A Food Standards Agency (FSA) study published yesterday [Wednesday] confirming that scientific testing methods are now able to identify very small amounts of GM in ingredients in some foods.

The tests have proved successful in identifying levels as low as 1% GM content of the soya ingredient, even where the soya ingredient was only 0.3% of the loaf of bread.

Tests were able to measure how much of the soya content in the baked products was of a genetically modified origin. Even where 1% of GM was found, this only amounted to 0.003% of the whole product – equivalent to one drop in three litres of water.

The FSA study is concerned with consumer choice. There is no food safety issue as the GM soya identified in tests are of a variety that has been approved by the EC as safe to eat. Amounts below 1% are not required to be labelled under EC regulations.

Dr Jon Bell, Director of Food Safety at the FSA, said: “This is work at the cutting edge of science and supports consumer choice. New methods of testing will allow the industry to ensure that labelling of GM content is accurate and provides consumers with the highest possible level of consumer choice”.

The purpose of the FSA study was to assess the performance of a technique known as Real Time PCR to measure accurately the amount of GM soya in processed foodstuffs. The focus was on gaining more information on the accuracy and precision of the methods used.

The Agency tested 203 retail samples of baked goods, including bread, cakes, buns and rolls purchased from a variety of major supermarkets, medium and small retail outlets.

No GM was detected in the soya content of 85% of the baked goods tested. Within the 15% of samples where traces of GM were found, only three out of 203 samples were found to contain more than 1% GM soya. Such products are required to be labelled as containing GM under EC regulations. In each of the three cases, the manufacturers concerned have been informed of the findings of the study, and have promised to take action regarding labelling of GM content.