GMO deregulation ‘is a disaster’ says Slow Food in the UK

The Soil Association, OF&G, the Sustainable Food Trust, IFOAM Organics Europe, Demeter, Friends of the Earth Europe and Doves Farm are among 60 organizations which have signed a joint letter urging retailers to take action against recent UK and EU developments which could lead to the deregulation of genetically modified food.

Should the deregulation plans proceed, existing requirements for GMO risk assessment, traceability and labelling could be abandoned. Up and down the supply chain – from farmers and feed processors to retailers and consumers – it would not be possible to know where GM plants and animals are in the food system, nor 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,” says a statement from Slow Food in the UK and Beyond GM, which are jointly raising awareness of the letter.

The 63 signatories are asking retailers with businesses in the UK and EU to ‘join the existing coalition of European retailers advocating for the continued regulation and labelling of all GM food under existing GMO regulations’; ‘refrain from giving any explicit or tacit support for government plans to remove labelling and traceability and therefore hide GMOs in the food supply chain’; and ‘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’.

The deregulation of GMO is a disaster – it creates a two-tier food system within the UK

Market research in Europe indicates widespread scepticism among citizens towards old and new GMOs’. An Ipsos opinion poll [2021] canvassing 27 European nations showed that 87% of those who have heard of GM crops would like food produced from these plants to be clearly labelled as such, 68% of those who have heard of GM techniques such as CRISPR want food produced using these technologies to also be labelled as GM.

Pat Thomas, director, Beyond GM, comments: “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, Slow Food in the UK, adds: “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 labelling so that consumers and businesses alike can trust the food on our shelves.”