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Evidence of some consumer, retailer, processor resistance to modified foods in Britain, United States, China

(Friday, July 18, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following stories illustrate what might be perceived as some reticence on the part of some consumers in Britain, the United States and China toward genetically modified foods.

  • British supermarket chiefs warn over GM crops

    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.

  • Genetic resistance poll: Modified foods give consumers pause

    David Morris, ABCNews.com, July 15: A third of Americans try to avoid buying foods that have been genetically modified or treated with antibiotics or hormones - and that resistance apparently would swell if such products were required to be labeled, as the public broadly desires.

    Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS Intersearch.

    There have been gains in the belief that genetically modified food is safe to eat - up 11 points since 2001, to 46 percent, the latest ABCNEWS poll finds. Still, if it were labeled, 55 percent of Americans say they'd avoid such foods, including 62 percent of women, who do most food shopping.

    Nearly half of adults, 47 percent, also say they'd try to avoid hormone- or antibiotic-treated food if it were labeled as such, the poll finds.

    As things stand, without labels, about one-third of Americans say they try to avoid buying both kinds of foods. The rest say it's not important enough to bother.

    The food industry opposes mandatory labeling, perhaps reflecting its concerns over the level of consumer resistance. But in this survey, huge majorities of Americans favor mandatory labeling - 92 percent for genetically modified foods, and 85 percent for food from farm animals that have been fed hormones or antibiotics.

    On the flip side of the labeling issue, 51 percent say they're attracted to foods with labels saying they're not genetically modified; and 46 percent say the same for food labeled as hormone- and antibiotic-free.

    Safety Concerns

    The public divides evenly, 46 percent to 46 percent, on whether genetically modified foods are safe to eat, indicating more acceptance than two years ago, when these foods were seen as unsafe by a margin of 52 percent to 35 percent.

    There's also a division on food from farm animals treated with hormones or antibiotics; 49 percent think it's safe, 42 percent unsafe.

    Gene-Altered Food

    Gender, Safe, Unsafe
    All 46% 46%
    Men 56% 36%
    Women 37% 54%

    Again, there's a difference by sex, with women less apt than men to say these foods are safe. Women's concerns peak specifically with gene-altered food; 54 percent think it's unsafe, while 56 percent of men say the opposite. (In 2001, however, more women - 62 percent - thought bio-engineered foods were unsafe.)

    Hormone-Treated Food

    Gender, Safe, Unsafe
    All 49% 42%
    Men 53% 39%
    Women 45% 44%

    More generally, nine in 10 adults think food eaten in the United States is safe, far more than say that about genetically altered or hormone-treated food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private studies, at least one-third of U.S. crops are bio-engineered, including two-thirds of soybeans.

    Residents of the Midwest, sometimes referred to as the Farm Belt, have a slightly more favorable view of gene-altered food; 53 percent think it's safe, compared with 39 percent in the Northeast. People who've attended college are also more likely to say altered foods are safe.


    This ABCNEWS poll was conducted by telephone July 9-13 among a random national sample of 1,024 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

  • Companies in China clear genetically engineered food off their shelves

    Greenpeace news release: Hong-Kong/Beijing, July18, 2003 -- Thirty-two food producers operating in China today announced they are now officially committed to not selling genetically engineered (GE) food in China. This is the first time food producers have publicly committed to such a policy in China, the largest food market in the world.

    The companies now committed to eliminating GE ingredients include internationally known brand names such as Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Wrigley and Lipton, which already have non-GE policy in many other countries. The local companies include large soy sauce producers in the Southern China region, such as Pearl River Bridge, Lee Kum Kee and Amoy, as well as a major soymilk brand, Vitasoy.

    The commitment from the 32 companies appears in sharp contrast to the record of Nestle - a multinational caught in selling GE products in China last year and by now famous for its double- standards. The scandal alerted the consumers about the problem of unknown GE in their food and made them return Nestle products back to retailers.

    The local food companies committing to non-GE benefit greatly from the new government policy introduced in March, which commits to keeping production in the largest soy production provinces in North East China non-GE. China is the world's fourth largest soy producer. The Chinese Government has recently stepped up its efforts to enforce the GE labelling legislation and conducted inspections. Officials have emphasised producers selling unlabelled GE products would be penalised.

    For more information: Sze Pang-cheung, Campaigner with Greenpeace China (Beijing), Tel: +86-10-65546931 or Mob: 86-13683154665

    Notes: (1) 32 producers (with 53 brands) sent formal statements to Greenpeace confirming they do not to use GE ingredients in their products sold in China.
    (2) According to a survey conducted by Zhongshan University in December 2002, 87% of the respondents demand labelling of GE products and 56% would choose non-GE food over GE food if given the choice.