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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
GM giant criticised over adverts
GM tomatoes
Adverts for GM tomatoes were squashed by ASA report
The GM food giant Monsanto has been criticised for misleading the public about the benefits of its products.

According to the Advertising Standards Authority's annual report, Monsanto's adverts were among the 10 most complained about last year.

The ASA upheld 81 complaints against the firm, concluding that some of its claims, which appeared in newspapers last year, were inaccurate.

It said that readers could infer that the benefits of its GM tomato were proven, despite the fact it lacked approval in more than 20 countries and was not yet commercially available.

Although evidence suggested the tomato required less pesticide, the potential benefits and risks had not been fully assessed by watchdogs in the UK or the United States.

Safety tests

With academic opinion still divided on cross species gene transference, Monsanto was asked to remove references that it had conducted safety testing throughout the last 20 years, the ASA said.

A spokesman for the ASA said: "The presence of Monsanto in the top 10 illustrates what a lot of the ASA's work is about - protecting consumers from misleading advertising."

Monsanto later apologised for any "misunderstanding" caused.

Last year 8,617 adverts drew 12,141 complaints which were resolved by the ASA, 12% of which related to 10 adverts.

More than 19% of complaints were about overseas mailings which encourage people to send money abroad on the pretext of then winning large sums of money.

Naked couple

A poster for online bookshop featuring a naked couple reading books drew 312 complaints - the most for any advert.

None of the complaints, which claimed the advert was pornographic, gratuitous and unsuitable for children, was upheld.

Austin powers
Groovy baby: Powers ads were approved
An advert for the secret agent spoof film Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me attracted 310 complaints for its foul language, the second highest number.

Again, the ASA ruled it would not cause widespread offence.

A series of adverts for a radio programme on Bravo using quotes from controversial American DJ Howard Stern drew 238 complaints which were upheld by the ASA.

An ASA spokesman said: "Complaints about poster advertising, particularly regarding taste and decency issues, are at an all-time high.

"More than ever, we would warn advertisers to beware of going too far and causing offence to the public."

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