May 27, 2017

Consumers in the dark as UK supermarkets keep quiet about GM in the food chain

GM Freeze launches a new campaign 'Feed me the Truth' which focuses on the fact that consumers are being kept in the dark about GM feed, which does not have to be declared on the label of the meat, eggs and dairy products made from the farm animals that eat it. PHOTO MATT WRITTLE © copyright Matt Writtle 2016.
© copyright Matt Writtle 2016

A damning new assessment of the UK’s top ten supermarkets demonstrated today just how far GM crops have crept unnoticed into the UK food chain.

Launching the Feed me the Truth campaign [1], umbrella group GM Freeze ranked supermarkets against a five-star standard on their policy commitment to supporting and developing non-GM supply lines; on the information they provide to consumers; and on the availability of non GM-fed products in their stores.  A shocking nine out of ten performed so poorly they received a zero rating with no non GM-fed products available outside their organic ranges and no plans to do better. Only Waitrose bucked the trend, scoring two of a possible five stars.

In February this year David Hughes, Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London, shocked a farming conference by declaring that “We find it convenient not to make a big noise about [GM animal feed]”[2]. A new YouGov poll [3] shows just how successful that strategy of keeping consumers in the dark has been. Supermarkets across the UK imposed well-publicised bans on GM feed in the production of own-brand products until 2013. Now that has all changed but only a fifth of adults in Great Britain (21 per cent) are aware that no UK supermarket currently has such a ban in place. Almost a third (31 per cent) believe that at least one supermarket has a ban and a whopping 48 per cent of respondents simply “don’t know”[3].

GM Freeze launches a new campaign 'Feed me the Truth' which focuses on the fact that consumers are being kept in the dark about GM feed, which does not have to be declared on the label of the meat, eggs and dairy products made from the farm animals that eat it. PHOTO MATT WRITTLE © copyright Matt Writtle 2016.
© copyright Matt Writtle 2016

GM Freeze Director, Liz O’Neill, explains why it matters: “The GM crops being fed to our farm animals are grown in ways that harm people, animals and the environment[4]. These crops aren’t allowed to be grown in the UK and many people don’t want anything to do with them.

“GM ingredients have to be labelled so consumers can vote with their wallets but GM animal feed is completely hidden from view, despite strong public support for labelling of GM-fed products [5]. It has taken experienced campaigners weeks of correspondence to get a straight answer out of some of the supermarkets and in most cases that answer is that GM feed is being used across the board. Consumers who want to choose food produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably don’t stand a chance.”

The Feed me the Truth campaign has awarded two stars to Waitrose and a zero rating to Aldi, Asda, the Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco[6].


[1] www.feedmethetruth.org Campaign web pages go live on Saturday 22 October. Links to preview pages can be supplied on request.
[2]  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3461226/Most-supermarket-meat-tainted-GM-UK-animals-routinely-given-modified-feed-shoppers-told.html
[3] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2035 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th September – 2nd October 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
[4] http://www.gmfreeze.org/why-freeze/ (detailed references available)
[5] Food Standards Agency, January 2015 Consumer attitudes to GM labelling, includes “Participants were generally unaware of the use of GM animal feed by farmers. Once made aware of its use, they typically considered that products from animals fed GM feed should be labelled, consistent with previous FSA research.”
[6] The Feed me the Truth Five Star Standard assessment is available as an image file – please contact Liz on 07811 211 404 for a copy or a more detailed explanation of the criteria used.