The fledging biotechnology industry is reeling from another blow this week as a number of prominent UK supermarket chains have announced that they are refusing to sell meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed on GM crops. Many retailers have already banned GM material entering their products directly, but this is the first time that consideration has been given to the indirect arrival of GM crops to the market shelves.

Every supermarket except Somerfield has stressed that it is clamping down on GM products, or at least providing non-GM alternatives. Asda, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have promised to remove meat fed on GM crops as soon as possible, but Iceland has already taken the lead. Having removed all GM products two years ago it said earlier this year: "Livestock for meat production will be reared on a non-GM diet."

The decision comes in the wake of last week's vindication of the Greenpeace protestors, who vandalised a field of GM maize in a Norfolk test area, when a court acquitted the 28 men and women who admitted causing damage. Greenpeace have admitted that there is no known health risk associated with eating livestock reared on GM crops, but the issue has taken hold and a recent opinion poll commissioned by the NOP showed that 67% of the British public wanted GM food banned from animal feed.

Greenpeace campaigns director, Blake Lee-Harwood, believes that "The supermarkets are stampeding to get out before the public cottons on to what is going on."

In the US, however, an internal report by the USDA commented that in Britain there existed a "hysteria surrounding genetically engineered (GE) food." The GM soya bean industry is flagging in the US, threatened by the falling export figures to Britain, a situation that can only be exacerbated by the recent decision. Indeed, earlier this year the retailer Iceland bought 6,000 tons of non-GM soya to aid its suppliers make the conversion in animals feed, and in the light of the recent decision, and the intense competition in the sector that demands low prices, other supermarkets may well do the same.

Click Here to read more about last week's court verdict on the GM protestors