ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

1 April 2003


Below is the url for watching the FSA's citizen's jury (item 1)

If anyone is in any doubt about the government appointed FSA's intentions in choosing ŒShould GM Foods be available to buy in the UK?' as the question for its citizen's jury to ponder, compare and contrast this with the real concerns of consumers - the people that the FSA is supposed to be representing and whose interests it is supposed to be protecting.

Item 2 reports how a government-appointed Ethics Committee in Switzerland has pointed out that the current threshold for GM food labelling (1%, as in the UK) "deceives consumers" about whether food is really GM-free. They want such labelling extended via a lowered threshold to create greater transparency. This is exactly what the UK's FSA has opposed in Europe.

According to recent opinion polls, "most Swiss consumers are against GM products" and, in fact, the results of a Global Poll on issues related to genetics run by the Discovery Channel (see Item 4) shows that ***a majority of those polled in all countries (58%) are unwilling to eat Genetically Modified (GM) food***, ie would wish to be able to avoid it if given the choice. Item 3 reflecs just how global such concerns are - consumers in the United Arab Emirates (a country not known for its consumer militancy) "are calling for the enforcement of a new law to label genetically modified (GM) food, following the example of other countries."

The last thing the FSA wants is a focus on its failure to support people's right to avoid GM food - hence the focus it has given its citizen's jury on the right to buy it!! This is the FSA's idea of protecting consumers' freedom of choice.

1.FSA GM Food Citizens' Jury live online - url
2.Switzerland calls for more transparency on GM food
3.Call for GM labels on food
4.Majority of people around the world don't want to eat GM food


1.FSA url
GM Food Citizens' Jury live online
Following the entire proceedings, which will be broadcast live online here
(except jury deliberations) from Friday 4 April.
Jury timetable
DAY ONE: Friday 4 April 2003 9.30am ˆ 5pm
DAY TWO: Saturday 5 April 2003 9.30am ˆ 5pm
DAY THREE: Monday 7 April 2003 9.45am ˆ 5pm


2.Switzerland calls for more transparency on GM food

swissinfo   March 31, 2003 10:42 PM

 A government-appointed panel has called for more transparency in the food industry, saying consumers should be given a better choice between genetically modified and GM-free food.

On Monday, the Ethics Committee on Non-human Gene Technology argued that the current labelling on food was misleading.

The committee, which was appointed to advise the Swiss government on non-human biotechnology and gene technology, says all foodstuffs containing GM organisms should be clearly labelled, irrespective of the percentage of GM crops they contain.

Under the current law, food containing one per cent of GM organisms (GMOs) or less is not classified as such, a rule which the committee says deceives consumers.

Klaus Ripper, president of the Ethics Committee, believes that only foods that do not contain any GMOs should be classified as GM-free.

"I think [labelling] is a very important point," Ripper told swissinfo. "We don‚t think that our customers would [be happy] with the fact that one per cent of our food is [potentially] genetically modified."

According to recent opinion polls, most Swiss consumers are against GM products.

Freedom of choice

The committee also emphasised that freedom of choice must be a priority and that no one should be forced to buy genetically modified food.

"One of the most important points is that consumers have the liberty to choose what they want to eat, especially those who are strongly opposed to GM-foods," Ripper continued. "Everybody should have the opportunity to buy other food."

Scientists are still uncertain as to whether GM food poses any health risks and most of the committee's members agree that more research needs to be done to find out more about the safety of GM foodstuffs.

Martine Jotterand, a member of the committee, also called for research to be carried out on other types of food that could be harmful.

"We have paid tremendous attention to GMOs, but it is also important to consider other types of food that have not been studied so thoroughly," Jotterand told swissinfo.


Earlier this month, the Swiss parliament gave the green light to a new law regulating the use of GM crops in food production, in a bid to protect non-GM farmers and consumers.

The new law allows for GMOs to be planted, while at the same time protecting non-GM crops from cross-fertilisation.

However, critics argue that it is almost impossible to prevent cross-fertilisation once GMOs are planted.

Marianne K?nzle of Greenpeace welcomed the decision that GMOs should be tightly regulated, but expressed doubts as to its effectiveness.

"I am not sure that [non-fertilisation] this can be guaranteed in such a small country like Switzerland. I believe there will be problems," she said.

Import only

While a number of GM crops can be used as foodstuffs and animal feed in Switzerland, they are not allowed to be cultivated.

"Roundup Ready" soya, "Mon810" and "MaisGard" maize from the United States bio-technology giant, Monsanto are permitted, as well as "Bt11", "Bt176" and "Maximizer" maize from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis.

According to the committee's brochure, Roundup Ready soya is used as a weed killer whereas whole soya, processed soya and associated soya products are found in a wide range of foods, such as muesli and soya oil.


3.Call for GM labels on food

Abu Dhabi |By Barbara Bibbo' | 31-03-2003
Gulf News

Consumers in the UAE are calling for the enforcement of a new law to label genetically modified (GM) food, following the example of other countries.

They believe that this will protect their right to decide whether to buy the GM food, and enhance their confidence in local traders.

"Citizens in the European Union, Japan, Australia and many other countries have the right to know if the food they buy has been genetically engineered. We should have the same right here," said Dr Hassan Al Khtheiri, Chairman of the Emirates Society for Consumer Protection.

According to Dr Al Khtheiri, the local authorities are still studying the new consumer law, which when issued will be the first law to protect the rights of consumers in the UAE.

Although the law will not directly deal with GM food, it is expected to recognise the rights of consumers. This will automatically introduce GM labelling.

"We hope this law will soon be issued. It will be a first step in protecting the consumers and create awareness about this problem."

He added the law will not only protect consumers but also help trade to become more transparent and increase consumer confidence.

"It will represent a balance between the consumers and traders, give our trade more credibility and transparency and help us catch up with the international standards."

The appearance of GM food in the market has resulted in public debate and scientific discussion in the UAE, since it involves ecological and health concerns in addition to ethical and religious issues.

But scientists are still debating whether GM food affects human health or not.

On one hand they offer a way to quickly improve crop characteristics such as yield, pest resistance or herbicide tolerance, and crops can be manipulated to produce completely artificial substances.

At the same time they give rise to the possibility of unanticipated allergic responses to novel substances in foods, the spread of pest resistance or herbicide tolerance to wild plants, and inadvertent toxicity to benign wildlife.

Since the topic is still very controversial, consumer protection societies believe that labelling at least will give consumers some choice.

"The matter is still being debated. This is why we say that at least the food should be labelled. There are, for example, vegetarians or religious people who want to know what they are buying."


4.Discovery Channel Announces Results of Global Poll Revealing What People Really Think About Genetics

Monday March 31, 1:25 pm ET

Only 8% of People Understand Genetic Science Very Well - But the Vast Majority Still Has Strong Opinions on Its Uses Public Shares Optimism of the Promise; Still Wary of the Price
SILVER SPRING, Md., March 31 /PRNewswire/ -- The structure of DNA is arguably the most significant discovery of the 20th century -- paving the way for disease prediction and treatment, cloning, stem cell research and many other extraordinary advances for humans. But what does the public really think -- and know -- about this science and its implications on our lives?

Discovery Channel specially commissioned the world's first global poll to assess attitudes about DNA and genetics around the world. The results are presented in the upcoming film DNA: The Promise and The Price, premiering on Discovery Channel around the world on April 6th, and airing in the US on April 10th at 10:00 p.m. (ET). The survey aimed to uncover what the average person knows about the impact of genetics on their lives, and how informed people are of the current progress. Conducted in eight countries around the world (UK, Denmark, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Turkey and the US), the survey reveals some surprising conclusions.

