Sainsbury’s heads international anti-GM retailers consortium

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's has set up an international consortium of food retailers and industry experts to establish validated sources of GM free crops, products and derivatives.

Sainsbury’s says the move will enable it to eliminate all GM ingredients from its own label products in response to customer demand for GM-free foods. The consortium will be responsible for establishing audit and testing processes to verify the authenticity of GM-free raw materials to be used in their products.

The consortium includes of 7 food retailers; Sainsbury’s (UK), Marks & Spencer (UK), Carrefour (France), Effelunga (Italy), Migros (Switzerland), Delhaize (Belgium), and Superquinn (Ireland). It also includes an independent group of experts led by Law Laboratories Ltd leaders in technical verification of GM free products.

The retailers say that working together this group creates a long-term commitment to the farming and commodity industries in order to respond to customer demand and produce GM free foods.

Sainsbury’s Environmental Manager, Alison Austin said: “This is a world first. A consortium like this is the only way Sainsbury’s and other food retailers can establish GM free sources of crops and derivatives. By establishing verified non-GM sources in the farmers field and ensuring segregation through the supply chain we will be GM free.

“We always wanted GM and standard crops to be separated and were extremely disappointed when this did not happen with the US soya crop. Over the last 18 months we have been working hard to source non-GM soya or alternatives for our own brand products. By working with international food retailers and scientists we will give UK shoppers what they want.”

Sainsbury’s says that only 40 to 50 products, out of 1,500, currently contain GM soya protein or DNA, and that these products are labelled. With its commitment to eliminate GM from its own brand products, it says these products will be discontinued if a GM free alternative cannot be found.

In addition Sainsbury’s are working on all own brand products which contain ingredients which could be GM derivatives, such soya oil and lecithin. Wherever possible alternatives are being found but again if this is not possible, the company says these products will also be discontinued.

“This is the beginning of the end of trying to forcefeed consumers unwanted and unneeded genetically manipulated food”, commented Greenpeace International’s campaigner Benedikt Haerlin. “We hope to see more supermarket chains and food producers join the GM-free consortium in the next few days.” Haerlin added that other major food producers and retailers, such as Unilever in Germany and Austria, and 90 percent of all supermarkets in Austria and countless small producers have already declared that they are GM free. “No supermarket or food producer can claim that it was not possible to avoid GM ingredients in their products.”

UK supermarket positions

In the UK, Iceland’s own-brand products are already GM free, Marks and Spencer like Sainsbury’s have committed to make all their own brand products GM free, Waitrose, Co-op and Asda say they are hoping to make all their own-brand products GM free, and only Tesco and Safeway have announced no plans as yet.

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