Food Inc GM foods National Farmers’ Union
By Sean Poulter
Farmers are pressing supermarkets to give them permission to feed the nation’s millions of egg laying hens a ‘Frankenstein Food’ GM diet.
Currently most supermarkets ban their suppliers from giving hens a genetically modified soya or corn.
However, industry organisations, including the National Farmers’ Union, the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) and the British Poultry Council (BPC) are trying to change this.
Farmers are asking to be allowed to feed millions of egg-laying hens with genetically modified feed
They say non-GM feed is too expensive and have written directly to the supermarkets and the British Retail Consortium(BRC) asking them to lift the ban.
Supporters of biotech farming insist the eggs produced from hens fed on GM are identical to those given a natural diet, but this is disputed.
Eggs laid by hens raised in this way would not have to be labelled, so leaving shoppers completely in the dark about the food's origins.
Critics say any such move would be completely at odds with the wishes of consumers, who have concerns about the impact of biotech farming on the countryside and human health.
A recent Food Standards Agency study also found that consumers want clear labelling of products produced from animals raised on GM.
The farming organisations say the bans on GM feed adopted by most retailers is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. They say it is a problem to find non-GM feed, while it tends to be more expensive.
Asda and Morrisons have already bowed to farmer pressure and dropped their insistence on non GM feed for hens, however other retailers have yet to follow.
Critics say consumers have concerns about biotech farming on the countryside and human health
Roger Gent, chairman of the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association (BFREPA), said non-GM soya costs around £100 per tonne more than the GM equivalent, which is putting up industry costs
and pointed out there is no such retailer ban on giving GM feed to cattle and pigs.
‘This is not a requirement that is placed on other livestock sectors; it is only the poultry sector that is required to use Non GM,’ he complained.
‘The premium that we are having to pay for non GM soya has grown from £40 per tonne to £100 per tonne.
‘Brazilian soya growers are moving to GM soya and there will soon about 10per cent non GM – insufficient to meet all UK supermarkets’ demand for us to use Non GM feed.
‘They really do need to drop this requirement now.’
Opponents of attempts to allow yet more GM feed on to the nation’s farms include the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GMWatch and Gene Watch.
They have written to the BRC warning any change in policy would be a ‘serious mistake’.
They said: ‘We believe, particularly in the wake of the scandal about unlabelled and unlisted ingredients in beef burgers, that this would be a very serious mistake, further undermining public trust in animal products sold by British supermarkets.’
The group said it was simply inaccurate to claim there is any shortage of non-GM feed. The proportion of non-GM soya being imported into the EU is now increasing, and is currently around seven million tonnes a year.
This is apparently in response to moves by Carrefour in France, and other retailers, particularly in countries like Germany and Austria, to move to non-GM animal feed, and to label meat, dairy products, farmed fish and eggs as coming from animals fed on non-GM feed.