CO-OP chief executive Jo Whitfield has clarified the supermarket chain's position on gene editing – and stressed that it has not signed up as a supporter of the #NotInMySupermarket campaign.

Ms Whitfield said that the anti-biotech campaign had issued a statement giving the 'false impression' that the Co-op had joined it in opposing deregulation of gene editing techniques in the breeding of crops and livestock.

"Here at the Co-op, we have not adopted a new position on gene editing, nor are we seeking to pre-empt the outcome of the ongoing Government consultation on the regulation of genetic technologies," stated Ms Whitfield.

"Co-op’s current policy prohibits the use of genetically modified crops, ingredients or additives in Co-op brand products, and has done since 1999, but in considering our approach we are absolutely committed to scientific and evidence-based policy making. Given that genetic modification is one of several technologies and innovations that may help to address the challenges facing our global food system, our view is that there is certainly merit in exploring the benefits of gene editing technology, and particularly the role it could play in improving the sustainable production of food.

"For this reason, we’re not opposed to the technology itself and continually review our position to make sure it reflects emerging evidence, as well as the beliefs and values of our members and customers," she said. "As with any new technological advancement, we believe it is important consumers are assured about any food safety, environmental and economic impacts, which in turn requires independent scrutiny and clear regulation on its use from Government."