Supermarkets are misleading customers over genetically modified food, the Soil Association claimed yesterday.
The Association’s Director, Peter Melchett, launched a scathing attack on the motives behind the decision of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and the Co-Op no longer demanding their farm animals in their supply chains are fed non-GM food.
He said the chains are wrong in claiming that the GM feed will not be detectable in products such as eggs, milk and chicken.
He said: “This is not true. Several research studies have found that GM DNA in animal feed is taken up by the animal’s organs and can then be detected in the milk, meat and fish that people eat. . This has been confirmed today by the Government’s Food Standards Agency.”
Tesco sparked a spree of chains to abandon their ban on chicken reared on GM food last week after saying it had become increasingly difficult to source feed that was 100% non-GM in the short term.
They decided to “change its stance” on GM due to the inadequate supply of GM-free soya, which is the main source of protein to feed livestock. They said farmers have increasingly grown modified soya due to modified crops being more resistant to certain pests and diseases. 80% of the world’s soya is now modified.
Tesco’s announcement led to Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and the more upmarket Marks & Spencer to follow suit. Only Waitrose is standing by its promise.
Waitrose does not permit the use of GM crops, or ingredients or additives from GM crops, in its own brand food and insists its suppliers of non organic poultry and eggs use conventional (rather than GM) cereals and soya to feed their chickens.
Each of the U-turning supermarkets blame a shortage of non-GM soya – a key ingredient in feeding chickens.
But polling data for The Grocer shows public opinion is against the supermarkets’ move to scrap their commitment and a staggering 70% of consumers do not trust supermarkets when it comes to GM. A recent Food Standards Agency survey found 67% of consumers wanted meat, eggs and dairy labelled if they come from animals fed on a GM feed.
Mr Melchett added: “Consumers should have the right to know if they are eating products from animals fed on a GM diet.
“Currently, British people don’t have that choice. Supermarkets are choosing to hide the presence of GM animal feed and GM DNA in milk and meat by deliberately not labelling products from animals fed on a GM diet. What have UK supermarkets got to hide?”
He hit back at their reasoning that there is insufficient non-GM feed available, pointing out that in Brazil alone there is sufficient non-GM animal feed to supply the whole of Europe.
“Supermarkets in countries like France and Germany are avoiding GM feed because their customers don’t want it. That is why the quantity of non-GM imported feed into Europe is going up year on year.”
The Soil Association, which campaigns for healthy, humane and sustainable food, is urging consumers not to buy chicken or eggs from poultry on GM animal feed and instead shop at Waitrose.
“Currently in the UK, the only way to be completely sure you avoid eating chicken or eggs from chickens fed on GM animal feed is to shop at Waitrose, and to avoid all GM animal feed, buy organic wherever you can.”
They bemoaned the fact that the rest of Europe are able to make more informed choices due to supermarkets labelling their food accurately and are calling for “honest and accurate” labelling on all food from animals fed on animals fed on a GM diet.