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California grocery chain Trader Joe's has agreed to ban genetically modified ingredients from its thousands of private-label products in response to consumer pressure, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
The store had also been under pressure from activist group Greenpeace to drop GMOs for about a year. Greenpeace had held several demonstrations at the chain's stores. "What we hear from our customers is they would prefer to have [their food] made without genetically engineered ingredients," company spokeswoman Pat St. John told the Times.
Trader Joe's said it had been considering dropping GMOs for some time, especially after last year's StarLink corn controversy, when an unapproved genetically engineered corn was found in the food supply. St. John told the Times that the company wanted to be sure there were adequate guidelines, tests and supplies in place before it made an announcement.
Trader Joe's private-label products make up about 70% of its selections on any given day, and the conversion to non-GMO ingredients could take up to a year, the paper reported.
Greenpeace activists say they hope this will set a precedent for other food retailers. "With Trader Joe's getting rid of gene-altered ingredients, grocery chains in the U.S. can no longer say, 'We can't do it in this country,'" said Heather Whitehead, a Greenpeace campaigner.
Trader Joe's executives said that because many of their products are organic or come from Europe, the transition will be easier than for some other companies.
Natural foods chains Whole Foods Market Inc. of Austin, Texas, and Wild Oats Markets of Boulder, Colo., dropped GMOs from their house-brand products two years ago.