GeneWatch PR: ASA rules that Monsanto adverts were misleading: GeneWatch UK complaints upheld

For Immediate Release - Tuesday 10th August 1999

Tomorrow, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will publish its adjudication on Monsanto’s advertisements about genetically modified (GM) foods and crops (1). The ASA has concluded that adverts run between June and September 1998 were misleading on four counts because:

  • Monsanto claimed that GM potatoes and tomatoes had been given safety approval in ‘over 20 countries (including the UK)’ when they have not (separate complaints about each crop upheld);
  • Monsanto claimed that genetic modification was an extension of traditional breeding methods when it is not;
  • Monsanto had not been testing the safety of GM food for 20 years as they claimed.

"An independent assessment has shown that Monsanto are willing to make misleading claims to promote their products," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK’s Director.

GeneWatch UK, an independent organisation monitoring developments in genetic engineering, is one of the groups who complained to the ASA (2) and whose complaints have been upheld.

"The advertisements were a disgrace. Although Monsanto claimed they were promoting a public debate, they used the ads to mislead and confuse. It has become impossible to trust Monsanto," said Dr Mayer.

While upholding four complaints against Monsanto, the Council of the ASA has reversed the recommendations by the secretariat of the ASA that a further three complaints be upheld (3). The secretariat had recommended that complaints be upheld that Monsanto were wrong to say that they supported segregation of GM crops; were wrong to state that GM crops would result in food being grown in a more environmentally sustainable way as this was not proven; and had confused people into thinking that they were prepared to sacrifice sales of their herbicide Roundup to reduce pesticide use when they are not.

"The sudden reversal of the secretariat’s recommendations has sinister overtones of external influence. Has the Council of the ASA been pressurised into limiting their criticisms of Monsanto?" added Sue Mayer.

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Further Information:

Contact GeneWatch UK on:
Tel: +44 (0)1298 871898
Fax: +44 (0)1298 872531

Notes to Editors:

  1. The complaints were divided into thirteen issues by the ASA, four of which were upheld.
  2. A total of 81 groups and individuals complained to the ASA.
  3. Draft recommendations enclosed in letter to GeneWatch from the ASA dated 10 May 1999.

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