Agency too defensive on GM crops

2 April 2001

Agency too defensive on GM crops

by Isabel Davies

THE Consumers Association has accused the Food Standards Agency of being too defensive when it comes to issues involving genetically modified food.

Consumer watchdog officials said it welcomed the new climate of openness created by the agency which started work a year ago on 3 April 2000.

Consumers Association director Sheila McKechnie said she would give the agency seven marks out of 10 for its work so far.

This was because it had involved consumer groups and been a model of good practice in many areas of its work, including BSE and food labelling.

Ms McKechnie praised the agency for establishing a climate of openness and transparency and introducing open board meetings.

But she had reservations about the agencys management of food scares and added it had failed to appreciate the level of pubic concern about GM crops.

It still needs to do more to represent consumers in the GM debate, she said.

And it has not succeeded in reducing the complete lack of confidence people have in the quality and safety of their food.

But the Consumers Association remains concerned that recent events show that the Ministry of Agriculture still regulates crucial stages of the food chain.

It says the agency must have an effective input into a proposed review of food production methods so it can give the public health and consumer perspective.

The agency was set up by an act of parliament on 1 April 2000 to provide advice and information to the public and government on food issues.

It aims to protect consumers through effective enforcement and monitoring and to support consumer choice by promoting accurate and meaningful labelling.

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