In 1999, responding to consumer concern about genetically modified (GM) foods, Sanitarium assured its customers that the soy used in So Good soy milk was non-GM. Sanitarium was the first food manufacturer in Australia to take this step, and ever since then we have labelled our soy milks and frozen desserts accordingly.
We still do not use ingredients sourced from GM crops, and we will continue to monitor consumers’ response to the issue as further research on the benefits or otherwise of GM crops continues.
Sanitarium fully supports the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code 1.5.2(4), which requires the consistent presence of GM ingredients (above very low levels) to be indicated on product labels in or close to the ingredient list. We ensure that none of our ingredients requires us to label any product as containing GM materials in accordance with the code.
Where the confidence of consumers requires explicit assurance of non-GM status, we go beyond the food labelling content requirements by using a confirmed non-GM supply chain.
Despite our best efforts, we do realise that minor and unforeseen co-mingling of GM with non-GM ingredients may occur, so we routinely monitor our performance to minimise this possibility. Before 1999, our food scientists and technical experts and our suppliers used an international process called identity preservation (IP). Starting with non-GM seeds, IP tracks the crop from planting right through to the final manufacturing process, with verification at each step.
At the same time, we worked closely with government health ministers and food industry bodies to clarify understanding of non-GM and IP. We recommended the approach to GM labelling adopted by food regulators and the food industry because we believe consumers have a right to know exactly what is in their food.
GM foods: what does the future hold?
Sanitarium is not opposed to the use of biotechnology, which can offer important improvements in food production, including plants that are more resistant to disease and require less water. We support the responsible introduction of new food supply techniques, as long as consumers are educated and kept informed every step of the way.
Food developers, industry lobby groups, government and regulatory authorities all have a part to play in educating the community to make informed choices. Manufacturers must also provide accurate information, point out misconceptions and refute misinformation. This is not so much to achieve public acceptance of the new technologies as to ensure sufficient time and information flow for consumers to make informed food choices.
For now, however, Sanitarium believes we have not reached a point where everyone can agree on the key issues involving GM crops and foods, and until we believe this point has been reached, our non-GM policy will not change.