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What Choices Does the Counsumer Have?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 31 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Consumer Foods Labelled Gm Foods Choice

In today's world, it can seem that many decisions are taken out of the consumer's hands. We rely on the government, scientists and various experts in a number of different fields to make decisions for us and guide the public in the best direction for improved quality of life. But ultimately, most consumers want to learn more about the food supply and how it can affect their health.

As people become more informed, they become more interested to have choices in their health and make better food decisions at the supermarket.

Yet, an informed public is important to ensure that the authorities we 'trust' are held accountable for their actions. For Britain in particular, consumers tend to be more wary of new technologies involving their food. While other places such as the United States have experienced comparatively less controversy over genetically modified (GM) foods, in Britain there is a deep mistrust in these kinds of changes to our foods.

Informed Decisions About Agriculture

For most people, a real and true choice in terms of GM foods is to make an informed decision about which agricultural method and product they support. While the public do rely to a great extent on regulatory bodies to determine if a product is safe for consumption, for a growing number of Britons this is simply not enough. Instead, they want clear labelling on all products so that they may choose to avoid GM foods.

The government must make its decisions on sound, scientific facts. The problem here is that studies on GM foods have been extremely mixed as well as debated in terms of their experimental design and reporting. The lack of sufficient long-term studies into the effects of GM foods has also made the task of weeding through the studies a difficult one.

European Laws And Consumer Choice

In 2004, new European rules meant that flour, oils and glucose syrups are required to be labelled as genetically modified if derived from a GM source. However, any food products that involve production from GM technology such as a dairy product that involves production with GM enzymes, does not require labelling.

Any meat, dairy or eggs that come from animals fed on GM animal feed do not require labelling either. If an intentional use of a GM product is done, then it must be labelled but small amounts of approved GM ingredients that 'end up' in foods do not require labelling.

The Rights Of Britons

While Britons do exercise their rights and desire to choose, it is perhaps here where their voices are not only heard but also responded to in terms of government policy. Were it not for the initial public controversy over the newly introduced GM foods when they first hit Europe's commercial market, the European Union perhaps would not have such stringent regulations and laws around the authorisation of GM foods.

It can perhaps be said that consumers do indeed have many choices but it is still not enough. Not only that, but consumer education on GM foods has been somewhat lacking and those who are aware of GM foods and their controversies tend to be people who have specifically sought out the information. Hopefully, labelling will become universally mandatory and consumers in Britain and elsewhere can all exercise their rights to choose – in an informed manner – whether they want to support or avoid GM foods.

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