Played for fools in this silence over our milk (27/8/2005)

This article tells it like it is and needs to be read by every supermarket customer in the UK.

Played for fools in this silence over our milk
Paul Rowland
Western Mail, Aug 27 2005

IS IT too much to ask that the public be given the right to know what they are putting through the supermarket check-outs and into their mouths?

It was revealed yesterday that the majority of our major supermarkets sell milk from animals fed on genetically-modified feed, while making no effort to inform consumers of this fact.

Only Marks & Spencer has so far committed itself to source its milk from cows reared on non-GM feed.

This is despite research which proves that 97% of Welsh shoppers object to buying milk that had been in any way genetically-modified.

The storm of publicity dating from 1996 when supermarkets began to stock GM foods, when most of these products were apparently clearly identified, seems to have convinced the public that if the words "genetically-modified" don't appear on the label, the substance within is GM-free.

But it seems we may have been played for fools all these years by supermarkets which have placed cost-efficiency over honesty and choice by introducing GM products by stealth.

Recent research by the Welsh Consumer Council revealed 40% of the Welsh public aren't even aware GM foods are for sale in British supermarkets.

In years to come, it may be proved that GM food causes none of the damage to our health or eco-system that many observers currently suspect. Scientists may consider us backward and conservative for ever doubting the biological safety of GM food.

But the truth is, for now, we can't be sure. For all we know, future generations could very well be appalled that we gave even a second thought to the concept of tinkering so dramatically with nature.

One day, the very idea of GM food being safe may to us seem as ridiculous as the thought of smoking once being considered harmless.

At the current time, it has proved impossible to say with impunity one way or the other. So isn't it right that customers are given the freedom to choose rather than having multi-national companies make their minds up for them?

Whether we eat GM foods is not a matter to be decided in the offices of Tesco, Sainsbury et al, just as it is not a decision which should be made in Downing Street or Cardiff Bay.

Only when these altered strains have been in our environment for generations can their overall effect truly be established, and a definitive answer on safety be given. Even then, we should be given the opportunity to make considered individual choices about eating GM food.

The strength and durability of the vegetarian movement has ensured that supermarkets would not dream of using a meat-based substance in a product without saying so in the ingredients. There is absolutely no reason why those who choose not to eat GM food should not be afforded the same privilege.


Back to the Archive