Joint letter signed by over 60 organizations asks retailers to exercise their influence to support civil society and consumers who want new GMOs to be clearly labeled according to current legislation
October 30, 2022
UNITED KINGDOM ― FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Over 60 signatories representing leaders from food, farming,, religion, philanthropy, business, and academia in UK and in Europe have written to supermarkets with businesses in both the EU and UK urging them to take action against the recent developments in the UK and EU that could lead to a deregulation of genetically modified food:
- In the EU, the European Commission has stated that current GMO regulations are no longer “fit for purpose” and should be reviewed for GM plants engineered with so-called “new genomic techniques”, like gene editing. It aims to propose new legislation for certain new GM techniques before the summer of 2023.
- In the UK, the government has already introduced a new bill that would exclude both gene-edited plants and animals from existing GMO regulations. The bill creates a false distinction between what it calls “precision bred organisms” (“PBOs”) and other types of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
If these deregulation plans go ahead, existing requirements for GMO risk assessment, traceability and labeling could be abandoned for a wide range of genetically modified organisms. Breeders, farmers, food and feed processors, retailers and consumers may no longer know where these GM plants and animals are in the food system and would have no way to avoid them. This would mean a loss of control over all value chains for the entire food sector that is responsible and liable for the products it sells, and would seriously hinder consumers’ freedom of choice.
Furthermore, the techniques used to create these organisms have been shown to be imprecise and to lead to genetic changes that could compromise food and environmental safety. Indeed, the European Court of Justice ruling of 2018 states that “the risks linked to the use of those new techniques […] might prove to be similar to those which result from the production and release of a GMO”, concluding that these techniques are subject to the same safety assessments as GMOs.
The 63 signatories to the joint letter, among them Biodynamic Federation Demeter International, Compassion in World Farming, European Coordination Via Campesina, IFOAM Organics Europe, Landworkers’ Alliance, Nourish Scotland, Sustainable Food Trust, and Friends of the Earth Europe represent a broad range of interests and specialities. They also represent the concerns of millions of supporters and members throughout the UK and EU.
They ask retailers with businesses in the EU and UK to:
- join the existing coalition of European retailers advocating for the continued regulation and labeling of all GM food under existing GMO regulations;
- refrain from giving any explicit or tacit support for government plans to remove labeling and traceability and therefore hide GMOs in the food supply chain;
- re-affirm and update existing GM policies in relation to own brands so that they explicitly prohibit gene edited products, in light of consumer attitudes.
Market research throughout Europe indicates that the majority of citizens are skeptical towards old and new GMOs. An Ipsos opinion poll conducted in early 2021 across 27 EU countries shows that the vast majority (86%) of Europeans who have heard of genetically modified (GM) crops want food produced from these plants to be labeled as such. It also shows that the majority (68%) of respondents who have heard of new GM techniques, such as CRISPR, want food produced with these techniques to also be labeled as GM.
Marta Messa, Secretary General of Slow Food International, says: “It is essential that British and Europeans understand what is at stake: not clearly labeling new GMOs would completely undermine the transparency of our food systems as well as citizens’ ability to choose GM-free food . We demand that the rules that are in place to guarantee our safety, freedom of choice, and to protect our planet be applied to all GM products. ”
Pat Thomas, Director of Beyond GM, an organization dedicated to amplifying citizen voices in the GMO debate says: “Gene editing is simply genetic modification by another name and citizens in the UK and Europe have repeatedly made it clear they want GMOs regulated and labelled. Robust and coherent regulation helps guide and protect businesses and demonstrates respect for customers’ values and preferences.”
Shane Holland, Executive Chairman of Slow Food in the UK, an organization dedicated to promoting more sustainable and community-orientated approaches to the food supply chain states: “The deregulation of GMO is a disaster – it creates a two tier food system within the UK, with deeply complex issues which affects trade with England and Northern Ireland and throughout Europe. Any proposed deregulation must be accompanied by mandatory and prominent labeling so that consumers and businesses alike can trust the food on our shelves”
About Slow Food and Slow Food in the UK
Slow Food in the UK is the umbrella body formed by Slow Food England, Slow Food Scotland, Slow Food Cymru and Slow Food Northern Ireland. Slow Food is a global movement that involves millions of people in 150 countries and works so that we can all have access to good, clean and fair food.
About Beyond GM
Beyond GM raises awareness of issues around the use of genetically engineered food and farming. Its focus is to raise the level of the debate around this complex subject and to ensure that a greater variety of stakeholders’ voices are heard and the full range of issues and concerns are addressed.