GM labelling: food manufacturers warn MPs

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Related tags: Food, Food manufacturers, Genetic engineering, Canada, Maize

Food retailers and food manufacturers in Canada warned MPs about
the repercussions behind mandatory labelling on genetically
modified foods.

Food retailers and food manufacturers in Canada have warned MPs that mandatory labels on genetically modified food would lead food manufacturers to reject Canadian corn, canola and soybeans and in addition, would cost farmers in lost sales and increased food prices, according to a report in the Western Producer​.

Laurie Curry, vice-president of Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada and a strong proponent of voluntary labels, was cited as telling the Houseof Commons health committee that polls indicate up to 40 per cent of consumers believe a GM label would mean the food is unsafe and thatmandatory labels would lead manufacturers to shy away from such food for fear of losing sales.

"All options involve significant lostopportunities and costs for food companies, farmers, consumers and Canada'seconomy. Those lost opportunities and costs would be a direct result of thefact that a significant number of consumers have the misguided perceptionthat GM foods are unsafe,"​ said Ms. Curry.

Tom Singer, president of Reinhart Foods, was cited as saying it means food manufacturers would change their recipes to exclude ingredients that could be genetically modified. "The price of food will go up. Today, 11 per cent of the disposable income in Canada is spent on food, (compared to) 21 per cent 20 years ago. It's going to go back toward 20,"​ added Singer.

In the Western Producer​ story, James Krushelniski, president of H.J. Heinz Co. of Canada Ltd., was cited as saying it already has had an impact on his company and that two years ago,Heinz decided to keep GM ingredients out of baby food and it has changed recipes to replace corn and other possible GM ingredients.But another food industry executive disputed the assumption that mostconsumers are interested in the GM issue.

Eric Claus, chief executive officer of Co-op Atlantic, was cited as tellingMPs he believes consumers voice opposition or scepticism only when prodded.Otherwise, they do not care much about the presence or absence of GM.

As evidence, he said Co-op Atlantic became the only North American retailerto establish information kiosks to answer consumer questions and concernsabout genetic modification. At some stores in Atlantic Canada and Quebec,kiosks included "literature which would inform consumers, literature fromorganisations that are totally against anything to do with biotechnology andGM foods to organisations that are very pro."​ The stores also included an information hot line.According to Claus shopper interest was under-whelming.

"We had zero to no response over a period of six weeks and dismantled thekiosks,"​ Claus said.

Related topics: Policy

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