Level of understanding of genetic science:

A very low number -- only 8% -- of those surveyed feel that they understand developments in genetic science very well. However, our poll found that many people share the overwhelming optimism of scientists that genetics will decide the future of the human race. Most support was found in Brazil, while the least was found in the UK and US. But even in these two countries, 2 out of 5 people agreed. Public opinion is overwhelmingly in agreement that new genetic developments will bring cures for most diseases -- with 8 in 10 people agreeing.

Although people like the idea of what genetic science can do to help them in their lives, they are still wary that "Human genetic research is tampering with nature and as such is potentially dangerous." A majority of all surveyed nationalities agree with this, except for the Danes, some 52% of whom disagree. The highest levels of agreement are among the British and Poles (65% in both countries agreeing, most of them strongly).

"Do you think that the rules and regulations governing genetic developments and research are lagging far behind the pace of developments, are not too far behind or are keeping pace?"

A great majority -- 62% of people overall -- say that rules and regulations are not keeping pace with the rate of developments. 70% of British respondents feel the rules are lagging behind, with 72% of Poles and 70% of Americans agreeing. UK respondents demonstrate the greatest level of concern that governance is 'lagging far behind the pace of developments,' with almost half (46%) giving this response. On the other hand, 48% of Mexicans and 45% of Brazilians are confident that the rules and regulations are keeping pace with developments.


The issue of cloning received some of the strongest reactions from the respondents, with 8 in 10 people (83%) against cloning a family member if they died, most of them strongly opposed. Opposition to this use of cloning is greatest in Denmark (97%), the UK (93%) and the US (88%). Overall, 82% believe there will be, or has already been, a successfully cloned human. Yet a majority of people (71%) are in favor of a government ban on human cloning.

Designer Babies and Stem Cell Research:

There was little support for the idea of 'designer babies' -- where gene technology is used to satisfy a personal, cultural or aesthetic desire, with only 2 out of 10 people agreeing with the concept. A majority (83%) feels that gene technology should only be used for purely medical conditions that threaten life or quality of life.

In the survey, 8 out of 10 people said that if there were a history of genetic disease in their family they would choose to be tested for it. For a large majority (78%) confirmation of a genetic disease would cause them to consider never having children.

"Parents should have the right to screen out embryos that are found to be carrying an hereditary disease, so that only those free from the condition are allowed to be born."

Some three-quarters of Turks (80%), Poles (77%) and Taiwanese (73%) would welcome having the right to screen out embryos that are found to be carrying a hereditary disease. Americans are least keen on parents being given this option, with only 42% of them agreeing and some 44% disagreeing, most of them strongly. British respondents tend to agree with the statement (55% agree compared with 33% who disagree).

Yet just over half the respondents (52%) feel that research using human stem cells, extracted from embryos and resulting in their destruction, should be banned. In Brazil and Turkey, 2 in 3 people believe it should be outlawed, and in the US, 2 in 5. In the UK, half of those polled think it should be banned. Opinions are clearly divided on this complex issue.

Gene Therapy:

8 in 10 respondents said that if they were ill, they would be willing to receive gene therapy -- treatment that alters and replaces genes -- to potentially be cured.

"If you were being treated with an experimental treatment like gene therapy and you found out that people had died from the treatment, would you continue?"

When posed with this dilemma, knowledge of the potential danger and that people had died from the therapy, the Taiwanese would be most likely to persist with the treatment (39%), compared with only 14% of Danes and 16% of Britons and Americans. Significant proportions of those interviewed in Mexico (60%) and Brazil (47%) would not continue to receive gene therapy.

Genetically Modified Food:

A majority of those polled in all countries (58%) are unwilling to eat Genetically Modified (GM) food. However, just over half the people (55%) in the countries surveyed feel it would be acceptable to send GM food to countries in need, where the population is starving. Two-thirds (66%) support GM crop developments if they make medicine cheaper.

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