Bosses at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Safeway will meet DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett on Wednesday to discuss whether shoppers are ready for GM foods to go back on the shelves.

The move comes as the government prepares to make a decision on the commercial planting of GM crops in the UK.

Chief executives at the four chains have been invited to “talk about how we see the prospects for GM foods” confirmed a source at one of the top four. “DEFRA has been trying to organise this for weeks, but as it wanted to go to chief executive level, it’s taken a long time to organise. The thrust of this is sounding us out on what customers feel about GM and whether attitudes have changed. But there is no fixed agenda.”

Although hysteria about ‘Frankenstein’ foods had waned in the last couple of years, there was no real public enthusiasm for the technology, he claimed. “We’ve all been making a virtue of not selling it. We’re not going in there with any fixed ideas, but our perception at the moment is that attitudes to GM haven’t really changed much once you scratch the surface.”

See this week’s issue of The Grocer for full details.