By JOSIE CLARKE consumer reporter



An American health food manufacturer says it will continue to use genetically engineered (GE) ingredients after breaking ranks with environmental groups.



Greg Caton, president of Lumen Foods, which manufactures soy-based meat replacements, told the Designing Foods that Consumers Will Choose conference in Auckland yesterday there was no evidence that GE food was any less healthful than products made from traditional hybrid seed.



Lumen Foods used genetically engineered ingredients and was forced by eco-activists to take a position, Mr Caton said.

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Early this year, the company attracted media interest when it broke ranks with Greenpeace and other environmental groups over the issue of GE foods, a decision that spurred thousands of critical emails.



It also promised to use GE ingredients in its in-house manufacturing, one of the first US food processors to do so.



It said that the US Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency had concluded, after exhaustive research, that GE seed posed no risk.



According to available literature, claims that genetic engineering was unhealthy were "a lie."



Mr Caton said it was "just another price differentiator" used by some seeking to artificially add value to their products by describing them as GE-free.



"This is not a controversy that is based on a fair examination of the facts. It is based on emotion," he said.



The issue was "hot" with a select group of people rather than consumers generally," Mr Caton said.



"My argument to those in the health foods industry is that their long-term interests are not best served by jumping on the current politically correct anti-biotech bandwagon, which will be short lived."



The conference, organised by the Institute of Food Science and Technology, coincided with the Massey University food awards. These recognise innovation and technology, and were presented last night by Prime Minister Helen Clark.



The premier award went to Tip Top Ice Cream Company's Memphis Meltdown.