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3-Food: UK supermarket chain Tesco cuts GM foods

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TITLE:  Tesco cut GM foods
SOURCE: Daily Mail, UK, by Sean Poulter
DATE:   April 28, 1999

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Tesco cuts GM foods
Supermarket chain joins Unilever in pledge to put customers' concerns first

Two of Britain's biggest food companies, Tesco and Unilever, last night announced plans to cut genetically modified food ingredients from their shelves. Tesco has gone into partnership with Greenpeace in an effort to do away with such products. Unilever subsidiaries Birds Eye Walls and Van den Bergh foods both announced that they will drop GM ingredients from a host of foods. GM soya and its derivatives will be removed from Vesta packet curries, the Bean-feast range, Birds Eye beefburgers and battered fish and a number of beef, pork and lamb ready-meals. The move is a victory for consumers and the Daily Mail's Genetic Food Watch campaign which has argued for full research, proper labelling and consumer choice.

Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, had sat on the fence on the issue while Unilever, the largest food manufacturer in the world, had been among the most enthusiastic supporters of GM products. Tesco technical director John Longworth said: 'Our customers say that current GM products offer no new benefits, so it's not surprising that some want them removed and the great majority want proper choice. 'Our policy to deliver choice is straightforward. We will remove GM ingredients where we can and label where we can't. 'In the short and medium term I expect the number of products containing GM ingredients to decline steadily quite possibly to zero.' In the longer term, he said, Tesco would consider selling GM foods 'if they bring real benefits', but only after consulting customers.

Greenpeace director Lord Melchett, a Labour peer, said: 'This sends a clear message to the Prime Minister that he should now listen to the power of UK consumers and ban GM crops.' He called on the Government to give more help to organic farming, saying: 'Already 80 per cent of organic fruit and vegetables have to be imported, mostly from Europe, where 30 per cent of agricultural land will be farmed organically by 2010, if current rates of growth continue. 'He added: 'A recent poll showed that 81 per cent of those interviewed wanted food producers to spend more money on developing organic food and not GM food.' Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer and Iceland have already announced total bans on GM ingredients in their own-brand foods, while other stores are following similar policies. But until now, the supermarkets have been unable to control the ingredients and labelling of the thousands of branded goods on their shelves. The stores have been putting pressure on firms such as Unilev!
er through their trade body, the Food and Drink Federation.

Unilever's turnaround followed a meeting between the company's UK chairman, Richard Greenhalgh, and Greenpeace officials. The chairman of Birds Eye Walls, Iain Ferguson, said: 'We have taken this decision in direct response to the wishes of a growing number of consumers in the UK.' His counterpart at Van den Bergh, Gavin Neath, said he recognised that families do not want GM foods.' A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said: 'The pressure is now on all big manufacturers to accept the case that consumers just do not want GM food.'


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-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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