GM betrayal....

Lynda Brown - 14 April 2013

M&S, the Co-op, Tesco, and Sainsbury's have announced that they no longer require their producers to use non GM feed for farm animals. The excuse is that there isn't sufficient non GM feed to go around and anyway, it's not detectable in things like eggs, milk or chicken, i.e. there's no need to worry, it's all perfectly safe sort of thing. So, forget all that you're worth it rubbish - we're clearly not.

The Soil Association's policy director, Peter Melchett issued a robust reply pointing out the fallacy of their arguments - a great reply not just because it's robust but because it's informative and thus empowers people to make their own minds up whether they mind the betrayal or not. My private opinion is that supermarkets have been busting to get GM back into our diets (makes life so much easier), and if it weren't for their pesky customers worrying their silly heads over nothing and being manipulated by the media, would have done so a long time ago. It illustrates that supermarkets actually don't really give a monkey's about the very real issues surrounding GM, not to mention our health. For, as usual, price wins - as organic producers are all too painfully aware, allowing non GM feed will keep prices lower than producers who do not use GM feed.

Intending to bang on triumphantly about organic producers being heroes (they are), I did a quick Google to find out current GM feed prices, but instead spotted this from GMWatch. Do take a look at item 2 - '3 questions for the NFU on animal feed'. Apart from some rather erudite swinges at NFU inconsistencies (always good sport), it makes the point that the non GM soya industry - of which animal feed is a major market - is alive and well, and all buyers have to do to secure more supplies is to commit upfront, then the growers will grow more.

In other words if supermarkets really did what they say they do, namely give customers what they want, they would demand more non-GM feed, which would in turn create more demand, which would mean the prices would drop. We’d get what we want, and they’d get what they want. So what’s the problem?

And P.S. yes, research does consistently confirm that the majority of consumers do not want GM animal feeds in their diet.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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Elizabeth Bond-Turner
25 April 2013 18:38

L. Brown, thank you for clarifying the issue, I was actually in the USA last summer. I spent about a month in California, I knew not to eat the beef because of the BSE, but I did eat most other things including tasty Golden State organic beansprouts. I havent been to my GP yet, is there any symptoms I should watch out for? Thank you for the Melchet link, it has been a source of inspiration. When in Califronia, nobody told me about all of this, is there a USA Soil Association that I could write to? I have japanese knotweed in my pond, is that one of these superweeds?

Lynda Brown
19 April 2013 17:36

Hi again J Park, in addition to my comment about health, I wanted to pick up on the rest of your comments, as lively debate is always welcome! I agree completely that consumers don’t understand the difference between GM and ‘normal’ food, or the science, but I disagree completely with your statements. Peter Melchett recently wrote a great article that you can read at which outlined how the pro-GM industry is happy to twist science in order to confuse the public, and you could also take a look at websites such as or urging consumers to take a cautious approach to GM based on the evidence and science that has built up around GM.A brief personal overview of the real issue for me, is that GM is the biggest experiment mankind has ever undertaken and is being conducted without anyone’s approval; the benefits are marginal, and the risks are too high and too unpredictable. It’s not about saving or even feeding the world: it is about making vast profits for a handful of global companies. And yet the last 60-80 years of intensification of modern agriculture has conclusively shown that it provides short -term fixes, but long term devastation and disaster for the environment on which we depend for life. GM is a part of this system, and already as ‘super weeds’ are evolving in its wake you can already see this happening again. Ultimately the prospect of having the world’s food supply and seed bank being controlled by a handful of biotech masters scares me rigid. GM technology is undoubtedly a useful tool: fast tracking evolution within species, or for medical advances - in controlled laboratory surroundings. But inventing frankenstein foods and chucking them willy-nilly around the globe is dangerous and wrong, in my opinion.

Lynda Brown
19 April 2013 17:34

Thanks for the comments Elizabeth and J Park. With regard to issues around health, the real issue is that no one can (honestly) state with confidence that GM food or their derivatives are safe. Most GM food has been eaten in the US, and some people claim this has not caused any harm. But because there has been no GM food labelling in the US, no post-market monitoring, and no epidemiological research, we simply don't know what health effects GM food might or might not have had. And we certainly don’t know what even longer-term exposure to GM foods is going to bring in the future. After all, we were told that BSE couldn’t happen, and it did. With respect to the specific point about eating animal products raised with GM animal feeds, I figure any risks are probably miniscule but that’s not the point. I chose foods produced from GM free diets because I don’t want to be an unpaid guinea pig, but more importantly because I think it is vital to have a choice between GM and GM free foods. Actually, I don’t even recognize GM foods as food. It might look and taste the same as the food we are used to but genetically it’s a different beastie entirely . Each to his own, but that’s not a risk I want to take, especially when thanks to organic and other GM free food producers, it’s easy not to.

Rose Evans
18 April 2013 19:25

Are the supermarkets listed who are now saying it's ok for non GM to be used going to put this on their packaging? I am appauled by this news but not a bit suprised profits dictate what happens to produce it's just a pity that organic food is more expensive than where pesticides and chemicals are used. I prefer to buy less but to buy organic!

J Park
17 April 2013 12:06

What are these 'very real issues surrounding GM, not to mention our health' ... I don't buy organic food for reasons of cost, not health. A lot of the confusion surrounding GM and organic food arises as consumers simply do not understand the difference between them and, more importantly, the science behind them. Crops have been developed through GM that are pest/drought/disease-resistant and that contain more vitamins than non-GM. Surely cutting down on the pesticides & fertilisers that need to be used on crops is a good thing in terms of our health & environment ... just like advocates of organic farming methods promote?

Elizabeth Bond-Turner
16 April 2013 17:06

what will happen if i eat their eggs or milk? (I have stopped buying the products in question, waiting to hear what the risks are?) I reckon if they people dont get ill this year because of them they cant be that bad for us? i am confused, please explain?

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