New Zealand poultry processing giant Tegel has announced that it will respond to consumer preference and stop feeding its chickens with genetically modified soya feed.

Peter Lucas, managing director of the company, told the New Zealand Herald yesterday he was surprised when independent research commissioned by Tegel proved that 75% of consumers wanted to buy chickens raised on GM-free soymeal. The anti-GM sentiment "was stronger than I expected", he said.

Tegel, which produces 44 million fresh and frozen chickens every year, will give GM-free feed to chickens from October, with a view to providing chickens which have not been fed GM soymeal to retailers in time for Christmas.

Luca said that it may take a little longer to ensure the company's frozen stock is entirely GM-free, but stressed that the coating on the company's chicken nuggets was already GM-free.

The Australia/New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) has agreed that food containing 1% or more GM ingredients must be labelled as such by December.