UK supermarket Co-Op has announced that it will not stock products made from untested and unregulated ‘gene-edited’ plants.
Co-op Chief Executive, Jo Whitfield acknowledged that genetic editing on potatoes and other vegetables is one of several new technologies and innovations that may in the future help to address challenges facing the global food system.
However, she said it is important that consumers are assured about food safety and the environmental and economic impacts are thoroughly understood.
"Scrutiny by independent scientists and officials, as well as engagement with civil society, is essential," she said. "We would expect government to clearly set out how it intends to regulate gene editing, whilst providing clear conditions of use and any labelling requirements. We have no current plans to change our policy on prohibiting genetically modified (GM) organisms, which includes organisms produced by gene editing.”
The store is backing the #NotInMySupermarket campaign in response to the UK government consultation on removing regulations and labelling from plants and animals in the food chain created using a new experimental genetic engineering technique called ‘gene editing.’
A joint letter, organised by Beyond GM and Slow Food UK, and signed by more than 50 UK leading civil society groups, academics and producers, calls for UK supermarkets to make similar announcements, stating that surveys show their customers oppose genetically engineered foods. It also asks retailers to support strong regulation of genetically engineered crops and foods and refusing to stock unregulated, unlabelled gene-edited foods.
Executive Chairman of Slow Food in the UK, Shane Holland, said: "The Co-op is reassuring the majority of the UK public – who don't want GMO/gene edited foods on the shelves – that their wishes are respected. I am certain that they will gain a competitive advantage over other stores in doing so."
Director of Beyond GM Pat Thomas agreed.
“The Co-op’s thoughtful response shows respect for its customers but also for science. It demonstrates the understanding that gene-editing is a technology that creates GMOs and therefore should be regulated in order to protect people and the environment. This is a big step forward,” she said.
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