13 August 1999

ASA on the attack over Monsanto ads

BIOTECHNOLOGY company Monsanto has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority over its newspaper campaign for genetically modified foods which claimed "more biotechnology plants mean less industrial ones".

The authority upheld four out of 13 complaints about Monsantos seven full-page advertisements which appeared in newspapers last year.

Two of the complaints which were upheld concerned advertisements showing tomatoes and potatoes with the wording: "We believe food should be grown with less pesticide" and "Food labelling. It has Monsantos full backing".

Anti-GM pressure groups complained that this would lead readers to believe that these products – which have not been licensed for use in the UK – were approved for sale in British shops.

The pressure groups also successfully contested Monsantos claim that it had tested GM foods for 20 years. The ASA could find evidence for only 16 years of testing.

Opinion divided

In addition, the advertising watchdog criticised Monsanto for not making it clear that expert opinion on GM crops remained divided.

Monsanto UK director of corporate affairs, Tony Combes, admitted that mistakes had been made in the campaign, but added that the company had not intended to mislead or deceive. &#42

Jonathan Riley