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UK Supermarket Giants Say No to GMOs

British supermarket chiefs warn over GM crops
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UK: July 17, 2003 Reuters

LONDON - Britain's largest supermarket retailers will tell government ministers they will not stock genetically modified (GM) foods because consumers do not want them, a spokesman for the largest outlet said.

Chiefs of the country's largest food stores - Tesco TSCO.L , Sainsbury SBRY.L 's, Safeway SFW.L and Asda WMT.N - were invited to express their opinions as part of the government-sponsored national debate on whether the gene-spliced crops are commercially viable. A spokesman for Britain's largest supermarket, Tesco , said it would only stock GM foods if consumers demanded them.

"We removed all traces of GM ingredients from our own-brand products after consulting with our customers, and that's unlikely to change unless they tell us different," he added.

The meeting comes just a few weeks after the British Retail Consortium, representing 90 percent of the country's high-street stores, told government agriculture officials they would still refuse to stock GM produce, even if farmers were given the green light to grow the crops on a commercial scale.

Environment lobby group Friends of the Earth (FoE) is backing the retailers.

"Supermarkets have banned GM ingredients and derivatives from their own-brand food because consumers don't want to eat GM," FoE campaigner Clare Oxborrow said.

"And with tighter GM labelling rules on the way, pressure will surely grow on food manufacturers to do even more to weed out GM ingredients," she added.

The European Parliament voted earlier this month to introduce strict labelling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO). Under current rules, only food with more than 1 percent of GM ingredients has to be labelled, but the changes will mean a lower threshold of 0.9 percent will now be required.

Labelling will also be extended to animal feed rations and to all products that contain derivatives of soya or maize.

EU environment ministers have yet to approve the parliament's proposals.

Britain's eight-week long national dialogue on GM crops draws to a close on Friday.

The government has said that once it has weighed up the advice of consumers, environmentalists and scientists, it will decide later this year, probably in September, whether to allow the crops to be grown on a commercial scale.

The government is awaiting results from a series of farm-scale field trials of mostly GM rapeseed before it makes up its mind.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

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