April 16, 2013

Tesco to allow GM soy in poultry, layer feed


UK grocery retailer, Tesco, has announced that it will drop its specification for non-genetically modified (GM) soy in broiler and layers' rations, citing difficulty in sourcing chicken fed with non-GM feed.


Along with most other retailers, Tesco already allows GM feed to be given to other farm animals. The recent decision has been met with a mixed reaction.


The supermarket's group technical director, Tim Smith, explains that sourcing non-GM soy was becoming increasingly difficult, and that cross-contamination with GM was increasing.


He added that the supermarket could no longer guarantee that feed would not be contaminated with GM. Therefore, the company could not uphold its contract specification for non-GM soy.


"Over recent weeks, UK poultry and egg suppliers have been telling retailers that it is increasingly difficult for them to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM free," said Smith.


"We could not continue with a promise we cannot be sure it is possible to keep."


Smith added that the Food Standards Agency had made clear there was no risk to human health from consuming animals which are given GM feed.


Tesco joins Morrisons, which had removed its non-GM specification last year. UK supermarket chain, Asda, also allowed GM in 2011.


"GM crops are highly regulated in terms of health and environmental safety," commented the British Poultry Council.


"They have been used in the UK to feed livestock, including poultry, bound for retail supply chains around the world for the last 15 years."


"The likelihood of accidental GM presence is much greater than ever before and so it is no longer possible to guarantee that feed is entirely GM-free," added the Council.


However, organisations opposed to GM have slammed Tesco's decision.

Pete Riley, of anti-GM organization - GM Freeze, said that the concession is a disappointment to the supermarket's customers.


Beside Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and the Co-op have also lifted bans on giving feed, based on genetically modified (GM) crops,  to farm livestock.


The three retailers were the last of the major food chains to be holding out against the use of GM crops on their farms.


However, the stores will offer organic alternatives for shoppers who do not favor GM-fed products.


The change means that a vast majority of meat, milk and eggs sold by Britain's supermarkets will come from animals raised on a GM diet. Surprisingly, none of these products will be labelled as coming from GM-fed animals in what critics call a disaster for consumer choice.


Waitrose is currently the only major retailer to maintain a complete ban on GM feed for chickens. It has allowed the feed to be given to other livestock.


GM crop farming has been shown to harm bees, butterflies and other insects in UK trials and on farms across the US, where many have become blighted with super-weeds.


In 2011, a team of doctors in Canada found that toxins, implanted into GM food crops to kill pests, were reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.


Eighty percent of the soy grown in the US and Brazil is genetically modified, as a result of the influence of biotech firms, such as Monsanto.