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LONDON -- The chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, and Asda, as well as the British Retail Consortium director general, met Wednesday with Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to discuss their reservations about consumer faith in the safety of GM food.
A spokeswoman at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the meeting was arranged so that Beckett could hear their views on GM products, which will feed into the other research going on over the summer.
Richard Ali, director of food policy at the British Retail Consortium, said: "Our position remains unchanged. We are neutral on GM technology. But we provide what customers demand, and they do not want GM food."
Ali said a shift would probably come only if it was proved that GM products had tangible benefits for consumers -- for example, extra vitamin content.
The communications director for Safeway, Kevin Hawkins, said: "I think it's very difficult to see what will move public opinion. We have certainly seen no change in what people think about GM."
A Mori poll published this month seemed to show the firm opposition to GM food, The Guardian reports. Only one in seven of those surveyed were in favor of GM food, with 46 percent opposed. However, the poll did indicate a large rise in the number undecided -- 33 percent compared with 16 percent five years ago.
An important feature of the poll, according to the poll, was that opposition is largely irrespective of age and income. However, women are more opposed than men -- 51 percent against 40 percent -- and opposition is greatest in rural areas.