12 January 2000
GM spuds found in ‘GM-free’ supplies

By Vicky Houchin

UK consumer groups fear that GM foods could enter the food chain by the back door after one of North Americas biggest potato processors discovered GM produce in non-GM consignments.

The company, McCains, discovered genetically modified potatoes had been delivered to its New Brunswick plant – despite growers assurances to the contrary, according to Frasers Potato Newsletter of Canada.

McCains had informed its suppliers last month that it would not use GM crops following growing opposition from North American consumers.

A spokeswoman for the UK Consumers Association said it was vital to make sure that what had happened in Canada must not be repeated in the UK.

But it would be impossible to police companies fully, other than by taking products off the shelf and testing, she said. “But tests are expensive so they cant do this to everything.”

There are already concerns in the UK that GM ingredients could be reaching the supermarket shelves and bypassing labelling requirements, claimed the association.

One recent case was brought that honey could be contaminated by pollen from GM crop trials.

But the government does not believe there are any health and safety problems, and no measures have been put in place, she said.

A spokesman for McCain confirmed that GM potatoes had been found in one of its factories, but would not say whether the deliveries were from professed non-GM growers.

The statement was issued following rumours that GM seed has been sold as non-GM following a slump in sales for GM products.

However, for the coming season, growers will be forced to supply non-GM potatoes from seed stock that is certified GM-free.

Leading GM company Monsanto denied that GM seed could be sold as conventional seed because all growers have to sign a contract with the company.

But a spokesman for the company acknowledged that Monsanto has no control after the seed is sold.

GM potato products are banned from supermarket shelves in the UK under EU rules.