Spain's Largest Retailer Blocks Biotech Foods

MADRID, Spain, May 11, 1999 (ENS) - Spain's largest supermarket chain, Pryca, announced Monday that it is phasing out the use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in own-brand food products sold in its 58 stores.

Genetically modified foodstuffs include some varieties of soy beans, canola oil, corn, cottonseed oil, potatoes, squash and tomatoes.

Describing the decision as "a response to public fears," a Pryca spokesperson said that the company had instructed suppliers to stop using GM ingredients in products which carry the company trademark by the end of this year.

Carrefour, the supermarket giant which owns the largest shareholding in Pryca, has already introduced a similar measure in its French stores.

Pryca's decision was described by the Spanish Consumers' Union as "a marketing exercise" and "ineffective because GM ingredients are so widespread and difficult to identify."

oil

Laurate canola is a proprietary product marketed by Calgene Oils under the brand name LAURICAL®. Approved in the U.S. and Canada, it is used in confectionery coatings, coffee whiteners, icings and whipped toppings as well as in soaps. (Photo courtesy Calgene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Monsanto)
However, Diego Herranz of the environmental group Ecologists in Action welcomed the move and said his organisation expected the decision to cause "a chain reaction against GM ingredients." The group has been pressing for a similar undertaking from other major Spanish food retailers.

Marks and Spencer España and Nestlé España said that their companies' policy was neither to sell nor produce foods containing genetically-modified ingredients.

Spain is the biggest importer of GM soya and the European Union's only significant producer of GM maize.

Some 19,000 hectares of GM maize (corn) were planted last year, according to government figures. The upper house of the Spanish parliament today begins debating a new law on the production and sale of foods which will include the issue of genetically modified ingredients.

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