About the guide

HistorySince 2001 Greenpeace New Zealand has published 6 editions of the GE Free Food Guide. It has proven to be a popular and effective tool for putting pressure on food producers and supermarkets alike.



Why a GE Free Food Guide?

People around the world are rejecting genetic engineering (GE) because of concerns about food safety, environmental impacts, and ethical or religious beliefs. Increasingly, people are opting for naturally produced organic food.

When people say no to GE food, companies listen. All around the world the voices and decisions of ordinary shoppers have sparked a revolution at the checkout. Here in New Zealand many companies including Tegel, Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and Unilever have moved into the green section of the guide.

You too can avoid eating GE food, support companies that have a non-GE policy and help close markets to this unwanted and unnecessary technology by using this guide.

GE In Our Food Chain

In New Zealand there is no long-term health testing of GE food. Despite this, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) has approved the following GE foods:

  • Canola - may appear as: vegetable oil
  • Corn or Maize - may appear as: corn starch, flour, syrup, maltodextrin and oil, also in imported animal feed
  • Soy - may appear as: soy flour, soy protein, lecithin, vegetable oil, tofu, soy sauces, soy milks and miso. Also in animal feed
  • Cottonseed - may appear as vegetable oil, or be used in animal feed.

Is GE Food safe to eat?

The lack of proper and long-term testing of GE organisms has been highlighted by well respected scientific bodies such as the Royal Society of Canada and the British Medical Association (BMA).

In 2004, the BMA – which represents 80 percent of British doctors – released a report on GE food, which points at the possibility of allergies resulting from the consumption of GE foods.

The British doctors conclude that “there is a lack of evidence-based research with regard to medium and long-term effects on health and the environment.”

There are a growing number of cases that cast serious doubts over assurances by the genetic engineering industry, and certain governments, that GE foods are completely safe and that consumers have cause for concern.

Poor Labelling Regulations

People still don't know what foods are genetically engineered, because there are so many exemptions to the labelling laws. They are:

  • Refined ingredients such as cornstarch, soy lecithin, oils and sugars that have been highly processed.
  • Processing aids and food additives such as vegetarian rennet in some cheese, brewing and baking aids and colourings.
  • Flavourings when they make up less than 0.1% of the final food product.
  • Food prepared at the point of sale such as fresh baked bread, takeaways and other fast foods.
  • Dairy, meat, eggs, fish, honey and other foods from animals raised on a diet of GE animal feed.
  • ANZFA has also allowed any GE foods produced and packaged before December 7 2001 to remain unlabelled for a further 12 months.

How this Guide Works

Definition of GE Free:

This guide goes beyond these labelling regulations. We have asked food companies to confirm that no genetically engineered organisms were released at any stage of their food production.

In this website food companies are colour coded on the basis of their GE status. This ranking is determined by a company's response to the Greenpeace GE free food guide survey:

Green



Companies in the Green section have given written assurance that they have removed
GE crop derived ingredients from their products, including animal feed.


Orange



Companies in the Orange section have committed to removing GE crop derived
ingredients from their products and are in the process of doing so.

Red


Companies in the red section lack a strong policy on removing GE crop derived ingredients
and/or animal feed. This section includes companies that failed to respond adequately to our enquiries.
Product labelled as containing GE ingredients.

In addition to the colour categorisation there are three symbols that indicate -

Products that are labelled as GE-free
Product is certified organic. Organic foods are grown without artificial chemical inputs or animal cruelty.

Although as many companies as possible have been included in the Guide, these lists are not exhaustive. Anyone may reproduce the Guide, but all comments and remarks should be included. This list only reflects a company's policy on GE food. It is not an endorsement or comment on the company itself.

More About GE

Genetic Engineering: A giant experiment with our food and environment

The food we eat has been changed. In just a few years three multinational chemical companies have altered the genetic makeup of the world's most common food crops, by creating new life-forms that would never occur naturally.

Over millions of years of evolution, potatoes have never crossed with toads, until now. Unlike conventional breeding or cross-pollination, geneticists have taken genes from bacteria, viruses, plants and animals and inserted them into soy, corn, canola and cotton and released them into our environment and food chain.

Unpredictable

Genetic Engineering (also known as Genetic Modification or GM) is not an exact science and experiments are frequently unsuccessful. When they do work, the effects are unknown. Already unintended side-effects of GE include:

  • Genetically engineering salmon caused the salmon to turn green and have deformities.
  • A genetically engineered soil bacteria unexpectedly produced alcohol that killed wheat.
  • A brazil nut gene when genetically engineered into a soy bean was found to cause allergies.

Superweeds

Canada is already suffering unmanageable genetic contamination where 'superweeds' resistant to three different herbicides are spreading rapidly. The problem escalates as one variety of herbicide resistant GE canola pollinates another, creating a crop that is even more resistant. When seed is spilled at harvest, it remains in the ground and sprouts later as unwanted weeds in crops of different species.

GE contamination

Agrochemical giant Aventis engineered a GE corn called StarLink to produce its own insecticide. The US authorities restricted it to animal food because of the risk of allergies from the corn . However they couldn't keep it out of the food chain resulting in widespread contamination of food, which cost Aventis over one billion dollars in compensation as products had to be taken off supermarket shelves.

Who benefits?

Multinational chemical companies use GE technology to increase sales of their weedkillers and increase their control over farmers. Food shoppers, the public and our environment get no benefit but are expected to carry the risks of a technology that no insurance company will cover.

American farmers who grow GE foods are losing markets in Europe and Japan whilst also getting lower yields. Meanwhile organic and conventional farmers in the US have had their crops contaminated by neighbouring farms. New Zealand runs the risk of losing key export markets if GE is allowed here.

GE won't feed the world

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation says we are already producing one and a half times the amount of food needed to provide everyone in the world with an adequate and nutritious diet; yet one in seven people is suffering from hunger.

Poverty exists because of economic and political structures that work against equal distribution of food and resources. GE cannot solve these problems.

Commercial interests drive the biotechnology industry. Rather than alleviate hunger, GE will very likely exacerbate it because farmers have to purchase their seeds and supplies every year from GE companies to grow their crops.

GE free zones

Register your property as GE free on www.gefreeregister.co.nz and encourage your local bodies to declare your area a GE free zone. Waiheke Island, Nelson, Buller (West Coast), Waitakere City, Napier and the Auckland suburbs of Western Bays and Eden Albert have already declared themselves GE free zones.

Our organic future

Organic and GE food are not compatible. Aotearoa New Zealand risks losing conventional and rapidly growing organic markets if we allow GE crops, trees and animals in this country.

Genetic engineering is the latest in a long line of industrial food practices that degrade food quality, undermine farmers and destroy our environment. Thankfully there are healthy, safe and productive alternatives. By rejecting GE food we can slow the treadmill of pesticide use and support a better way to grow food. By buying GE-free, organic and local produce more of our money goes to farmers who protect the land.