We won't sell it

Majority of EU retailers say no to GE

Feature story - 3 February, 2005
What do the major European food retailers and producers think about genetically engineered (GE) food? In a new Greenpeace report, we asked them. Of the 60 top companies we contacted, 49 of them won't use GE in their own brands, and they've gone on record saying so.

Consumers won't buy it. Retailers won't sell it. Food producers won't inlcude it. What part of NO don't they understand?

The EU market is worth over 1 thousand billion Euros in annual food and drink sales. It is effectively closed to GE-labelled ingredients according to policies of leading retailers and food producers, as revealed in the Greenpeace EU Markets Report, published today.

49 of the 60 top companies contacted have a non-GE policy in their own brands either throughout the EU or at least in the market where they make the majority of their sales. A further 8 companies gave a non-GE commitment in a number of countries but not yet in all of their EU markets. Two companies never responded and one company, the Dutch Royal Ahold (Albert Heijn), uses GE ingredients in 3 to 5 of its own brand products but noted that this number is declining. A significant number of companies stated that their policy applied globally or company wide.

New European legislation requiring the labelling and traceability of GE products came into force in April 2004.

Since that time, our volunteers and cyberactivists have been patrolling supermarkets as "Gene Detectives."

Trolleywatch map of European GE productsThese activists monitor the shelves and report GE-labelled food by uploading pictures of the products to an interactive map. To date, very few products in a handful of countries (The Netherlands, UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and France) have been reported.

The wide-spread nature of the consumer and company rejection of GE products has now been sustained over many years in Europe.

This demonstrates that excluding GE ingredients is possible in practise on a large scale. Labelling polices are practical for other countries such as Japan, Brazil, and the US, where consumers have an equal right to know what their food is made from, and ought to be given the choice what to buy.

Double standards

The US food industry is resisting labelling laws in the US and Canada because it claims it is not possible and too expensive. But the very same companies making these claims have plants in the US making labelled GE products for Europe and elsewhere and the same products unlabelled for the US market. Obviously it's not a case of impossible or expensive, more a case of not wanting to. Imagine those companies having to give US and Canadian consumers a choice about GE food!

But the US government is on the side of the US food industry and has taken a lawsuit to the World Trade Organisation, accusing EU legislation of setting up unfair trade barriers to GE products. This study provides further evidence that the lost exports have in fact been caused by consumer and food industry rejection in Europe, not EU policies.

The fact is: people don't want to buy it. Stores don't want to sell it. And the GE multinationals can't make us eat it.

Take Action

Live in the EU? Look for GE products in your supermarket, and report them at Trolleywatch.

Or send this e-card to your friends demanding that the Bush Administration stop trying to use the WTO to force feed GE products on the world.

Then help support the fight against GE worldwide; donate to Greenpeace.