EU Supermarket Chains Unite to Buy GE-Free Foods: Beginning of the
End for Gene-Altered Frankenfoods in Europe?

LONDON, UK, March 22, 1999 (ENS) - A move by European food retail chains to
eliminate genetically modified (GM) ingredients and additives from their
own-brand food products is of "major significance," the European Union (EU)
supermarket association Eurocommerce claimed today. Fernanda Fau of
Eurocommerce was speaking after last week's announcement by seven
supermarket chains that they are launching a consortium to jointly source
non-GM foodstuffs.

"Things are changing very fast," Fau said. "The debate on GM foods has
achieved a high profile across the continent within a space of weeks.
Moreover, the principle that segregation of GM ingredients is possible has
now finally been accepted. We first lobbied for this two years ago and were
told it was impossible."

Headed by Sainsbury of the UK, the consortium comprises retailers from six
countries. "Many of our customers clearly want the possibility of choosing
GM-free food," a Sainsbury spokesperson said. "We decided we could only be
sure of eliminating GM derivatives by tracking some ingredients all the way
from the farmer's field to the supermarket shelf and we would only get the
buying power to do this by working together with supermarket chains in
other European countries."

Sainsbury foods (Photo courtesy Sainsbury)
Sainsbury's environmental manager Alison Austin said the agreement would
enable the supermarkets to take out direct, long-term agreements with
farmers guaranteeing non-GM crops, and track them right through the
production process.
Over the past 18 months, Sainsbury has reduced the number of its products
with GM ingredients. It will now direct its attention to foods containing
soya oil and lecithin, neither of which yield to scientific testing for the
presence of GM material. The firm says it will abandon product lines
containing them if it cannot either establish firmly that they are GM-free
or find alternatives. It says it is also aiming to ensure that its milk and
meat products are produced from animals fed on non-GM food.

Food shopping at Marks and Spencer (Photo courtesy Marks and Spencer)
Sainsbury's partners in the scheme are Marks and Spencer, also of the UK,
Carrefour of France, Italy's Effelunga, Migros of Switzerland, Belgium's
Delhaize and Superquinn of Ireland.
Environmental groups in the Netherlands and Germany have urged supermarkets
in their countries to join the consortium or establish similar initiatives.

Meanwhile, British food retailer Iceland is achieving rising sales after
its move to ban GM foods from its own-brand range according to a UK press
report. The Observer newspaper reported yesterday that the company would
report a nine percent sales increase this week, in part due to public
enthusiasm for its stance on GM foods.

{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for
environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London.; Email:}

© Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.