More than 60 per cent of US food has a GM ingredient

A A A

More than 60 per cent of food on sale in the United States contains a genetically modified component it was disclosed yesterday, as consumer groups flocked to the first public forum on the subject in Chicago. The proportion of processed foods containing some GM ingredients is even higher.

More than 60 per cent of food on sale in the United States contains a genetically modified component it was disclosed yesterday, as consumer groups flocked to the first public forum on the subject in Chicago. The proportion of processed foods containing some GM ingredients is even higher.

The Chicago meeting, organised by the US food safety watchdog the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was more than five times over-subscribed, drawing more than 1,000 people to the commercial centre of America's farm and cattle belt, many of them consumers anxious to vent their concerns.

The meeting opened amid fierce criticism of the FDA, which kept members of the public at a hotel more than 15 minutes drive away, a decision which fuelled an angry street protest.

But the latest revelations from the biotechnology industry, on the extent to which GM foods have already penetrated the supermarket shelves, will cause further alarm.

One reason for the high penetration of GM foods in the US is the extensive use of soya derivatives in processed food. More than 60 per cent of soya beans grown in the US is now genetically modified. The figures help to explain why US food producers are so reluctant to accept compulsory labelling: not only do they fear it would deter consumers from buying, it could also prompt a severe disruption in the market if consumer resistance approached European levels.

Yesterday's meeting constituted a sharp turn in the US government's policy of outright support for the biotechnology industry. But it also reflected official worries about what could happen if European-scale protests erupted in the US. The prevailing mood had little of the sunny optimism that has characterised industry pronouncements so far.

The view that Americans are unconcerned about GM foods was disproved by the turnout in Chicago yesterday. Labelling was the most contentious issue, with the industry insisting it was unnecessary and could be misleading, and opponents calling for "transparency" to increase public confidence.

Until recently, worries about GM foods were voiced only by environmental groups. In the last few months, however, one of the main US consumer groups, the Consumers Union, and a growing number of congress members have joined calls for GM food to be labelled, as the European Union is demanding.

A shift in government policy was heralded in the summer by the US agriculture secretary, Dan Glickman, when he warned industry representatives and farmers that they could not force people to buy their produce if they did not want to.

In a move that surprised producers, he also announced a comprehensive review of the approval procedures for GM crops in the US. The turn in the tide of American opinion was reinforced last week when Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, tabled a bill to require the labelling of genetically modified food.

He said: "If we are what we eat, then consumers must know what they are eating."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world