Waitrose ends use of GM animal feed on its farms

Critics hail decision as ‘beginning of the end’ for use of the crops in the UK

Sean Poulter, Daily Mail, November 2 2016

Waitrose’s meat, milk and eggs will no longer come from animals fed a genetically modified diet.

The retailer is dropping GM soya feed on its farms in a huge blow to the controversial ‘Frankenfood’ technology.

Critics of GM have hailed the decision as the ‘beginning of the end of the last large-scale use of GM crops in the UK’.

Campaigners are now demanding that other stores follow suit.

Most shoppers are in the dark about the fact that all the major supermarkets feed their farm animals a diet of GM soya and maize. Consumer research from the Food Standards Agency has found shoppers believe this information should be included on the packaging.

But successive governments and the supermarkets have refused to deliver clear, honest labelling.

Waitrose is ditching GM soya imported from South America in favour of conventional soya from Europe and other protein sources.

The company said: ‘Waitrose has become the first UK retailer to introduce responsibly sourced non-GM soya for animal feed from Europe, reducing its reliance upon South American supply.’

All the major supermarkets effectively banned using GM ingredients in their own-label foods in 1999 in response to customer concerns about the impact on the environment and human health.

They also banned giving GM feed to their farm animals. However, that changed three years ago when Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and others lifted the ban on GM animal feed, claiming it was no longer possible to find soya not genetically modified. The decision announced yesterday by Waitrose shows this is not the case.

GM advocates, such as the former Tory food and farming secretary, Owen Paterson, have seen the use of GM animal feed on farms as a way of forcing the technology into the high street and overcoming consumer suspicion.

The move by Waitrose means this tactic is now being challenged. The retailer said the non-GM soya used on its farms will now come from the Danube region. It is also using other alternatives, such as clover for sheep and cattle, and faba beans for pigs, chickens and ducks.

The first shipment of non-GM soya arrived in October and went to Waitrose’s dedicated pork supplier, Dalehead Foods.

The Soil Association, which backs organic farming, said it marks the ‘beginning of the end’ for large-scale use of GM crops in Britain. It added: ‘This is the most significant move in the UK against the use of GM crops since 1999, when British supermarkets took the 70 per cent of processed food that contained GM off their shelves.’

The association, with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and GM Freeze have opposed the hidden use of GM crops for over 15 years.

Peter Melchett, of the association, said: ‘GM soya from Latin America is linked to rainforest destruction, so sourcing non-GM soya from the Danube region, and using more UK-grown protein crops, is good for the climate, good for UK farmers, and good for consumers. We expect other retailers to follow Waitrose’s lead.’ GM Freeze’s Liz O’Neill, said: ‘When challenged, the supermarkets claim that it is too difficult to make a change but Waitrose have proved that simply isn’t true.’

Waitrose admitted it is not going completely GM-free, but it is a huge step in that direction. The company is particularly keen to stop taking GM crops from countries where huge tracts of rainforest are cleared for the cultivation.

In an investigation published by the New York Times this week, academics found GM farming in North America has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in pesticide use.

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