Leading Article: Power of the pocket

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IT WAS only a small down-page news item. It may even have slipped your attention entirely. And yet it was a major victory for the power of ordinary people against the great multinational juggernauts of profit and power. On Thursday one of America's biggest soya producers told US farmers for the first time to begin segregating genetically modified strains from conventional soya - a move that they had previously insisted was technologically too difficult. The day before, Britain's biggest chicken producer had announced that it was to stop lacing its animal feed with antibiotics to make its birds grow faster.

The common factor? Both said they were responding to consumer pressure. Customers, it seemed, felt so strongly about the need to choose that they were prepared to go without rather than just accept what bullying companies sought to impose on people and governments alike - to the extent that Deutsche Bank recently produced a report advising institutional investors that GM companies were not a safe place in which to invest. Now we hear that some Monsanto directors are telling their colleagues that the company should pull out of the UK because of the level of public concern over its GM schemes. Such multinational firms may be so powerful that they can afford to ignore governments and democratic sentiment alike. But the pound in our pockets is an economic vote. When we use that en masse it seems even the multinationals have to listen.

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