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European Grocery Shelves Free of Genetically Engineered Foods

European shelves mostly GMO-free
Thu Feb 3, 2005 1:43 PM GMT

By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's supermarket shelves remain free of almost all
biotech produce as top retailers shun genetically modified (GMO) foods,
environment group Greenpeace says, claiming this is due to consumer
opposition.

"Europe, one of the world's largest food markets, is firmly closed to
GM-labelled food, and there is nothing to indicate that this is likely to
change any time soon," Greenpeace said in a survey of the region's largest
retailers and food companies.

Very few GMO products can be found across Europe's 30 major retailers,
nearly all of which have a non-biotech policy for the entire EU or at least
in their main European markets, it said.

This contrasts starkly with the United States, where most supermarket foods
have some GMO content and many consumers shrug off claims by green groups
that these may be harmful.

Of the thousands of items stocked in European supermarkets, Greenpeace said
it found only 77 GMO-labelled products in 10 EU countries, as of November
2004, mostly in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Czech and Slovak
Republics.

These products tended to be GMO soyoil or other items imported from Canada,
Japan, Korea and the United States.

Consumer scepticism over GM0 food ranges from mild distrust to outright
hostility and is estimated at more than 70 percent, deterring shops from
ramping up small ranges of biotech foods.

"There has been a prolonged and at times intense public, political and
scientific debate about the dangers of GM crops, which has had a number of
results," the Greenpeace report said.

"One of the most significant has been the strong and consistent rejection of
GM food by well-informed consumers and the change that they have caused in
the policies of the European food industry."

Many European retail chains already guarantee that their own-brand products
are free of GMO ingredients and say there is no reason to change this unless
consumers request GMO products.

Greenpeace conceded that retailers might be stocking GMO-labelled products
from other sources. Some companies had only introduced a non-GMO policy on
own brands after pressure from customers, not due to any anti-biotech
sentiment, it said.

LOOPHOLE IN BIOTECH LAWS?

At present, products from around 18 GMOs may be marketed in the EU. These
include types of GMO soy, maize and rapeseed - which appear in items such as
ketchups and snack foods.

Non-biotech food products may have a maximum 0.9 percent GMO content without
having to be labelled, essential for retailers in countries where there is
high consumer resistance to GMOs.

But EU labelling laws do not apply to dairy, eggs and beef coming from
animals that have eaten GMO feed, or to foods made with the help of a GMO
enzyme, like some bakery products.

For green groups, this is a huge loophole in EU legislation.

"With a few exceptions, the majority of the major European food producers do
not guarantee the use of non-GM animal feed for the production of meat and
dairy produce," Greenpeace said.


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