UK food manufacturers and supermarkets remove GM ingredients

Unilever UK, part of the world's largest food manufacturing company, has joined the UK's largest supermarket, Tesco, in announcing it is to remove genetically modified (GM) food from its products.

Unilever UK, which has a turnover of over £35bn, has announced it us to go GM free. The announcement came shortly after Tesco, turnover £18.5bn, also announced a policy of moving towards zero GM ingredients in own brand products. At the same time, Tesco is to increase the number of items in its range of organic produce.

Unilever was the first company to introduce GM food products in the UK. Its decision to change marks a dramatic turning point in the dispute about GM food.

A recent survey of Tesco customers confirmed that many are concerned about GM food products, with one in four wanting them removed from shelves. The majority said they wanted clear labelling to be introduced. Tesco says that environmental group Greenpeace may help the supermarket chain find reliable sources of GM free ingredients.

Tesco says that where it will introduce labelling on products that cannot be guaranteed GM-free.

The company also plans to carry out further market research to establish the conditions – if any – under which GM products may be acceptable to customers.

“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 a proper choice,” said John Longworth, Tesco’s Trading Law and Technical Director.

“Our policy to deliver that 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. For the longer term we are keeping the door open for GM products if they bring real benefits. However, no new GM products will be introduced without full customer consultation.”

Benny Haerlin from Greenpeace International said: “This is the beginning of the end of major transnational food corporations standing side by side with Monsanto and other biotech companies. This obviously boosts demand for GM free soya beans and oil. Brazilian soya growers, which are GM free, are now at a big advantage to US competitors.”

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