Oxford Mail


Facing the bride of Frankenstein foods – make-up

Soya and corn
oils are ingredient
in numerous paints
and potions, especially
skin creams, but no GM
labels are required.


First came the "Frankenstein foods", rejected by 80 per cent of Brits. One in four even turned to organic produce, despite higher costs. Even Tony Blair has reconsidered his chipper early defence of GM food, admitting it may damage human health and the environment.

Now local activists warn that the Bride of Frankenstein still lurks: genetically-modified cosmetics. Soya and corn oils are ingredients in numerous paints and potions, especially skin creams, but no GM labels are required.

"Many of the manufacturers in the beauty industry don't even know what's in them," says Claire Palmer, a Jericho-based graphic designer and environmental campaigner. "This is potentially harmful – even more so than eating GM food. Being filtered through the stomach and liver through eating, we are told, helps to break down any alien or harmful DNA.

"Any product used on the eyes or lips enters the bloodstream even more quickly and powerfully through the tear ducts or saliva. This method of entry into the human body increases any potential risk that untested GMOs may have."

Transmission of disease via make-up is definitely possible. The BSE inquiry warned that no one was minding the shop and that expensive formulas – containing material from a cow spleen, thymus or placenta – could have infected people with cuts, scratches or abrasions. Scrapie, a similar condition, was passed to mice this way in 1996 experiments.

The cosmetics industry was left to police itself, however, as back in 1990 civil servants didn't want to create a "huge stir" or "unjustified fuss". Legally binding rules were introduced only by the European commission in 1997.

The risks of genetic engineering are still unknown, but the Government has imposed a three year ban on commercial planting. Many, like the Body Shop, are pushing for a longer moratorium of five years.

Famed for its eco-friendly, politically-correct products, the company is now striving to go GM-free. "The first step is to ensure all oils – such as soya and corn – are from a certified GM-free source," a spokesman explains. "We are also investigating the impact of GM components in any processed ingredient we use."

Yet cosmetics aren't the only culprit. Jean manufacturers are engineering denim-blue cotton and even Marks&Spencer underpants – the great emblems of the middle-class – were once modified to resist pests such as the boll weevil.

"We do have a small quantity of organic cotton," a spokesperson suggests, "but that's not the same as GM-free."

Women are divided on the subject. Sarah Wheeler, 24, of Brackley, takes a moderate view: "Personally, I would rather use ingredients that were genetically modified than tested on animals. However, I would like some reassurance that such products would not cause adverse reactions because of their content.

"I am quite doubtful that modified ingredients can 'perform' more effectively than natural, less refined ones. Still, any make-up which includes genetically modified ingredients should be clearly labelled to allow the customer to choose one way or the other."

Natural health and beauty expert Emma Hardie refuses to use GM cosmetics. "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole," says the owner of Future Face, Future Body in North Oxford. "I wouldn't put something on my skin that I wouldn't eat. You don't know what effect it would have. You could turn into a beet root."

Claire would like to see it all stop, as would her compatriots in the Oxford protest group, GMO campaign. These are the people behind the colourful carnival protests, starring pantomime cows, chickens, bees and salmon. They say the three year ban on commercial GM crops is not enough, especially when aspects – such as make-up ingredients and GM animal feed – are not being considered fully.

"You also have the double-edged sword of the European Commission trying to remove natural cosmetic remedies from the High Street," Claire adds. "These natural remedies and products have been tested by thousands of years of use on human skin, many with proven beneficial effects.

"Why replace this with something untested and potentially harmful to human health?"

Future Face, Future Body carries a line of organic beauty products called Dr Hauschka, and can be reached on 01865 516027

Even Marks&Spencer
underpants – the great
emblems of the middle-
class – were once
modified to resist
pests such as
the boll weevil.

"These natural remedies
and products have been
tested by thousands
of years of use on human
skin, many with proven
beneficial effects.

Why replace this with
something untested
and potentially harmful
to human health?"


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