THE OFFICIAL review of the Food Standards Agency carried out by Baroness Dean has expressed criticism of the agency for its views on GM and organic food.

The review found that in respect of GM and organic food, the vast majority of stakeholders consulted thought the FSA had “deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence, to giving the impression of speaking against organic food and for GM food”.

“This view was expressed not only by stakeholders representing organic and GM interest groups, but by those who would be regarded as supporters and natural
allies of the Agency,” the report from Baroness Dean said.

The review, commissioned by the FSA itself, was generally very positive about the work done by the FSA durings its first five years, but it recommended that the agency revisit the issues of organic and GM food, as many stakeholders felt its views on these issues failed to reflect the wide variety of consumers‘ concerns.

Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said in a comment: “The FSA‘s promotion of GM foods failed to convince the public, while damaging its own reputation.”

The Dean Review, which was recently placed on the FSA‘s website without any public announcement, found that in general the FSA has made food safety a priority, has been open and accessible and has been independent of Government.

The “unprompted” concerns about the FSA‘s pro-GM and anti-organic position are the sharpest criticism contained in the report.  

Baroness Dean  interviewed 129 stakeholders – including Government ministers, MPs and members of the House of Lords, representatives of the food industry and consumer and public health groups – for the review.