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?
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 + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada