What tosh supermarkets talk about listening to their customers. Case in point: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and The Co-op Group’s abandonment of their longstanding GM-free animal feed policy. Why - if they really do respond to customers’ wishes - have they done this, when as The Grocer’s own research has shown 80% of consumers are either unsure or negative in their attitude to the use of GM technology in food?
The lame excuse proffered by these mighty chains is that they can’t lay their hands on a reliable supply of non-GM soya, but that explanation lacks credibility when Waitrose doesn’t appear to encounter any such difficulty and sticks to its crowd-pleasing GM-free feed stance.
Brazilian GM-free soya certification bodies are adamant that the reported ‘supply problem’ is mythical. They are already doing a healthy trade with European chains such as Carrefour, which helpfully labels GM feed-free dairy, eggs and meat.
With China’s announcement it is looking to buy record amounts of non-GM soya, these are good times for non-GM soya growers. It’s clear any company that wants certified non-GM feed can easily get it and it’s false, even dishonest, to suggest otherwise.
“The supermarkets are giving a two-fingered salute to consumer choice”
What was the real motivation for those chains that ditched their non-GM feed requirement? It looks like cost-cutting competing for the lowest common denominator set by Asda and Morrisons, which permit non-GM feed because it’s a little cheaper.
The deal to force GM food down our throats has been stitched up behind the scenes by environment secretary Owen Paterson, the big biotech companies and farmers’ leaders romanced by the GM lobby’s sales pitch. Our supermarkets, with the noble exception of Waitrose, have gone along with this shabby deal, giving a two-fingered salute to their supposedly sacred mantra of consumer choice.
If they were honest, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and The Co-op would admit they are too stingy to pay farmers to use GM-free feed, but instead they hide behind their non-existent sourcing problem, calculating that customers won’t notice. How shameful.
No wonder, as The Grocer’s survey showed, only 4% of consumers trust retailers on GM.
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of What to Eat