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GM-free alcohol guide released

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Greenpeace has released a new guide for choosing GM-free alcoholic beverages.

Greenpeace GE-free alcohold guide

Leading Australian wine writer Max Allen and Sam Statham of Rosnay Organic Wines today joined Greenpeace to launch the first Alcoholic Drinks Edition of the True Food Guide to genetically engineered (GE) free shopping. The guide aims to help consumers avoid buying GE alcoholic drinks.

Credit: (c) Greenpeace/Morris

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A new guide by environment group Greenpeace will make it easy for consumers to choose alcoholic beverages that are free from genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

Launched on July 7, 2009, the True Good Guide to alcoholic drinks edition is the second guide released by Greenpeace. The first detailed food companies that have GE-free products, and those that don't.

"Just like the food industry, Australia's wine and beer industries want to stay GE-free," said Michelle Sheather, campaigner at Greenpeace.

The guide lists wine, beer and spirit brands that are GE-free on a green list and brands that can't guarantee, or have no policy on the exclusion of GE-free ingredients on a red list.

A Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) policy prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the production of all Australian alcohols.

However, that does not restrain imported brands containing GE-derived content. For example, imports from the US are likely to be made from genetically modified yeast, which is commercially used in their wineries.

"(WFA's) 'official' opposition to GM seems to be based less on deep ethical environmental or health concerns and more on a view that consumer isn't ready to accept the use of GMOs in winemaking - yet," said wine writer and G Magazine wine reviewer Max Allen.

"Australia has to take on a leadership role to adopt anti GM technology."

Vanya Cullen, managing director of Cullen Wines, a biodynamic winery in the Margaret River area of WA, said the priority is to maintain the quality of the wines and that "the use of GM yeast and wine grapes is unnecessary".

"Why would you want to risk reducing diversity and potential quality of wine… when nature already does it so beautifully. We cannot control nature anyway," she said.

Currently in Australia four types of GE crops have been commercially approved for used in food: canola, soy, maize (corn) and cottonseed.

GE ingredients in beer typically come from maize, in the form of corn syrup or other additives such as glucose, maltodextrin and dextrin. Wines may contain GE-derived ingredients such as ascorbic and critic acids. Spirits may be based on the distillation of GE crops, or have additives similar to beer.

According to Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, he said 90 per cent of consumers wanted GM crops labelled.

But labelling standards currently are minimal. Only foods with more than one per cent GE ingredients in the final products are compelled to list that they have GE contents, while those with hidden GE content - even from unintentional contamination, are exempt.

"Without proper labelling laws the True Food Guides are the only way to protect consumer choice and help shoppers choose GE-free brands," said Greenpeace's Sheather.

The pocket-sized guide is available online at www.truefood.org.au or by phoning Greenpeace on 1800 815 151.