budget franks, Crab Cake distributed by Foodmart Enterprises, Yung Ho soya drink, Doritos Smokey Red Barbecue, Nestle Nesvita Natural Cereal Drink, Knorr Cream of Corn soup, and Isomil Soy Infant Formula. [ii] The cabinet of the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided to instruct the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to halt all approvals for GE field trials. The decision should also mark the end of ongoing field trials on GE cotton and GE corn, conducted by agribusiness giant Monsanto, the second largest seed provider in Thailand. Thailand has already banned all commercial growing of GE crops on its territory. In October 1999, the Thai Economic Policy Committee decided to ban the import of GE seeds for commercial cultivation, but continued to allow research-oriented imports. The ban will continue until GMOs are scientifically proven to be safe.