Photo by Ysanne Spevack / Words by Sean Poulter
Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op yesterday ended bans on giving ‘Frankenstein Feed’ to farm animals producing meat, milk and eggs.
The three retailers were the last of the big food chains to be holding out against the use of controversial GM crops on their farms.
The change means that the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs sold by Britain’s supermarkets will come from animals raised on a GM diet. Alarmingly, none of these products will be labelled as coming from GM-fed animals in what critics call a disaster for consumer choice.
GM crop farming has been shown to harm bees, butterflies and other insects in UK trials and on farms across the US, where many have become blighted with superweeds.
In 2011, a team of doctors in Canada found that toxins implanted into GM food crops to kill pests were reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.
Tesco is ending its ban on the use of GM soya for chickens producing meat and eggs. Along with most other retailers, Tesco already allows GM feed to be given to other farm animals.
The stores claim the reason for the U-turn is not a sudden conversion to GM, but rather they and farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to find supplies that are non-GM.
Biotech firms such as Monsanto have ensured that 80 per cent of the soya grown in the US and Brazil is genetically modified.
For shoppers who refuse to buy meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM, the stores will offer organic alternatives.
Sainsbury’s has also promised that food for its premium Taste the Difference range will continue to come from animals not fed on GM.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: ‘It has become increasingly difficult to source guaranteed non-GM feed in the short term. So from this Monday the fresh chicken sold in our By Sainsbury’s and Basics ranges will be from birds that have been given feed which we cannot guarantee to be GM-free.’
This same policy will come into effect for chickens producing eggs for the chain from May. M&S is dropping a total ban on the use of GM soya and corn to feed chickens for meat and eggs, cows producing milk and beef, and pigs.
It said: ‘This change is absolutely necessary because there is now a much reduced supply of non-GM feed available to UK farmers.’
Waitrose is now the only large retailer to have a total ban on GM feed for chickens producing meat and eggs
The Co-op said: ‘We have looked for alternative ways to source non-GM feed, but the limited supplies of guaranteed non-GM feed available, and the potential increased costs to farmers and customers means this is not feasible.’
But Peter Melchett from the Soil Association said: ‘The idea that there is a shortage of non-GM animal feed is a myth peddled by companies selling GM feed.
‘The fact is that 20 to 25 per cent of Brazilian soybean production is free from genetic modification for the 2012-2013 crop – more than enough to supply the whole of the demand from Europe.
‘China and India soybean production is 100 per cent non-GM.’
Pete Riley from the group GM Freeze, said the retailers, ‘could have retained their non-GM policies by increasing prices paid to farmers, however farmers and consumers appear to come a very poor second to profits and share dividends’.
Waitrose is now the only large retailer to have a total ban on GM feed for chickens producing meat and eggs. It allows it for most other livestock.
Martin Humphrey of the Organic Trade Board says: “This is an issue that has been brewing for years, but in the light of ‘horsegate’ simply can’t be ignored. It’s going to be increasingly difficult to segregate GM and non-GM food and retailers are taking a pro-active approach.”
First published 12 April 2013, in the Daily Mail, UK
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