Boots admits using genetically modified plants

BRITAIN'S largest high street chemist, Boots, has admitted that genetically modified products may be used in some of its own-brand medicines. It has also warned that more products in the future could contain genetically modified components.

Many medicinal products contain ingredients such as thickening agents which are derived from cotton, maize or wheat - plants chosen for genetic modification by big food and chemical companies.

Boots has said it would be "concerned" if it was unable to identify at source whether genetically modified (GM) maize or wheat was being used. It warned that if European suppliers mix up GM and non-GM crops, as happens in the US, then it will become impossible to know whether or not GM elements are present in its products.

Boots admits that may already apply to its own brand of liquid medicines, which use as a thickening agent an acid derived from cellulose, itself derived from cotton made in the US. "Cotton, like maize, can be sourced from the US and as such there is the possibility that a small quantity of a GM crop may sometimes be included," a spokeswoman said.

The announcement comes amid rising public concern at the widespread use of GM wheat, soya and maize in food products before they have been approved for commercial growth in the UK. English Nature, the Government's advisory body on environmental matters, has called for a moratorium on the growth of such crops while trials take place to monitor their effect on the food chain.

Boots' admission has been greeted with dismay by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, which is calling for a three-year moratorium on GM food sales until the Government conducts research into the risks. "We would be disappointed in Boots because it is doing it either in ignorance of public concerns or with total contempt," said Adrian Bebb, FoE food campaigner.

Boots, however, said it was sensitive to public worries over GM food. "We're concerned but we probably won't change the formulas for our products next year," said a spokeswoman. "In five years' time nobody is going to be able to give a guarantee over whether the product is GM or not because the US is taking over the market."

Monsanto, the US biotechnology giant, has been marketing GM products worldwide. A secret report for Monsanto, leaked to Greenpeace last month, quoted senior executives from Waitrose, Tesco and Safeway expressing anger at the high-handed way in which, they say, Monsanto brought GM food into Europe by mixing bioengineered soya products with normal ones.

Other concerns centre on starch, which is used for some Boots medical products. Starch is made from maize, which can be genetically modified, along with wheat and soya, to make it resistant to herbicides. Boots said it was certain its brand of paracetamol tablets did not contain GM starch. Boots is testing its food products for GM components and is working closely with suppliers to trace the origin of every ingredient.

Under European Union legislation, the majority of products containing GM ingredients will not be labelled since only those goods that have genetically- altered DNA in their end-product have to be labelled. The exemptions include any food that contains soya oil or soya derivatives such as lecithin. Starch, since it is an additive, does not need to be labelled if it has been genetically modified.

According to FoE, more than 15 per cent of all soya imported from the US is genetically modified and more than 60 per cent of processed foods contain soya. It also believes that up to 95 per cent of all foods that have used GM products in their preparation escape any need for labelling.

Concern has been mounting over the health risks of GM foods. Although GM soya and maize have been approved for safety in the US and Canada, FoE said there had been little independent testing of the implications of eating such foods. "We're concerned that if you cut and splice DNA there's a chance of something going wrong," said Mr Bebb.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine