Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK


UK

GM food firm rapped over adverts

Watchdogs objected to adverts promoting Monsanto's pro-GM views

Biotechnology company Monsanto has been criticised by advertising watchdogs over its campaign for genetically modified (GM) foods in the UK.


The BBC's Karen Bowerman: "The ASA said the claims were misleading"
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld four out of 13 complaints made about full-page press advertisements which put forward Monsanto's pro-GM views.

They featured straplines such as 'Food Technology is a matter of opinions. Monsanto believes you should hear them all,' and 'More biotechnology plants mean less industrial ones'.


[ image: Campaigners objected to the use of GM tomatoes in one Monsanto advert]
Campaigners objected to the use of GM tomatoes in one Monsanto advert
The seven ads sparked 81 complaints nationwide from pressure groups opposed to GM foods - including the Soil Association, the Green Party, GeneWatch and Genetix Food Alert - as well as concerned individuals.

A Monsanto spokesman admitted that mistakes had been made in the campaign. "With our advertising campaign last year we intended to inform the public of our opinion - and enthusiasm - on the subject of plant biotechnology.

"We perhaps did not take sufficiently into account the difference in culture between the UK and the USA in the way some of this information was presented."

'No intention to mislead'

However Monsanto said it had not intended to mislead or deceive, and changes had been made to ads during the campaign to comply with two complaints.

It said the ads also featured contact numbers for environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, enabling consumers to hear both sides of the debate.

"We expected some criticism of the campaign as it was, and still is, the only attempt by any biotech company to explain the issues," said Tony Combes, Monsanto's UK director of corporate affairs.

"It was not our intention to mislead or deceive and we apologise to anyone who might have misunderstood these advertisements."


[ image: The ASA has warned Monsanto to be more careful]
The ASA has warned Monsanto to be more careful
The first two complaints referred to advertisements which carried the headlines: "We believe food should be grown with less pesticide" and "Food labelling. It has Monsanto's full backing" next to pictures of GM potatoes and tomatoes.

The complainants said the text implied that such GM crops had been approved in more than 20 countries - including the UK - when in fact neither product is licensed for production in the UK.

In the third complaint campaigners contested Monsanto's assertion that it had tested GM foods for 20 years.

The ASA found only evidence for 16 years of testing.

On the fourth complaint the ASA found that Monsanto had not made it clear in the series of seven ads that expert opinion on GM technology was divided.

Media spotlight


Steve Ballinger: "We are taking this seriously"
ASA spokesman Steve Ballinger said the watchdog's lengthy adjudication was not a judgment on the ethics of GM foods, but conceded that biotechnology firms were more likely to have pressure groups watching their campaigns more closely than most other advertisers.

A spokesman for the ASA commented on the ruling saying: "When Monsanto clearly state what its beliefs are we do not have a problem with it.

"But the complaints we upheld were about factual statements that were made.

"A big company like this knows there are pressure groups out there who will pick holes in everything it says and should be very careful with their advertising."

Media coverage of "Frankenstein" foods have made genetically modified crops a controversial subject in Britain.

Consumer fears have led major supermarket chains including Tesco and Sainsbury to begin removing GM ingredients from some of their product lines.

The government says carefully supervised GM crop trials will determine whether the modification of plants may lead to cheaper and tastier foods - but anti-GM campaigners have carried out a series of attacks in recent months destroying fields where GM food is being grown.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England

Relevant Stories

04 Aug 99 | UK
Church 'blocks GM tests'

31 Jul 99 | UK
GM crop protesters arrested

24 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
GM crop trials warning

22 Jul 99 | Wales
Charles walks into new GM crop debate

25 Jun 99 | Europe
EU clamps down on GM foods

07 Jun 99 | UK
Farmer destroys GM crops





Internet Links


Advertising Standards Authority

Monsanto


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online