Soil Association hits back at multiples’ GM feed relaxation

Relaxing GM feed rules for supermarket poultry producers has led an environmental campaign group to raise concerns.

Policy director at the Soil Association Peter Melchett explained in a statement that Tesco and The Co-operative were “misleading” consumers by stating that GM feed would not be detectable in products fed with it. “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,” Melchett said.

Occasional GM detection in meat

Melchett said Food Standards Agency (FSA) information confirmed this. An FSA statement given to MeatInfo.co.uk did say that such detection could be possible and the organisation said: “GM plant materials may occasionally be detected in animal tissues, in the same way that DNA fragments derived from non-GM plant materials can be detected in these same tissues.”

However, the FSA also explained that, as with GM food, all GM animal feed undergoes “rigorous” safety assessments before it can be fed to animals. “GM foods and feed that have been authorised in the EU are as safe as their non-GM counterparts,” it said.

Misleading consumers

Concern from the Soil Association was raised shortly after the big multiples announced they would no longer stipulate their poultry producers should use GM-free feed. Tesco, The Co-operative and Marks & Spencer all announced they would drop the stipulation last week.

According to the supermarkets, availability of GM-free feed was reduced, but Melchett said the supermarkets were “misleading their customers by claiming that non-GM feed isn’t available”. He added: “They are wrong. In Brazil alone, there is enough non-GM animal feed to supply the whole of Europe. The quantity of non-GM imported feed into Europe is going up year-on-year, because supermarkets in countries like France and Germany are avoiding GM feed as their customers don’t want it.“

Struggling to secure supplies

Meanwhile, chief poultry adviser at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Kelly Watson said the NFU welcomed the announcement made by Tesco. She said: “The poultry industry has been struggling to secure supplies of non-GM soya as Brazilian farmers move to more sustainable GM alternatives, therefore it can no longer guarantee that the feed only contains non-GM soya. Tesco should be congratulated for taking this proactive approach and being open with its customers.”

She said GM crops were highly regulated in terms of health and environmental safety. Watson also explained that GM crops had been used to feed livestock destined for the retail supply chain around the world for 15 years. Thus, she denied that DNA from GM feed ended up in the final product and said: “No ill effects have been reported or robustly reflected in peer reviewed research.

“The independent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established in 2007 that recombinant DNA from GM plants used in feed does not end up in the final meat, milk or eggs. Importantly just like DNA and proteins that all animals ingest whenever they eat, it is rapidly broken down in the gut.”

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