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Wednesday, March 18, 1998 Published at 05:38 GMT


Iceland freezes out 'genetic' goods

Iceland's own-brand ingredients will not be genetically modified

The BBC's consumer affairs correspondent Nicola Carslaw (1'53")
One of Britain's leading supermarkets is banning genetically modified ingredients from products sold under its own name.

The frozen food chain, Iceland, is annnouncing the move on Wednesday, claiming a breakthrough in the way it traces back the origins of its products.

The company says it will guarantee that none of its own-label goods will contain genetically altered ingredients from May 1.

The chain's Chief Executive Malcolm Walker says he has been motivated by the "terror" of gene technology.

Iceland's Scientific Consultant, Dr Micheal Antonio, told BBC Radio 5Live that "the risks are not worth taking" (20")
Up to 60% of processed groceries on supermarkets shelves in Britain contain soya.

Because the UK's main supplier, America, mixes conventional and altered beans there has been no way of knowing which food has genetically altered ingredients.

Iceland says it has spent time and money tracking down suppliers outside America who do not use gene technology and introducing gene testing measures to the supply chain.

[ image: Dr Michael Antoniou: favours the natural option]
Dr Michael Antoniou: favours the natural option
Mr Walker said: "It (gene technology) is just terrifying to me for a number of reasons.

"As far as consumer choice is concerned unless we stop now we won't have any choice."

One of Iceland's scientific consultants, Dr Michael Antoniou, said he has given his services for free because of his concerns about genetically modified food.

He said: "The risks associated with genetic engineering in food prooduction are not worth taking because the technology and our genetic understanding is far too crude and rudimentary."

On BBC Radio 5Live, Prof Derek Burke, Molecular Biologist, said "they have overstated the risks" (2' 43")
The Consumers Association is backing the ban, calling it a major breakthrough and is urging other supermarkets to follow Iceland's lead.

Spokeswoman Julie Sheppard said: "The rest of the food industry said this was impossible, impracticable and too costly but here we see Iceland blazing a trail."

But the food industry insists it would not sell any product that was unsafe, stressing everything on the shelves has been passed by strict regulatory bodies.

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