Beginning of the End for Genetically Engineered Foods in Britain

ORGANIC Newsline
Weekly International News from Organic Trade Services,
THE organic industry portal on the Web Vol 2 Issue 4. 1 Feb 2001

January 26

There was further evidence this week that food companies and retailers are
reacting to a consumer backlash against GM food, amid concerns over its
safety. Two major British food retailers, Asda (owned by Wal-Mart) and
Tesco have said they would provide a range of meat products from animals not
fed with genetically modified feed.

Marks & Spencer also said this week that none of the food sold in its stores
came from animals fed on GM rations. This included beef, lamb, pork, chicken
and salmon. David Gregory, head of technology at Marks & Spencer, said:
"We've worked in partnership with our farmers, feed suppliers and processors
to achieve this."

Asda commissioned a poll which revealed that of over 1,000 people surveyed,
64 percent said they would prefer to buy products from animals reared on a
non-GM diet and 66 percent said it would be unfair to ask them to pay more.
"This latest initiative will result in the introduction of a range of non-GM
fed fresh chicken, pork and eggs from this summer. Consumers are becoming
increasingly conscious of how the food they eat is produced and want, more
than ever, to buy products from animals reared on a non-GM diet," said
Asda. It added that customers would not be charged more for the produce.

Tesco spokesman John Church said that over three quarters of its customers
had expressed a preference for non-GM products. "We have written to our
suppliers and asked them to ensure that from June this year supplies of
fresh eggs, poultry, pork and fish use non-GM foods in their feed," he said.
By September, the same rules would apply to sausage meat and bacon. Church
said that Tesco was not against GM products but was responding to consumer
demand. A major problem was buyers wanting clear labelling of goods so as to
give them a clear choice between GM and non-GM, he explained.

However, Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said the move
threatened to put a major cost burden on already hard-pressed farmers and
warned that the price of meat could soar, due to the expense of GM-free
rations. The union challenged supermarkets to make legally binding
agreements with farmers that they would absorb the "substantial" extra
costs. The NFU dismissed fears over GM ingredients and said there was no
evidence to suggest any risks to consumers. All GM material was broken down
naturally when eaten by farm animals, it claimed. The NFU is conducting a
study in conjunction with Sainsbury's to establish the true costs and
sustainability of securing non-GM animal feed and also questioned how
imported meat products which may be sold by the retailers will be policed to
ensure they meet the same standards as those demanded in the UK.

26 January

The Soil Association and Greenpeace consider that the announcements on GM
food this week by three of the UK's major food retailers mark the end of the
road for genetically modified food in the UK.

Harry Hadaway, Soil Association Campaigner says,

"By banning GMOs from animal feeds, Tesco, ASDA and M & S are today not only
giving consumers real choice but are, more importantly, also protecting
consumers from the possible health dangers associated with genetically
engineering foods. The leaders of the farming industry should congratulate
supermarkets for working hard to promote confidence in British farm produce,
rather than attempt to protect the interests of the biotech food industry.
Promoting the use of GMOs by UK farmers can only harm their livelihoods in
the long-run."

Organic standards have always prohibited the use of GMOs in animal feeds or
any other part of organic food production.

Greenpeace welcomed the announcements as "the beginning of the end for GM
food in Britain" and added that Safeway are also now committed to removing
ingredients that come from animals fed on GM crops from their products. The
only major supermarket which has not yet made a commitment to Greenpeace to
phase out GM fed animal products is Somerfield.

This action, Greenpeace maintained, will almost certainly be followed by
other retailers, and will have a profound impact on the international soya
and maize markets. A widespread rejection of GM animal feed will spell
disaster for US importers, such as Cargill, who supply the bulk of the GM
soya and maize to the UK and will impact on GM plantings in the US this

Much of the trade in soya that the US has lost, as a result of their failure
to segregate GM from non-GM, has been picked up by Brazil, where commercial
GM plantings are currently illegal. The announcement will also be bad news
for chemical companies planning to sell GM seeds in Britain because it will
remove the last possible market for such crops and make the growing of GM
food (both human and animal) economically impossible.

Andy Tait, GM Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said "It is also vital that the
Government now introduces the labelling of food products from animals fed on
GM, so consumers can avoid meat and dairy from food companies who persist in
using GM feed."

The Soil Association notes that only 7 peer reviewed studies on the health
effects of GMOs have ever been done over the 18 years of development. Four
of these showed negative effects:

- Flavr Savr tomato - resulted in lesions/"gastritis in the rats. On a scale
of 1-4, it was 2-3, but was described by the company as "mild" and then
marketed as safe.

Pusztai's experiments with GM potatoes and rats. Despite a desperate and
largely successful attempt to discredit him, this experiment had actually
been peer reviewed 6 times prior to publication (ie. was probably the most
credible research on GMOs ever done). It also found stomach lesions in the
rats, suggestive of viral infection

- GM rape (with PAT gene) - twice as many chickens fed the protein died as
those fed protein from non-GM rape. But the UK Government wants to approve
- Chardon LL (rapeseed) which has the same gene, without demanding any other
safety tests.
- BST (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH) milk enhancing hormone,
derived from GMOs, and used widely on cows in the US - studies show ill
effects in cows and rats.

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