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Label it or leave it!

Label it or leave it!

A few weeks ago, with the aim of supporting the GM-free campaign, we sent an email to 3 of the biggest British supermarkets to address our concerns both about GM-fed meat sold in their stores and the lack of labelling. All of them were pretty responsive as, the following day, we were reading their official answers. It looks as if these competitors have united facing our inquiry. Here are the 3 emails  we received from Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

Their replies more than confirmed our fears:

MORRISONS start by telling us that they “do not use genetically modified ingredients in any of [their] own brand products”, but then add that they are “unable to guarantee that GM animal feed is not used in the supply chain for meat and dairy products”. They end the first paragraph with the claim “such a promise would add to the strain on farmers”. MORRISONS are lumping all the farmers together in the same group, assuming that they all make a GM-fed choice for their livestock. What about the sustainable farmers who are committed to providing us with non-GMO fed meat?

Indeed, MORRISONS kindly “allow [their] farmers to use the feed that is right for their farm”, because the FSA said that “food from animals fed on authorised GM crops is just as safe as food from animals fed on non-GM crops”. So why would they bother labelling the meat they sell if the FSA says this? The snag is: we deserve, as a consumer, to be made aware and be able to choose between GM-fed meat and non GM-fed meat. The lack of labelling prevents us from making informed choices about the food we want to eat. At the very least, MORRISONS should know the content of their animal feed. If they can’t even manage that then they need to make it clear that their meat may have been GM-fed. They are scared about the choice the consumer will make when faced with a GM label.

SAINSBURY’S position is based upon the claim that “GM ingredients do not present any risks to human health”, they refer to “the latest scientific research”, “current Government advice”. Could it be vaguer? Which research and which advice considering that Defra’s policy on GMOs is “to ensure consumers are able to exercise choice through clear GM labelling rules and the provision of suitable information, and will listen to public views about the development and use of the technology”. Furthermore, Defra state that “EU law also requires any approved GM products to be clearly labelled, including foods derived from GM crops that do not have a detectable GM content”. Like MORISSONS they “do not permit the use of GM crops in [their] own products” but confess few lines after: “non-GM animal feed has become increasingly difficult to source”.

TESCO advise us they can “no longer guarantee that [their] own brand fresh and frozen poultry and eggs will be fed on a non-GM diet”, because “it is increasingly difficult for [the producers] to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM free”. This is a shame, they should be the first ones concerned about this issue but according to TESCO, we can’t blame them and “for two reasons”. First of all, “there simply isn’t enough non-GM feed available”; they name it a “global supply issue”. So do we! This is an issue that could be solved easily if growing GMO crops on a large scale was, as we campaign for, banned. But the most interesting reason comes second: “it is possible that non-GM soya crops contain low levels of GM soya, because of the way crops are planted, processed and transported”. So, TESCO are admitting that contamination between GM and non GM crops is possible contrary to what GM-agriculture companies claim. Thank you for the confession. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) think that “modification does not have any effect on the animal that consumes it, or the person who eats the animal”. We are not so sure; there is no perspective on the issue of DNA changes in such animals and the resulting health effects to us. We don’t know and neither do they.

TESCO reach the conclusion that a “non-GM policy on poultry feed is unsustainable”. Yes, you read rightasking for the meat we eat to be fed GM-free is unsustainable. Curious to hear their definition of sustainability! The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘ environmental sustainability’ as: “the degree to which a process or enterprise is able to be maintained or continued while avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources”So,is growing GM-crops that damage the ecosystem and biodiversity, sterilise soils and whose owners colonise developing countries through land-grabbing sustainable? No!

The spookiest and lamentable common point about these 3 supermarkets is not that they don’t believe they need to label GMO products because they are fully convinced that they are harmless. No, the truth is a much worse; they don’t label them because they don’t want to. They know that the majority of customers won’t buy a GM-labelled product. If they do label them, their sales of GM-fed products will collapse. “A global supply issue of non-GM feed?” If GM-products don’t sell, supermarkets won’t buy them, and farmers won’t be forced to grow GM crops to match supermarket demand. Only then will supermarkets truly “allow farmers to use the feed that is right for their farm”.

When we addressed an email asking them for clarification on the above points, unsurprisingly they were all unable to provide any more information.

Demand the right to know, demand the right to choose! Sign the GM-free petition!

10 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Peter Kindersley

    Independent studies show GM food is not safe to eat. Why is the precautionary principle not enacted here?

    See Nancy Swanson on glyphosate and 22 chronic diseases in the US.

    Dec 18, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

  2. Peter Kindersley

    22 chronic diseases linked to common weedicide – Organic …‎

    Dec 18, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

  3. Rosalind Kerr

    GM foods are too new to have any credible safety data available either when consumed by humans or the rest of the food chain. Therefore I want to be able to choose whether I buy products containing GM products and will not buy produce if it does not signify either way.

    Dec 28, 2014 @ 10:31 am

  4. john burns

    Interesting that german supermarkets are demanding food produced without GMO. Does anyone know Lidl’s and Aldi’s policy on GMO in production of food they sell in UK? IN fact it would be interesting to know their poicy in Germany and other EU countries.

    Jan 13, 2015 @ 9:58 am

  5. rajo taylor

    Stop growing GM crops and poising the planet and all that live here.

    Jan 13, 2015 @ 10:37 am

  6. Terry Woods

    You think you got problems, come to America where Monsanto rules. The Republicans are in now and money is all that matters. I think they said x-rays, ddt and thalidomide were safe.

    Jan 13, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  7. Yvonne O'Donovan

    please stop GM hidden in our food

    Jan 19, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  8. James Fanshawe

    These are laudable objectives and comments but has anyone at Slow Food really looked at (a) how hard it is for beef farmers to buy truly non GM feed at a reasonable cost given the shared use of shipping and that traces of GM may be left behind even if the next load is non GM and (b) are you really sure that the majority of consumers want even more labelling. Stick to grass fed beef and lamb if you are concerned (yes it does exist) but dont ask for even more regulation which will inevitably mean even more cost coming back down the supply chain to the farmer.

    Feb 13, 2015 @ 6:27 pm

  9. Jane Hamilton

    I for one will not purchase any meat or dairy products in any supermarket until they start to label there food that is fed on GMO crops. I do not or ever will take anything to do with anything GMO. I have read too many studies that says I’d does affect our guts so I’m staying well clear of this muck. Did you know that Westminster restaurants have been ordered to have organic only. Here’s the link what a cheek they won’t eat it so why should we. I have contacted every supermarket and they all sell GMO fed meat and dairy, yet there’s no shortage in other countries that sell non GMO feed for our animals.

    Feb 27, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

  10. Jane Hamilton

    I stick to my local farmer who grows his own feed for there animals because we don’t grow any Monsanto GMO crops here in Scotland yet all our supermarkets only sell GMO fed meat and dairy produce. That’s why I will never purchase from any supermarket.

    Feb 27, 2018 @ 5:34 pm



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