Field of crops

No evidence of GM harm

Sir: I wanted to raise our huge disappointment with your ‘The trouble with GM’ article (10 October, p28). The article incorrectly argues that claims from each side of the GM debate ‘cancel each other out’, a wildly misleading statement given the huge weight of evidence pointing to the safety of GM crops. The article leans extensively on the Seralini study to counter evidence supporting the safety of GM, while making only indirect reference to the fact the study was widely discredited.

In 2010, the EC concluded on the basis of over 25 years of independent research that ‘there is no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety’.

Dr Julian Little, chair, Agricultural Biotechnology Council

Damage to global farming

Sir, James Halliwell bravely entered the lion’s den of the super-heated debate about GM foods (‘The trouble with GM,’ 10 October, p28) but his conclusion should worry anyone who cares about how food is produced. But switch on the lights and it becomes clear that GM is adding to, rather than solving, complex agricultural problems. The process of engineering DNA in the lab carries a unique set of risks and it is hard to have faith in a regulatory regime that relies on evidence provided by the applicant. However, safety is far from the only reason that consumers reject GM at the tills.

GM crops are associated with some of the most environmentally damaging farming practices in the world. They are patented, which shifts control from farmers to vast agrochemical corporations. They have been proven to reduce biodiversity. The weeds are fighting back and, in parts of the US, are now as resistant to glyphosate as the GM crops themselves.

GM’s prominence in UK animal feed demonstrates the power of keeping consumers in the dark as the use of GM feed does not appear on the label of the food it goes to produce. Everyone deserves food that is produced responsibly fairly and sustainably but we’re never going to get it if we accept Halliwell’s conclusion that GM is here to stay.

Liz O’Neill, director, GM Freeze

Who foots research bill?

Sir: The UK needs to be doing much more research to help us tackle the challenges we face (‘Science for sale: does food funding distort the debate?’ 17 October, p12). Food and drink producers fund interesting and exciting research, ranging from agricultural optimisation and energy efficiency to new ingredients and recipes. Applying new science and technologies to food production, packaging and transport will help our industry to play its part in tackling obesity and safeguarding the environment. A combination of self-funded, pre-competitive and collaborative research will help us to achieve these goals. Nutrition research cannot and should not be funded by the public purse alone and discouraging industry-funding is not in the public interest. Good science is good science, irrespective of who foots the bill, as long as robust systems and standards are in place. The rules we abide by make identification of interests possible so potential conflicts can be addressed and managed. Consumers want and expect food and drink producers to work with the best experts in the field when developing their product ranges.

Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science & health, FDF

Watertight recalls

Sir, Your article ‘Bakkavor reassures customers after Tesco garlic bread fault’ (, 8 October) came as Roythornes’ posted the outcome of a piece of sector-wide research into companies’ recall plans. Alarmingly, particularly in light of recent events, it showed nearly a fifth of respondents didn’t have any recall procedures and 60% did not include product recalls in their contractual agreements with suppliers. A further 20% of participants that confirmed a product recall plan was in place stated that they do not test the plan with trial recalls. There are lessons for us all in almost every product recall story we come across with public relations often brought into sharp focus. Most important, perhaps and as This illustrates the need for watertight recall procedures. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as the saying goes.

Peter Bennett, head of food and drink, Roythornes

Cereals in crisis?

Sir: In addition to Kellogg’s announcement of a 17% pre-tax profit slump (‘Kellogg’s UK profits slump as Brits turn their backs on cereals,’ 17 October, p9), Weetabix owner Bright Foods’ sales are down, suggesting that the branded cereals sector as a whole is perhaps in need of review. Cereal brands are becoming ever more vulnerable to over-extension and copycatting from own-label alternatives. This is due to their reliance on category cues and customer focus groups to drive product focus. When cereal brand strategies reflect what they think consumers want, or align themselves with very specific products or occasions, they only court trouble. Identities that focus on the product create the problem of ‘transient weaknesses’, meaning the brand is left chasing its tail and ultimately losing relevance. If cereals brands focus on creating distinctiveness and uniqueness within their identities to drive emotional engagement with consumers, then whenever preferences change, perhaps from breakfast table to ‘on-the-go’ as in this instance, there will be ample room for growth.

Nir Wegrzyn, CEO, BrandOpus