Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence



  Quite simply, genetic modification allows the improvement of crops by making precise changes with benefits for the consumer, farmer and the environment, achieving what previously took many years of selective breeding in a far shorter period of time.

This leaflet tells you:

    —  About commodity crops and how they are used.

    —  The benefits of genetic modification of these crops.

    —  The range of crops currently being developed.

    —  How their safety is ensured.

    —  When they may be used in Safeway products.

    —  How they will be identified.

    —  Where to get more information.

What are commodity crops and how are they used?

  A commodity crop is one that is grown on a large scale and shipped in bulk, often internationally, before being processed for a specific use. Each year many millions of acres of commodity crops such as soya, maize and oilseed rape are harvested, traded internationally and processed into ingredients such as syrups, flours, oils and emulsifiers for use in a wide range of foods. In the case of soya, over 60 per cent of foods contain soya-based ingredients of one type or another.

What are the benefits of genetically modified commodity crops?

  Genetic modification of crops such as soya can have benefits for both the farmer and the environment. Where previously the control of competing weeds was an ongoing problem for farmers, the newly developed varieties of genetically modified soya can be treated with a single all-purpose weed killer. This replaces the range of different chemicals previously used, killing only the weeds before breaking down quickly into harmless components.

What other genetically modified crops are currently being developed?

  In addition to soya, other genetically modified crops including maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet are being developed. These have benefits such as improved resistance to pests, disease and tolerance to all-purpose weedkillers for improved weed control. Many farmers may decide to grow these new varieties where they offer significant benefits over conventional crops they have previously planted.

Are they safe to eat?

  Yes. Before these new crops can be grown, harvested and processed for food, they must be reviewed by the relevant authorities in the UK, Europe or USA, and pass a rigorous assessment which in the UK includes scrutiny by independent experts.

When will Safeway products contain ingredients from these new crops?

  From late 1996 some processed foods that we sell may include a small proportion of ingredients derived from the 1996 harvest of genetically modified crops.

Will they be labelled?

  As the processed ingredients from crops currently being grown are no different in composition, nutrition and processing characteristics to those from the conventional crop, UK regulations state that they do not need to be specially labelled. However, Safeway recognises that some customers may still be concerned about eating foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops. Information on the composition of Safeway brand products, including a list of products free from soya, can be obtained from Safeway Customer Services at the address below.

Where can I obtain further information?

  Free leaflets which provide further information on genetically modified foods are available from the following sources:

Safeway Customer Services

Safeway Stores plc

Beddow Way


Kent ME20 7AT

Tel: 01622 712 000

The Soya Bean Information Centre

Russell Square

London WC1B 4HJ

Tel: 0345 023 288

External Relations

Food & Drink Federation

6 Catherine Street

London WC2B 5JJ

Tel: 0171 836 2460

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