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Public unaware food is produced using GM materials

by 5m Editor
19 November 2007, at 11:56am

UK - Nearly all the milk, dairy products and pork in UK supermarkets are being produced from animals fed on GM crops, and none of this is labelled, according to a Soil Association investigation.

It says that tests of animal feed and a survey of company policies have revealed that all the supermarkets are widely allowing the use of GM feed. The report found that around 60 per cent of the maize and 30 per cent of the soya fed to dairy cattle and pigs is GM. Most consumers are unwittingly eating food produced from GM crops everyday.

Supermarkets have been trumpeting their non-GM food policies, having removed all of their own-label foods made directly with GM ingredients by October 2002 in response to consumer concerns. However, unknown to most of the public supermarkets did not prohibit the use of GM animal feed. Because of a legal loophole, there is no requirement to label food produced from GM-fed animals so shoppers will find it hard to avoid food produced from GM.

Only one guarantee
Currently, the only food standard that guarantees the non-use of GM feed is organic. The basic food industry mark, the ‘Little Red Tractor’, allows the use of GM feed. Even ethical labels like ‘Freedom foods’ allow animals to be fed GM crops. For non-organic food, Marks & Spencer offers the only refuge in offering all its milk and fresh meat from non-GM feed, but it does allow GM feed for its frozen and processed foods. All meat and dairy foods can and should be produced from non-GM feed. Unlike the dairy and pig sectors, the poultry sector has widely adopted non-GM feed policies, though around a third of eggs are from GM-fed hens.

This GM stealth invasion of the UK food-chain is denying consumers their right to make fully informed choices. For years, the Food Standards Agency has been assuring consumers they would not be exposed to GM material by eating meat and dairy products from GM-fed animals. Scientific studies have now found small amounts of GM DNA in milk and animal tissues from GM-fed livestock. And studies on GM-fed livestock are finding horrendous effects, including lesions on the gut, toxic effects in body organs, unexplained deaths and stunted growth in their offspring. This raises concerns about the long-term health impacts on humans consuming products from GM-fed animals.

Consumers are deceived

Patrick Holden, Soil Association director said that this is deception on a large-scale.

"This is not just accidental contamination, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM grain are being used to produce our food each year. Biotechnology companies have clearly used imported animal feed as a Trojan Horse to introduce GM into the UK food chain, despite the fact that the British public have voted overwhelmingly against GM.

"The research on the presence of GM DNA in food from GM-fed animals and the impacts on animals is alarming. We urge the public to only buy meat and dairy that are known to be produced from non-GM fed animals, and to write to the supermarkets and ask them to stop allowing the use of GM feed. While it is excellent that Marks & Spencer and the poultry industry have restricted GM feed already, all retailers and food sectors should follow their lead. We also call on the supermarkets to label these products so they are being honest with their customers."

A key concern is that future supplies of non-GM feed will be threatened unless there is wide-spread consumer awareness on this issue and pressure on the food industry to ensure that meat and dairy products come from livestock raised on non-GM feed.

Retailers must pay
In the past, supermarkets have resisted direct demands for the use of non-GM feed, citing inadequate supplies of non-GM soya or excessive costs for farmers. The Soil Association has established that supplies are abundant and can expand to fit demand. The retail cost is minimal and should be paid for by the retailers, not farmers. The example of the poultry sector shows it can be done.

Although food from GM-fed animals does not have to be labelled, animal feed does have to be labelled if it contains GM ingredients. Most feed (75 per cent) is now labelled as ‘GM’, however, our survey found that most farmers (5 per cent) did not know if their feed was GM. Soil Association tests also revealed a high level of breaches of the EU labelling laws - nearly 20 per cent of feed contained GM soya above the 0.9% labelling threshold but bore no GM label. The FSA are responsible for enforcing the legislation but are not conducting any tests to do so.

5m Editor