The UK’s main supermarket operators have said they will not stock genetically modified foods because consumers do not want them.

Bosses of Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway and Asda were invited to give their opinions to the government as part of a nationwide debate on whether GM crops are commercially viable, reported Reuters. The eight-week long debate is due to finish this Friday.

A spokesman for market leader Tesco said the retailer would only stock GM foods if there was sufficient consumer demand.

“We removed all traces of GM ingredients from our own-brand products after consulting with our customers, and that’s unlikely to change unless they tell us different,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The government has said it will weigh up the advice of consumer groups, environmentalists, industry groups and scientists before deciding later this year whether to allow the commercial growing of GM crops.

Meanwhile, UK food watchdog The Food Standards Agency has said that consumers need to know more about biotechnology to enable them to have informed views on GM foods.

“Consumers do not have entrenched views on GM food, but there is a suspicion of GM, and there is lack of readily understood information,” the FSA said a report to agriculture minister Margaret Beckett.

The FSA concluded from its study into consumer views on GM foods that UK consumers were most concerned about the potential environmental impact of GM crops rather than the safety of GM food.

Consumers also had mixed views on the possible benefits of GM foods, according to the FSA. “Although some people considered that GM could bring benefits in terms of nutrition, quality and price, others questioned whether GM food was necessary given the choice of food currently available,” the report was quoted by Reuters as saying.