British supermarket Waitrose to end use of GM animal feed

“Progress is the sum of small victories,” as the American historian Bruce Catton once said. And indeed, despite more worrying news from the other side of the Atlantic, where the President-elect Donald Trump seems set to relax food safety regulations and thereby empower corporate farming and all that it entails, in the United Kingdom, there are reasons to be cheerful. One of the country’s major supermarket chains, Waitrose, has announced that it will end the use of GM animal feed on its farms, meaning its eggs, milk and meat will all be GM-free. This is on top of Waitrose’s policy not to use GM poultry feed, as now the soya-based feed for their pigs will also be GM-free. What’s more, this decision will also shorten the supply chain, as GM soya is imported from South America, while the non-GM soya comes from the Danube region in Europe, meaning it’s not only a victory for consumers and UK farmers, but also for the environment.

Slow Food opposes the use of GM food for several reasons: they are generally grown in large monocultures, threatening biodiversity and small-scale farming. The technology behind their production is also patented, creating a cycle of dependency whereby farmers buy new seeds each season. They threaten our local food cultures, replacing native varieties of fruit and vegetables with anonymous, lab-engineered products. That’s before we even begin to consider how little we know about the effects they have on our health. For all these reasons, Slow Food welcomes the decision taken by Waitrose to end their support for this harmful industry.

Reactions to the news have been varied across the UK. The Soil Association made the bold claim that it was the “biggest blow to GM crops this century“, citing the wholesale removal of GM fruit and vegetables from UK supermarkets in 1999. That didn’t stop British consumers from eating GM crops indirectly of course, as their use in animal feed is still worryingly prevalent. The British Food Standards Association would like this information to be included on the packaging, and Slow Food, who promotes a narrative label that tells the whole story of the production process and the people behind it, can only agree. On the other side of the fence, conservative magazine the Spectator published a piece promoting a boycott of Waitrose in light of the decision!

Slow Food calls on all other supermarkets to follow suit, and drop GM feed from their supply chains, and at the very least, make it clear to customers what the food they are buying contains. This way, we can raise public awareness of the story behind every meal we eat, and move towards better, cleaner and fairer food.

Cover photo courtest of European Supermarket Magazine.


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