'No backlash' over non-GM policy shift

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Despite the controversy at the time, the mults’ decision last year to abandon non-GM policies on poultry feed has not led to a consumer backlash, the British Poultry Council has claimed.

In April 2013, Tesco dropped its GM-free promise on poultry feed, followed by Sainsbury’s, M&S and The Co-op. Asda and Morrisons had already abandoned such policies; Waitrose is the only mult to still have a non-GM feed policy.

The move prompted ‘Frankenfeed’ headlines in the media, but consumer confidence in the sector had not suffered, said Andrew Large, CEO of the BPC. “Although it was well publicised at the time that retailers had made these changes, consumers have not walked away from buying chicken and poultry sales continue to go up.”

Large was one of a number of industry figures to appear before the Efra committee of MPs on the subject of food security - and the role of GM - last week.

David Croft, director of technical and quality at Waitrose, was also questioned by MPs, and said it was important consumers and farmers retained a choice about the feed used.

“That said, there are clear opportunities to think about how you would apply the science around genes to support more efficient agriculture and things like rapid market assessment, helping you to identify not genetically modified but hybrid crops that can be brought more rapidly into the marketplace and introduce new varieties to the marketplace, to achieve greater efficiency within the whole process.

“The same is true of livestock breeding. Again, using gene technology to look at chromosomes of cattle and find the best varieties in terms of ruminant production and so on is hugely important. We are aware and want to encourage sensitive use of science and bring that into play to make the best value for farming,” Croft said.

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