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Canada's Largest Supermarket Chain Bans GMO-Free Labels

Canada's Largest Supermarket Chain Bans GMO-Free Labels

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globeandmail.com, Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Loblaws orders GMO-free labels removed

By KEVIN COX and INGRID PERTIZ
Globe and Mail (Canada) June 13, 2001

Loblaws, Canada's largest grocery retailer, has ordered its suppliers to
remove or cover by Sept. 1 any labels that identify food as being free of
genetically modified ingredients.

The move has angered many of the organic food processors that market their
breakfast cereals, pastas and other products in the store's health food
department as being free of chemical additives and genetically modified
material.

Nature's Path Foods Inc., a British-Columbia-based company that produces
organic breakfast cereals, said some Canadian grocery chains pressed the
company to alter the labels on its products destined for their shelves. The
part of the label that says the products are made without genetically
modified organisms has been blacked out with a felt pen.

Spokesman Arran Stephens said some large grocery chains warned the company
that its products would be yanked from shelves if it didn't remove the
reference to genetically modified organisms.

"We've sort of been bullied into this. We feel it's very important that
consumers know if their food has been genetically tampered," Mr. Stephens
said, but the company didn't want to risk cutting production and laying off
employees.

Mr. Stephens noted that independent food stores and grocery chains in the
United States welcome the GMO-free labels. "They're pretty disappointed that
we decided to bow to pressure."

Many suppliers are afraid to criticize the giant grocery chain publicly
because they fear losing shelf space. But they say privately that they are
facing major expense to change labels and could lose sales because consumers
won't be able to tell if they are getting GMO-free foods.

In a memo sent to suppliers in late January, Jamie Cooney, director of
procurement of health food for Loblaws, said the products of distributors
who didn't remove the non-GMO labels could be removed from the grocery
chain's shelves.

"It is our position that until such time as a government and-or
industry-supported definition of genetic modification exists in Canada we
will not support product packaging containing non-GMO claims," the letter,
dated Jan. 29, said.

No one was available to comment for Loblaws Tuesday. In some Loblaws stores
across the country the non-GMO stickers have been blacked out or covered by
other stickers.

Nadege Adam, health protection director for the Council of Canadians, said
she was not aware of other grocery chains taking this position.

"There is absolutely no reason for them [Loblaws] to do this," Ms. Adam said
in an interview. "There are no laws preventing anybody from putting a
GMO-free claim as long as they can prove it's GMO-free. Loblaws is
preventing people from doing this. They are not the government; they have no
right to do this."

The federal government has yet to establish a standard or a labelling policy
for genetically modified foods, those that come from plants altered to
resist pests or herbicides or to produce greater yields. Ottawa suffered a
setback Tuesday in one of its attempts to control labelling of GMO foods
when a Quebec judge quashed its bid for an injunction that would stop a beer
maker from labelling and advertising its product as "certified GMO-free" by
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

While the agency regulates genetically modified crops, it doesn't label or
test consumer products for the presence of GMOs. Unibroue Inc. has said that
a manufacturer's certificate signed by a government food inspector proved
that the CFIA says its product is GMO-free.

The head of the Canadian Health Food Association said Tuesday that the
Loblaws policy leaves consumers in the dark about whether they are eating
foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Donna Herringer said the
association has been lobbying the federal government for two years to come
up with mandatory labelling of foods that contain genetically modified
ingredients. Instead, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief asked a committee
to come up with recommendations for voluntary labelling of foods that
contain genetically modified ingredients. Ms. Herringer said that approach
will not work because food distributors and retailers won't voluntarily
label their products as containing genetically modified material. "So
Canadian consumers continue to be in the dark," Ms. Herringer said in an
interview from Vancouver.

With a report from Colin Freeze


"Loblaws/Superstores" Chain includes:
Atlantic Superstore; Real Canadian Superstore; Real Canadian Wholesale;
Provigo; Club; Extra Foods; Shop Easy Foods; Lucky Dollar Foods; SuperValu;
ExtraFoods; Loblaws; Zehrs Markets; Zehrs Food Plus; Atlantic Supervalu; the
Supercentre; Atlantic save Easy; Dominion; no frills; Fortinos; independent;
and valu-mart.

W. Galen Weston
Chairman, Loblaw Companies Ltd.
22 St Clair Avenue East
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 2S7

Loblaw Companies Ltd. 800 268 7080
Loblaw Consumer Affairs 800-296-2332 (for what it's worth, the person who
answered the phone agreed that unless this is repealed MANY people will not
shop there - keep those calls comin!)



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