Skip to content
for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Breach of Faith: Marks & Spencer GM feed undermines Plan A reputation

Immediate release (5 Jul 2013)

Calls to: Jane O’Meara 01258 861 023; Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze today accused M&S of reversing its sustainability and corporate social responsibility promises by ending its previously admirable 12-year policy on using non-GM feed. [1]

In the run-up to the M&S AGM GM Freeze warns shareholders this policy reversal risks damaging customer trust and impact on the company’s reputation and sales. [2]

On 12 April M&S announced it was abandoning its commitment to source the non-GM feed used to produce its fresh meat. [3] The decision, triggered by Tesco and adopted by several UK supermarket chains, ignores customer demand for non-GM feed use as well as the growing evidence that GM materials can pass into meat. [4]

Since 2007 M&S has heavily promoted its “Plan A” ethical and sustainability policy, which says, “We’re doing this because it’s what you want us to do. It’s also the right thing to do. We’re calling it Plan A because we believe it’s now the only way to do business. There is no Plan B.” [5]

M&S says it will maintain its policy on sourcing non-GM ingredients for human food under Plan A, but this no longer extends to animal feed, much of which contains imported soya and maize. [6] Instead the company has joined Monsanto, Cargill and Nestle on the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a group that has been roundly condemned by hundreds of organisations around the world as a greenwash of existing bad practice in industrial soya monoculture. [7] The RTRS certifies GM soya as “responsible” despite growing evidence of adverse health, environmental and socioeconomic impacts in producer countries. [8]

Plan A also commits M&S to be “100% pesticide residue free by 2020” in fruit, vegetables and salads. [9] Yet by permitting GM soya in animal feed the company risks increasing residues present in the food it sells. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM soya dominates GM soya production. It is designed to withstand the herbicide glyphosate, which can be sprayed on the crop without killing it but eliminating weeds. GM soya is repeatedly sprayed with glyphosate and carries a maximum permitted residue of 20 ppm. This is 200 times higher than the maximum residue permitted in most fruit and vegetables grown in the EU. [10] The cumulative effects of this chemical load on the animals on our farms, or on those who eat the meat, milk and eggs they produce, are unknown.

Supermarkets attempted to blame recent delays in UK soya supplies from South America for their changes in policy on non-GM feed. However most non-GM soya is grown in Brazil, where around a quarter of the soya crop is non-GM, but less than 60% of that is certified, leaving plenty of room for more non-GM soya to enter the market. Furthermore the area of non-GM soya grown there in 2012/13 was the same as previous years, so the complete shift in policy is unjustified. [11] Short-term logistical problems can be avoided by using long-term contracts for certified non-GM soya for animal feed. M&S should offer its suppliers long-term contracts to give them the confidence to enter similar agreements with soya suppliers, who in turn can have the confidence to grow non-GM soya and gain non-GM certification for their crop.

Commenting Jane O’Meara of GM Free Dorset said:

M&S’s switch to GM animal feed has seriously undermined its reputation as the ethical and sustainable company Plan A was supposed to deliver. M&S shareholders should question why M&S is not accessing the supplies that are clearly available. As M&S trades on its food quality and ethical policies shareholders would be wise to consider the effect the move toward GM will have on its customers and reputation.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

M&S uses the Roundtable on Responsible Soya as a figleaf to cover its switch to GM feed, but it cannot hide the fact the GM soya in animal feed comes from vast, unsustainable soya estates where glyphosate is sprayed liberally. Will M&S be monitoring levels on this herbicide in the animals products they sell? We look forward to seeing the explanation to M&S shareholders and customers as to how the move to support large-scale, intensive GM soya monoculture meets company commitments under Plan A.




[1] GM Freeze, 31 May 2013. Whatever happened to “Plan A”? Marks and Spencer and GM animal feed

[2] The M&S AGM will be held at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank on 9 July 2013 at 11am.

[3] Marks and Spencer, 12 April 2013. “Animal feed update

[4] FSA, 6 December 2012. “GM Animal Feed” contains the statement, “It is therefore possible that DNA fragments derived from GM plant materials may occasionally be detected in animal tissues, in the same way that DNA fragments derived from non-GM plant materials can be detected in these same tissues.”


Statement by Professor Ashild Krogdahl of the Norwegian Veterinary School at a press conference following the GMSAFood Project conference, 6 May 2012: “There are also indications showing that genes from Bt (unique to Bt maize for example) can be found in the blood, and also the proteins and antibodies against those proteins can be found in the blood of animal that have eaten this. That means there are components that can be transferred from the food/feed to the body and then maybe further on to the next level that is eating this.” See

[5] Marks and Spencer, 2012. How we do business report 2012

[6] Marks and Spencer, 2012. Op cit

[7] RTRS, undated. “Participating Members: Companies


GM Freeze, 24 June 2010. Open Letter: Growing Opposition to Round Table on Responsible Soy

[8] 4. GM Freeze, 22 May 2012. Roundtable on Responsible Soya – The certifying smoke screen

[9] Marks and Spencer, 2012. Op cit

[10] EU Pesticide Database, 2013. “Pesticide Residues

[11] Farmers Weekly, 17 April 2013. “Supermarkets ‘misled’ on GM soya claims


IMCOPA, 2012, Presentation to the European Soy Event October 2012