UK SUPERMARKETS are coming under pressure to refuse to stock products made from plant or animal varieties produced using gene editing.

In a joint letter from a variety of bodies and individuals, including the Soil Association and the Landworkers’ Alliance, supermarket bosses have been told that 'millions of supporters' throughout the UK would actively object to gene-edited products, while the majority of UK citizens remained 'unconvinced' about the benefits of genetically engineered foods.

Since unlabelled genetically modified materials are unlawful in the EU, the letter also stressed that any deregulation of food related biotech would compound the post-Brexit headaches retailers are already experiencing.

The letter, organised by Beyond GM and Slow Food in the UK, comes in the midst of a 10-week public consultation on UK government plans to remove controls on gene editing, in the hope that it will increase yields, reduce pesticide use and help fight climate change.

But the campaigners claimed that in more than 20 years’ experience of genetically engineered crops, the technology had failed to address any of these issues and in some cases, such as pesticide use, had made things worse.

Letter organiser Pat Thomas said: “The spectre of genetically engineered crops and animals raises inevitable concerns. Not just for human health and the environment but around ethics, societal values, consumer choice, the practicalities of business in post-Brexit Britain and transparency throughout the food chain.

"In its haste to deregulate, government is ignoring these complexities. Now more than ever it’s important that influential businesses such as supermarkets demonstrate foresight, leadership and loyalty to their customers by supporting robust regulation.”

Slow Food chairman Shane Holland added: “The majority of consumers are clear that they don’t want genetically engineered plants and animals on the supermarket shelves. We are asking stores to respect those wishes and instead concentrate on high quality, high welfare food for which our nation can be proud."