1.Sainsbury's exposed to naked outrage on GM stance
2.Call for genetically modified food ban
3.Expert calls for GM food labelling laws in UAE

1.Sainsbury's exposed to naked outrage on GM stance
By Julian Goldsmith
Retail week, 15/06/2005

Staff at Sainsbury’s Holborn HQ in London are being greeted every morning this week with a series of demonstrations against the retailer selling milk from cows fed with genetically modified feed.

The protests are organised by a variety of pressure groups, including the Women's Institute and Friends of the Earth. The protests were kicked off last Sunday with a naked demonstration by eight members of protest group Bare Witness. It caused such alarm that a police armed response unit was called out to oversee the demonstration.

The groups have singled Sainsbury’s out because the retailer pledged to phase out the use of GM feed by its suppliers five years ago. According to Friends of the Earth, the retailer has so far failed to do this. It also criticised Sainsbury’s for not letting customers know when meat, milk and other products from animals fed on GM crops are on sale.

Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "Customers will be concerned that Sainsbury’s has failed to make good their promise to get rid of GM animal feed. The big supermarkets must act now to demand non-GM feed from their suppliers. If they don't, not only will they continue to deny consumers the right to choose food products from animals fed a non-GM diet, but they will threaten the availability of GM-free food ingredients in future."

Although Sainsbury's is the focus of demonstrations this week, the groups acknowledge that it is not the only grocer to have not made good on its promise to cut out GM. However, Sainsbury's is trialling milk from cows fed on non-GM feed at 190 stores and is soon to decide whether to extend its trial or discontinue it entirely, according to protest organiser Milk Monitor.

Sainsbury’s said its standard milk comes from the same suppliers used by other UK supermarkets, hotels, schools and hospitals and that protesters have focused on it because it has always led on GM issues.

On its trial of non-GM milk, the retailer said: "Our suppliers are required to demonstrate the non-GM status of ingredients using traceability systems and testing regimes. In addition to this, we carry out our own testing using independent laboratories."

The demonstrations will go on outside Sainsbury's Holborn HQ for the rest of the week, ending on Friday morning.

2.Call for genetically modified food ban
SABC News, June 15, 2005,2172,106620,00.html

More than 20 environmental, faith-based and food security groups have called on government to ban genetically modified (GM) food. The call for the ban stems from fears that GM maize might be contaminated with Bt 10 -- a variety of maize which contain genes from antibiotics and ampicillin.

Glenn Ashton, spokesperson for the lobby groups, said in a media statement today: "South Africa has extremely weak biosafe regulations and no inspection of grain imports takes place, leading to a significant risk that our food supply has been similarly contaminated." The maize is produce by US company Syngeta Corporation. "Maize contaminated by Bt 10 increases the risk of antibiotic resistance, particularly for vulnerable populations and those being treated for HIV and Aids," said Ashton.

The European Union had already blocked imports of GM maize unless the shipment carried proof that the maize was Bt 10 free. Ireland and Japan, both importers of maize from the US, recently found consignments to be contaminated with bt 10. Both nations had put testing measures in place, Ashton said.

Grain South Africa estimates that a minimum of 1.981 million tons of maize was imported by South Africa between 2001 and 2004. "The South African groups are calling for the South African government to take immediate steps to test all shipments of GM maize as well as products on the South African markets." As part of the Cartagena protocol on Biosafety, South Africa must take a zero tolerance stance. "Where contamination is found, products must immediately be recalled from the market and Syngeta must compensate for any losses suffered by establishing a fund for this purpose," Ashton said. - Sapa

3.Expert in call to amend UAE food labelling laws
Khaleej Times , June 15, 2005
By Lina Abdul Rahman

DUBAI ”” A consumer protection expert has said that the General Secretariat of UAE Municipalities and the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Meteorology (EASM) must amend the existing food labelling law to include a law forcing the producers to state whether the products they offered for sale were genetically modified or not.

"A wide selection of genetically modified crops are available in the markets such as potatoes, tomatoes, corn, rice and some other crops. People are aggressively buying them without knowing that scientists are still studying their effects on human health and have not yet proven whether these cause some harmful effects to their health," Engineer Hassan Al Katheiri, Chairman of Emirates Consumer Protection Society (ECPS), told Khaleej Times.

Eng. Al Katheiri noted that the genetically modified food labelling law already existed in all European countries, and that Saudi Arabia was considered to be the only Arab country that has so far been implementing it. He hoped that the genetically modified food labelling law would be implemented in the UAE, too, as consumers should be aware whether the products they purchased were genetically modified or not.

"Consumers have full right to know whether the food they consumed is genetically modified or not. In Britain, for example, restaurants clearly mention whether they have used any genetically modified product. Being candid with the consumers is a very strong factor that will increase their confidence about the safety of what they eat," he said.

Elaborating on the definition of genetically modified plants, he said: "Genetically modified plants are those that have been genetically altered to improve resistance to diseases caused by insects or viruses, and to increase tolerance to herbicides or extreme weather conditions. The modification is made to obtain a desired shape or colour of a product by taking samples from plants or animals."

The majority of consumers are unaware that some of the products that they buy are genetically modified, and this is attributed to food labels which lack a number of important details.

"As a consumer-protection expert, I think people have the basic right to know the nature and contents of the product before making a choice whether or not to purchase it. Consumers should not be deceived by concealing valuable facts from them," he said.

Eng. Al Katheiri said that so far, there was no significant scientific evidence that genetically modified crops caused harm to health, but the absence of correct food labelling on genetically modified food should not deprive the consumer his right to know that the transplantation of genes from an animal to a plant and vice versa might have increased the chances for people to develop allergies, or even worsen the health conditions of those suffering from allergies.

Eng. Al Katheiri noted that some scientists who are opposing the process of genetically modifying food are concerned about the health risks and threats to the environment as there have not been enough number of studies to prove the safety and that it would not harm living species.

Meanwhile, the majority of food producers are supporting the use of genetically modified food as it increases yields, lowers costs, prevents dehydration, increases nutrition values and decreases the need for chemicals. "They are aiming at increasing their profits while overlooking the safety and the hygiene of their offered food," said Eng. Al Katheiri.