Greenpeace welcomed as ‘the beginning of the end for GM food in Britain’ the announcements today by Tesco and Asda that they will be going completely non-GM in all meat products and are committed to non-GM dairy products. The move will initially mean ranges of own-brand meat products will only come from farm animals fed a non-GM diet. (1). According to figures from the end of 2000, Tesco and Asda hold 42% of the UK grocery market between them.

In associated developments, Marks and Spencer yesterday announced that all of their fresh beef, lamb, chicken, eggs and salmon are now reared on non-GM diets, while Safeway informed Greenpeace that they are now committed to removing ingredients that come from animals fed on GM crops from their products. The only major supermarket which has not yet made a commitment to Greenpeace to phase out GM fed animal products is Somerfield.

This action, which will almost certainly be followed by other retailers, will have a profound impact on the international soya and maize markets. A widespread rejection of GM animal feed will spell disaster for US importers, such as Cargill, who supply the bulk of the GM soya and maize to the UK and will impact on GM plantings in the US this year.

Much of the trade in soya that the US has lost, as a result of their failure to segregate GM from non-GM, has been picked up by Brazil, where commercial GM plantings are currently illegal.

The announcement will also be bad news for chemical companies planning to sell GM seeds in Britain because it will remove the last possible market for such crops and make the growing of GM food (both human and animal) economically impossible.

Whilst all major food companies and retailers acted on GM in human food products in 1999, GM crops have continued to flood into Britain through animal feed. Over 80% of soya and maize imports go into the food of animals that provide our meat and dairy products. Greenpeace has been campaigning against GM animal feed for the last 12 months, most recently launching an internet shoppers guide to GM animal products. Since this time 20 companies have committed to non-GM feed.

Andy Tait, GM Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
“This is fantastic news for UK consumers. Now that the top supermarkets are taking action on GM animal feed the UK market for GM soya and maize will collapse. We have campaigned long and hard for this day and will now be closely monitoring other supermarkets and food companies to ensure that they follow the lead of M&S, Tesco and Asda.” He continued:
“It is also vital that the Government now introduces the labelling of food products from animals fed on GM, so consumers can avoid meat and dairy from food companies who persist in using GM feed.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The first stage of the Asda phase out of GM fed products covers fish (already achieved), poultry, eggs (expected summer) and pork (expected autumn). Tesco are phasing out GM fed eggs, poultry, pork and fish by the summer. 2. Tesco is the largest UK food retailer and is ranked number 6 worldwide by company revenue (Washington Post, November 19, 2000). Asda is currently ranked 3rd in terms of market share –

    • Tesco – 25.2%

    • Sainsbury – 18.1%

    • Asda – 16.5%
    (figures from Taylor, Nelson, Sofres, published in The Grocer Magazine, December 2nd 2000)

    • Companies such as Iceland, Marks and Spencer, McDonalds and Burger King have already acted to remove GM in animal products. (statements available from Greenpeace).
    • U.S. soya exports to Europe dropped from 9, 849,257 metric tonnes in 1995 to 6,751,055 tonnes in 1999. (from soya and oilseed bluebook 2001 –
    • The Greenpeace campaign against GM in animal feed has been running since January 2000 and involved direct action against ships importing GM animal feed, as well as the setting up of an internet-based consumer database which identifies which supermarket products are GM-fed. The campaign also involved lobbying of customers outside supermarkets and a ‘chicken invasion’ of Cargill in Liverpool docks – the major importer of GM animal feed into the UK.
    • 60% of soya imported into the UK is used for poultry feed (figures from Monsanto Europe application to UK Advisory Committee releases to Environment for marketing Glyphosate tolerant soya beans 13.01.95). Tesco is also the largest poultry retailer in the UK (keynote reports – meat and meat products 1999).
    • Brazilian exports to the EU have risen from 2,993,000 metric tonnes in 1996 to 6,867,000 tonnes in 1999 ( From 2001 soya and oilseed blue book