They say 1999 online news sources were wrong

We recently ran a story (GM: Mixed messages from Woolworths) about GMO foods and a Woolworths statement that promised to half the products containing GM ingredients by next year. In our research we relied on a 1999 article produced by Independent journalists that was headed; “Woolies to ban genetically modified food”.

We accused the food and clothing retailer of ambivalence. But they have written saying the story published 15 years ago was incorrect. Here follows the full text of the response from Neeran Naidoo, Corporate Communications Manager Woolworths Marketing, this week:

The article titled “Mixed messages from Woolworths” recently appeared on your website. The article is based on a story that first appeared on the IOL [Independent Online] website 15 years ago, in December 1999. The headline of the story claimed “Woolies to ban genetically modified food” and goes on to paraphrase Jonathan Herbert a senior executive at the time saying that Woolworths would remove all GM foods from its shelves by June 2000.

The headline of the IOL story is misleading, as Woolworths did not “ban” GM foods at the time. Neither did we say that we would remove all GM foods by 2000. Woolworths position has always been to avoid or label food products with GM ingredients so customers can make informed choices about the food they consumed.

Regrettably, Woolworths did not have a media relations office at the time and we are not aware of Woolworths raising its concerns about the misleading headline and inaccuracy in the story.

The current story in The Journalist claiming “Mixed messages from Woolworths” is therefore based on an incorrect premise. I would appreciate it if you can correct the story. We have not reneged on our promise. Currently only 5.3 % of our food contains GMOs and we have committed to reducing the number of products containing GM ingredients by 50% by June 2015.

We apologise unreservedly to Woolworths for any inconvenience our repetition of and reliance on the 1999 Independent story has caused.