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Firm's own canteen bans GM products - Monsanto

The Guardian (London) 22dec99

London: It must be the final insult. Having led the way in promoting genetically modified (GM) food, the food technology giant Monsanto has suffered the indignity of having GM products banned in its own staff canteen by the caterers, who say the move is "in response to concern raised by our customers".

Friends of the Earth gleefully welcomed the "vote of no confidence" in the new technology, while Monsanto, already reeling from worldwide financial fears for its GM future, complained that the decision removed choice for its employees.

The canteen at Monsanto's main UK offices, in Buckinghamshire, is run by an outside contractor. Its parent company, Granada Food Services, said in a statement it was working "to remove, as far as is practicable, GM soya and maize from all food products served in our restaurant".

It would continue to sell products such as confectionery that were packaged and labelled by manufacturers as having GM ingredients, "where it is appropriate".

Friends of the Earth said: "The public has made its concerns about GM ingredients very clear. Now it appears that even Monsanto's own catering firm has no confidence in this new technology."

Genetically modified food banned in Monsanto staff cafeteria

AP 21dec99

LONDON - Genetically modified food has been banned from the staff cafeteria at Monsanto Co.'s UK headquarters by the company's own caterer, GM food giant Monsanto confirmed Tuesday.

Granada Food Services, whose customers include Monsanto's High Wycombe office near London, recently told clients it would not supply food containing GM soya and GM maize due to customer concerns.

In a statement to clients, Granada said the move was designed "to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve."

Genetic engineering involves splicing a single gene from one organism to another. GM products, including Monsanto's genetically engineered corn, have recently met with safety concerns in parts of Europe and Asia.

In October, the European Union adopted new marketing rules requiring companies to label food as genetically modified if more than one percent of the product contains GM organisms. Granada's statement said the ban also brings the company into compliance with the new regulations.

Monsanto played down the staff cafeteria policy, and denied it was an embarrassment to have a GM food ban at the head office of a company manufacturing GM crop seeds.

"We believe in choice. At our Cambridge restaurant the notice says some products may contain genetically modified organisms because our staff are happy to eat foods sprayed with fewer chemicals," said Tony Combes, Monsanto's director of corporate affairs.

Combes also pointed out that Granada's GM policy was a blanket ban covering all of its customers and did not target Monsanto specifically.

"It has nothing to do with us really," said Combes. Opponents of GM food said they believe the ban showed a lack of confidence in Monsanto, however.

"The public has made its concerns about GM ingredients very clear. Now it appears that even Monsanto's own catering firm has no confidence in this new technology," said Adrian Bebb, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

GM food ban at Monsanto staff restaurant

21dec99 Reuters

Genetically modified food has been banned from the staff restaurant at a British office of U.S. life sciences company Monsanto Co (NYSE:MTC - news), newspapers reported on Wednesday. Monsanto is at the forefront of GM crop trials in Britain, where public opposition has prompted supermarkets to remove products with GM ingredients from their shelves.

Newspapers said contract catering firm Granada Food Services, which runs the restaurant at Monsanto's office in High Wycombe in southeast England, had decided to ban GM modified ingredients from all its outlets.

``In response to concern raised by our customers over the use of GM foods and to comply with government legislation, we have taken the decision to remove, as far as practicable, GM soya and maize from all food products served in our restaurant,'' Granada's quality systems director Mike Batchelor was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

Monsanto's director of corporate affairs Tony Combes denied the move was an embarrassment for the company, the newspaper said. 

Neither company was immediately available for comment on the reports. In November, Britain extended for a further three years its ban on the commercial growing of GM crops.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher said he had agreed with SCIMAC -- a body representing the farm and biotechnology sectors -- that strictly controlled farm-scale trials would last until the harvesting of crops planted in 2002.

The trials aim to assess potential damage to normal crops through cross-pollination with GM produce but green activists have been up in arms over the issue.

The Labour government has taken a battering on GM food over the last year with Prime Minister Tony Blair apparently in favour of remaining at the cutting edge of the biotechnology industry at all costs while Meacher and others have been more cautious.

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