The Soil Association has accused some supermarkets of ‘misleading’ their customers over the decision to relax their stance on GM animal feed.
Marks and Spencers, Sainsbury’s, Co-Op and Tesco revealed earlier this week that they will no longer require that the farm animals in their supply chains are fed a non-GM (Genetically Modified) diet – claiming a shortage of non-GM feed is to blame. Asda and Morrisons have already relaxed their stance on this and have not required farm animals be fed a non-GM diet for the last few years. Waitrose is now the only major supermarket sticking by its strict no GM animal feed policy for its products.
A spokesman for Marks & Spencers said: “Alongside many other retailers, we have written to our suppliers to tell them that we will no longer stipulate the use of non-GM feed in our fresh meat supply chain. This change in policy is absolutely necessary because there is now a much reduced supply of non-GM feed available to UK farmers”, adding: “Our organic fresh meat ranges will still be available to customers who want to consider an alternative option.”
Sainsbury’s echoed this, with their spokesman saying: “Following the recent industry-wide availability issues of non-GM animal feed it has become increasingly difficult to source non-GM feed in the short term,” but it added that it would continue to stock a small range of organic meat goods guaranteed to have been fed a non-GM diet. The Co-Op also highlighted a supposed shortage of non-GM animal feed and also emphasised its organic products would continue to offer a non-GM choice to customers.
A spokesman for Tesco played down the move, saying: “The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is clear that DNA from modified soya is not present in the meat of animals fed on it, nor in animal products such as eggs or milk. Genetic modification affects only the crop used in the feed. And the FSA is also clear that there is absolutely no risk to health from eating meat from animals that have been fed GM feed.”
But Peter Melchett, Policy Director of the Bristol-based Soil Association said: “Tesco and the Co-Op are misleading their customers by claiming that the GM feed will not be detectable in products like eggs, milk or chicken. 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 by the FSA. He added: “M&S, Co-Op and Tesco are also misleading their customers by claiming that non-GM feed isn’t available. They are wrong. In Brazil alone, there is enough non-GM animal feed to supply the whole of Europe.”
In light of the recent move, the Soil Association is now calling for honest and accurate labelling on all food from animals fed on GM feed in the UK, as is the case in many other European countries. But the Co-Op spokesman points out: “There is no requirement under European legislation to label meat and dairy from animals fed on a diet containing GM material.”