The multinational fast food chain, McDonald's, has written to Greenpeace Germany that it intends no longer to serve animal products coming from animals fed with genetically engineered (GE) feed in its restaurants in Germany.

McDonald's says it guarantees its poultry to be GE free from April 2001 onwards, and that it plans to ensure that feed used by its suppliers will soon contain no GE ingredients.

Greenpeace welcomed the fact that McDonald's Germany has taken a lead to go GE free and urged the company to extend this commitment worldwide.

"Now even McDonald's has realised that the majority of consumers do not want GE food - even in animal products, such as dairy products and meat. Greenpeace is monitoring how fast the fast-food chain will change over to products, which do not contain GE ingredients, " says Imke Ide, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace Germany.

In July, Greenpeace proved that McDonald's fed genetically engineered soya to chickens, which were then sold as Chicken McNuggets and McChicken Burgers to its customers. Local Greenpeace groups in more than 50 German cities have protested in front of the fast-food outlets with a message "Los Genos: Genetic Engineering Week at McDonalds". Many consumers took part in the campaign by sending postcards, e-mails, letters and faxes to McDonald's calling the company to get rid of GE ingredients in their products, including the feed their suppliers fed to animals.

McDonald's commitment comes after its competitor, Burger King, had previously declared that from next year onwards it will only offer poultry products produced without GE feed in Germany.

Germany's largest chicken producers already guarantee that the soya they use has not been genetically engineered. In contrast, the food manufacturer Nestlé is still refusing to give similar guarantees.

Genetically engineered products such as corn meal and soy grain for animal feed are imported mostly from the USA, Canada and Argentina.

"The demand for GE free animal feed is increasing. The farmers in the US and in other production countries need to realise that the outlook in terms of demand is bleak for their GE crops in Europe. At least 15.000ha of land are planted with soya just to feed the chickens processed for the food to be served by McDonald's in Germany. This market is now lost for the farmers who grow GE crops", says Ide.

New scientific studies show that the genetic makeup of plants used for feed also enters the organs and meat of the animals. This was recently established in chickens. Scientists assume that this is also true of manipulated genetic material.