19 August 1999
M&S plans to ban GM feed
By FWi staff
MARKS and Spencer plans to become the first High street
retailer to start removing genetically modified (GM) soya and maize from
The company said it was responding to its customers who have asked to have a choice to buy meat, milk and eggs from livestock reared on non-GM diets.
The initial plan does not cover beef and lamb, although a spokesman for M&S
said she thought it was only a few months away.
M&S recognises it will be more expensive for farmers to produce meat and has pledged to pay farmers these extra costs.
The company has put the extra costs at between 10-15%, which it plans to pass on to its customers.
“This is why were doing it on a small scale to see if consumers are willing
to pay,” said the spokeswoman.
She said the suppliers were all happy to change to GM-free diets. “Theyll
do anything as long as theyre not financially penalised,” she added.
Tom Clayton, head of food technology for M&S said that removing GM
ingredients from animal diets was a major challenge for the industry.
“We continue to talk with our customers, suppliers and farmers to monitor
both demand for the product and the implications of a wider roll out.”
Customers will be able to purchase these products from selected stores from
A spokesman from Sainsburys said that, although it was looking at the
possibility of removing GM ingredients from animal feed, it could still
be three years away.
“M&S has a far smaller range than us. We are making ground but, compared in
size, Sainsburys is a very large project.”
Both Tesco and Safeway also said it was something they were working on, but
were some way off.
A spokesman from Tesco said one of issues it was working on was volume. “The bigger the volume, the cheaper it will be.”
But James Trebble, feeds manager for Mole Valley Farmers is doubtful that, if
all the major retailers turn to GM-free feed, there will be enough.
GM-free soya is currently trading at a £70/t premium to commercial supplies, commanding £190/t instead of £120/t, said Mr Trebble. He also questioned where enough GM-free soya could be sourced.
“You could say that Brazil was mostly GM-free and you could say that the UK
was GM-free. But the UK crushers cant guarantee it is, and they cant get a
guarantee from their suppliers.”
Mr Trebble said that soya had come from Brazil at a £10-12 premium to
commercial soya on the basis that it contained no more than 1% GM.
But with a 1% possibility of containing GM material, this would still not match demands set by the retailers.
Tim Page, sales director of organic and GM-free miller Allen and Page, agreed that there could be a supply problem if all the retailers turned to GM-free feed.
And with GM free soya at premium, he said, farmers costs could
well go up.