Faced with pressure from consumers to avoid genetically modified ingredients, UK food retailers and manufacturers have brought out a detailed standard for the supply of non-GM products. Likely to be incorporated into many of the big retailers' supply contracts, the standard is designed to be adopted industry wide.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents most of Britain's food retailers, and the Food and Drink Federation, representing food processors, worked jointly to produce the standard.

"Retailers have to listen to their customers," BRC director general Bill Moyes told a meeting to launch the standard. "If they don't they go out of business." The message from British customers was very clearly that they didn't want to be forced to buy GM.

The standard looks at identity preserved soya and maize at all stages of the production chain. "It is a single standard covering the whole chain from the seed through the farm to the consumer. It's better than "farm to fork," said BRC executive John Morris. "It goes even further than that."

Claims that products are "non-GM" can be backed up using the new standard. So far, the idea of "GM-free," has been avoided. It fits in with EU legislation allowing up to 1% "adventitious contamination," with GM material, where a processor can show that they've taken care to avoid it. Following this standard would be designed to give them evidence that they have taken care.

It covers risk analysis and runs through the stages of a basic supply chain, identifying the main aspects of how an effective identity preserved system would work. It also goes through the documentation needed to support that system and provide evidence that it exists.

This standard is designed to draw together many systems already in place, and provide a basis for auditing IP systems. "It should avoid some duplication of auditing," said Michael Hunt of the FDF.

Food processors won't always have to apply the standard strictly, he said. "If I'm sourcing from an area where it's illegal to grow GM and there's a good record of that law being followed, I won't necessarily have to follow all the steps," he said. "That's what I mean by risk analysis."

The standard can be adapted to fit other GM foods as they become available. It is not designed to cover animal feed, which comes under standards issued by the United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association.

Copies of the standard are available from the Stationery Office www.theso.co.ukBy Chris Lyddon, just-food.com correspondent

just-food.com recently published an indepth feature on this new standard. To read it, click here.

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