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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Sainsbury’s GM Betrayal: Dodging the “difficult question”, breaking promises

Immediate release (8 Jul 2013)

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

GM Freeze today accused Sainsbury’s of failing to honour its promises to remove GM animal feed from its supply chain and warned shareholders to be wary of reputational risk in the run up to the company’s AGM. [1]

In 1999, at the height of consumer rejection of GM foods on shelves, Sainsbury’s said, “Now that [removing GM ingredients from own-label products] has been completed, it was inevitable that we should turn our attention to the presence of GM constituents in animal feedstuffs.” By June 2000 the company said its meat and chicken were produced without GM feed, and it pioneered Farm Promise milk for farmers in conversion to organic to make the most of their non-GM status. [2]

Yet in April 2013 Sainsbury’s joined the Tesco-lead retreat from non-GM animal feed citing “availability issues” for the imported non-GM soya used in animal feed. [3] Sainsbury’s makes much in its 20×20 Sustainability Plan, claiming “to deal with the difficult questions” on behalf of its customers and to provide “integrity of products across all price brackets”. Since independent polls show that Sainsbury’s customers want labels to help them see where GM feed is, and isn’t, used, and that they willing to pay more to avoid GM, supporting GM feed is clearly ignores customer demand. It also the growing evidence that GM materials can pass into meat. [4] Sainsbury’s decision to continue using non-GM animal feed in its “Taste the Difference” range clearly shows that non-GM supplies are available and that it is possible to organise supplies if the will is there.

Commenting Jane O’Meara of GM Free Dorset said:

Some of Sainsbury’s high value range is still non-GM-fed, which shows that it is possible to get non-GM supplies if the will is there. Customers and shareholders looking at past promises to rid supply chains of GM altogether and the company’s claim that it deals with ‘difficult questions’ like GM on their behalf will justifiably feel betrayed. Loyalty is a two-way street, and if Sainsbury’s values customer loyalty to the company it must secure long-term contracts with suppliers to ensure that genuine non-GM choices are available across all price brackets.

Rather than making good on its commitment to get GM out of is supply chain, Sainsbury’s 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. [5] The RTRS certifies GM soya as “responsible” despite growing evidence of adverse health, environmental and socioeconomic impacts in producer countries. [6]

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 in Brazil in 2012/13 was the same as previous years, so the complete shift in policy is unjustified. [7] Short-term logistical problems can be avoided by using long-term contracts for certified non-GM soya for animal feed. Sainsbury’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.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Sainsbury’s is relying on the greenwash used by the Roundtable on Responsible Soy to hide its fundamentally unsustainable decision to support GM feed use. The management appears to have lost the plot, but it can still honour its commitments by reversing the decision and signing long-term supply contracts to allow their suppliers to do the same for non-GM soya. This will benefit everyone in the chain, from Brazilian non-GM farmers to UK shoppers.




[1] The Sainsbury’s AGM will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster on 10 July 2013 at 11am.

[2] GM Freeze, 6 July 2013. Old Fashioned Greenwash: Sainsbury’s and GM animal feed

[3] J Sainsbury plc, undated. “What is Sainsbury’s policy on GM?

[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] RTRS, undated. “Participating Members: Companies


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

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

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


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