What is GM soya?
GM, which stands for ‘genetic modification’ or ‘genetically modified’, is the process of altering the genes of a plant or organism in order to change its characteristics – in this case soya is altered to make the harvest more reliable with greater yields, and to improve resistance to disease.
Why are you changing your stance on GM?
Over recent weeks our UK poultry suppliers have told us that it is increasingly difficult to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM-free, for two reasons.
First, soya is the best source of protein to feed livestock. And as soya producers are increasingly turning to GM soya, it means they are producing less non-GM soya, so there simply isn’t enough non-GM feed available. It is a global supply issue – 80% of the world’s soya is now modified. Farmers across the world choose to grow modified soya for a number of reasons, but usually because modified crops are more resistant to certain pests and diseases.
Second, because so much soya is modified and because of the way crops are planted, processed and transported, it is possible that non-GM soya crops contain low levels of GM soya. The new DNA testing regime we have put in place has identified that the risk of finding GM material in non-GM feed is increasing.
In common with other major retailers, we have decided to allow our poultry and egg farmers to use GM soya in animal feed. This will help support a strong and sustainable British poultry industry.
Why don’t we produce the feed in the UK without using GM?
According to the National Farmers Union, the UK is not currently able to grow enough animal feed to support the farming industry. Because soya is the best source of protein to feed livestock, we need to import it so British farmers can produce the meat that goes on our shelves.
But a global shortage of non-GM soya feed is emerging, so our suppliers have turned to GM soya to maintain supply. In addition, because of the way crops are planted, processed and transported, non-GM soya crops may potentially contain low levels of GM soya.
Is there a health risk to eating poultry and eggs that have GM soya in their supply chain?
No, it will not have any impact on the quality or tastes of the food and, most importantly, it will have no effect on health. As a food retailer, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the food we sell. Genetic modification affects only the plant which undergoes the process.
Put simply, the meat from a chicken fed on modified soya feed is no different to the meat of a chicken fed on non-GM feed.
When will poultry and eggs from chicken fed on GM soya enter the supply chain?
Over recent weeks it has become increasingly difficult for our UK poultry suppliers to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM free. We will not continue with a promise we cannot be sure it is possible to keep, so from now we will no longer guarantee to customers that the poultry and eggs we sell are from animals fed on GM-free feed.
What about organic chicken and eggs?
All of our organic meat range will continue to be fed non-GM soya. This means our customers will still be able to purchase chicken and other poultry products that have not been fed on GM feed if that is their preference.
For more information on genetically modified technology visit the Food Standards Authority website