A tale of "eco" labels

By Amina Nazarli

Unhealthy foods have a long become a challenging matter for many of us, making our shopping a little bit difficult.

Seeking less dangerous food for our health we try to carefully read out the important note on the products. But to what extent should we trust on them?

The increasing number of fans of organic products prompted the advertisers to immediately pick up the trend and use the desire of people to buy environmentally-friendly products by placing signs like "eco", "bio" and "non-GMO" on almost all the products in a row.

These markings ensure that the product was produced without GMOs, antibiotics, growth hormones, food additives, pesticides, and the product is checked by a special inspectors at all stages of production lasting from field to counter.

Of course, you can believe the words written on the package like "bio" or "organic", but don't they are cheating you is another question that might mingle you in an effort to acquire a product containing nothing harmful.

The analysis into the issue may disappoint you, but 'what is true that's true'.

Unfortunately, ketchup, canned vegetables, or vegetable oil in a supermarket with “healthy food” signs on it, does not mean them to be natural by 100 percent.

Chairman of the Free Consumers Union Eyyub Huseynov told AzerNews that “Non-GMO” label on a package does not mean that the product contains no transgenes.

The expert points out that there is no common label defining the quality of the product and each country has its own label.

Despite enactment of the law prohibiting to sale non iodized salt in the country since 2001, almost 20 percent of salt products sold in local markets are non iodized although the label says that it is iodized.

Some 98 percent of soy, 50 percent of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, watermelons and beets in Azerbaijani market are genetically modified products, according to Huseynov.

Perhaps one of the most sobering statements regarding the unhealthy food came from ecologist Telman Zeynalov, who stressed that more than 65 percent of products for adults and 80 percent for children are genetically modified in Azerbaijani market.

This statement should be an alarm for parents, who care for the health of the future generation, if to consider that according to some studies children are three to four times more prone to allergies than adults and are at highest risk of death from a food allergy.

Laboratory head at the molecular-gene basis of production processes of the Botanical institute Alemdar Mammadov thinks that labels on a package do not mean that the product is completely safe and the matter of ecologically pure product largely depends on the importer.

He stressed that in most developed countries in Europe, such as France, Germany and Spain this issue is taken very seriously and consumers can trust the labeling. However, in the countries with poor control on this problem, “healthy food” labeling gives rise to doubts.

The expert told AzerNews that today many countries are engaged in production of GMO products including Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are regarded as leaders in growing GMO products among neighboring countries.

And taking into account that Azerbaijan is an importer of many products from these countries, it gives the reason not to trust the colored labels on packages.

Until now there have been no global studies into the effect of genetically modified products to the environment, and in particular to man.

Scientists who work with multinational companies producing genetically modified products, and independent scientists, who do not support the idea of genetic engineering are unable to agree on the issue.

Mammadov believes that genetically modified organisms are like “time bomb” and they can accumulate in the human body for a certain time and cause several consequences.

“Constant use of such products can lead to various diseases from allergic reactions to cancer,” he said. “The reason for allergic reactions is because a product of one gene is contained in a large amount in GMO.

Azerbaijan, rich in natural resources prohibited GMOs in food production and the recent amendments to the Criminal Code provides for a fine from 3,000 (over $1,900) to 5,000 manats (over $3,200) or imprisonment for a term of two years for import or sale of genetically modified plants.

In cases of import of very large volumes of GMO products amount of the fine will vary from 7,000 (over $4,500) to 9,000 (over $5,800) manats, and the term of imprisonment will increase up to 5 years.

Azerbaijan has two laboratories aimed to investigate GMO products in the domestic market and withdraw them from sale, but, some experts are still dissatisfied with their work.

A special council created by order of the Cabinet is expected to finally bring order in the national market.

--

Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz