Waitrose has announced Tuesday that their pork products will now start to be fed some non-GMO European soya from the Danube region, marking the possible beginning of the end of the last large-scale use of GM crops in the UK.
This is the most significant move in the UK against the use of GM crops since 1999, when British supermarkets took the 70% of processed food that contained GM off their shelves, with it never to return. On that occasion the way was led by one retailer (Iceland), which went non-GM, and the rest followed within a few months.
In October Waitrose landed its first shipment of soya grown in the Danube Region of Europe – an area stretching from the Black Forest to the Black Sea – for use as a source of protein in pig feed used by the retailer’s dedicated pork supplier, Dalehead Foods.
The move marks the start of the retailer’s plans to replace responsibly sourced soya beans from non-deforested land in Brazil, lowering the risk to its supply chain as demand for South American Soya from the developing world increases.
Waitrose Managing Director Rob Collins stated: “This is fantastic, innovative and determined thinking and the result of three years’ work by our agriculture team. It fits perfectly into our strategy to improve our supply chain security by sourcing animal feed from raw materials grown at home or within the UK and Europe. This is an example of Waitrose working with our supplier groups to deliver a real benefit to our farmers, our global environment, our business and our customers.”
In taking the first step towards a completely sustainable animal feed supply chain by opening up a supply route from Europe, Waitrose worked closely with the Danube Soya Producers Association (Donau Soja), a group made up of European soya growers, millers and end users.
Welcoming Waitrose’ announcement, GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said, “Consumers have been telling us for years that they don’t want GM anywhere in the food supply chain. However, the widespread use of GM animal feed is hidden from view because it doesn’t have to be mentioned on the label of the meat, eggs and dairy products it helps to produce. When challenged, the supermarkets claim that it is too difficult to make a change but Waitrose have proved that simply isn’t true. Now it’s time for the rest to Feed us the Truth and give their customers food that is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably.”
While European players including France’s Carrefour, the third biggest retailer in the world, German retailers and the German Poultry Association (ZDG), have continued to move away from GM feed, British supermarkets – apart from Waitrose - have actually increased their use of GM animal feed, despite widespread public opposition.
All UK supermarkets still sell meat and dairy products from animals fed on imported GM soya and GM maize – which they are not required to label under EU law. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, GM Freeze and the Soil Association have opposed this large-scale but hidden use of GM crops for over 15 years.
Waitrose is currently the only retailer in the UK that has committed to continuing to use non-GM poultry feed and to start using non-GM soya in other animal feed.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director said: “We warmly welcome this very important development. GM soya from Latin America is linked to rainforest destruction, so sourcing non-GM soya from the Danube region, and using more UK-grown protein crops, is good for the climate, good for UK farmers, and good for consumers. We expect other retailers to follow Waitrose’s lead.”