A sign outside a Co-op supermarket

Co-op first to back GM foods campaign

Store says it will not stock unlabelled and untested gene-edited goods.
19 February 2021 , Katie Coyne

Supermarket chain Co-op has said it will not be stocking gene-edited foods in response to an open letter sent to them backed by more than 50 NGOs and food policy experts.

The #NotInMySupermarket campaign was launched by Beyond GM and Slow Food UK in response to a Defra consultation looking to remove GM regulations applying to certain gene-edited crops and animals for food.

Campaigners are concerned as this would mean food products containing gene-edited ingredients will no longer need to be labelled and there would be no monitoring of the potential wider effects of these organisms.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op’s chief executive, said: “Genetic editing is one of several new technologies and innovations that may in the future help us to address the challenges facing our global food system.

“However, as with any new technology, it is important citizens are assured about food safety and the environmental and economic impacts are thoroughly understood before any decisions on widespread adoption are made.

“To this end, scrutiny by independent scientists and officials, as well as engagement with civil society, is essential. 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 organisms, which includes organisms produced by gene editing.”

Shane Holland executive chair of Slow Food in the UK, which launched the campaign with Beyond GM, argued that Co-op would gain competitive advantage over other stores in taking this line. Pat Thomas, director of Beyond GM, said Co-op’s response respected its customers and science.

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