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Unilever, Nestle to Remove GMO Ingredients from British Product Lines.

As UK's supermarkets band together to remove biotech products, so, too, do its food companies. Two UK food giants last week announced that they would remove foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from their product lines.

Consumer products group Unilever said two of its UK subsidiaries, will remove GMOs from their products. A Unilever spokesperson said that 5 percent of Birds Eye Walls and Van den Bergh's combined product range currently contain GMO ingredients. The switch to non-GMO ingredients is expected to take two months.

Nestle UK also said it had already removed from the majority of its product ingredients that might have contained GMO material, and that it would continue the process. A spokesperson said the policy applied only to Nestle UK, not to the whole of the Swiss-based group.

Also, Britain's largest supermarket chain, Tesco Plc, last week vowed to remove GMOs from food products wherever possible and tighten labeling. One in four customers wanted GMO-based foods removed from the shelves, Tesco said in a statement, so it was removing GMOs wherever it could.

Consumer worries about GMO crops and foods have pushed most major British supermarkets to pledge either to stop selling GMO products or at the very least clearly label them. Some scientists fear GMO crops could threaten biodiversity and even inflict genetic damage on animals and humans. But others believe the dangers are exaggerated, saying the possible benefits of pest-resistant plants that are cheaper, more nutritious and have higher crop yields outweigh any drawbacks. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to bow to pressure and ban testing of GMO crops. Asked if he would consider a moratorium on the planting of such crops for research, Blair said he fully understood public concerns about GMO foods but said there was no evidence to suggest they could harm human health.

Up to 50 percent of the 1999 U.S. soybean crop is genetically modified, but GMO varieties are not separated from unaltered beans along the supply chain. Most of the soybean and soy derivatives used in Europe come from the United States.
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Comment:Unilever, Nestle to Remove GMO Ingredients from British Product Lines.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 3, 1999
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