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

Sweden heads for GM-free status: UK should follow Major company bans GM-fed pig meat

Immediate release (16 May 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.

An announcement from the main Swedish slaughter house operator SCAN that they will no longer accept pigs for slaughter if they have been fed on GM animal feed is another major step in Sweden moving to a completely GM-free food chain. GM Freeze is repeating their call for UK retailers and producers to follow suit. [1]

SCAN announced that from 1 September 2011 they will not accept pigs that have been fed on GM crops (mainly Monsanto’s RR soya). [2] Other slaughterhouses are reported to be following the SCAN decision. [3]

The move brings the company into line with Sweden’s four major retail companies, all of whom have a long-standing no-GM policy [3], and other producer organisations for poultry/chicken, lamb, beef, veal and milk, who have rules against GM-feed for their animals. [2]

The move has been consumer-led. The Swedish Consumer Coalition has played a leading role in lobbying for the change, brought about despite both the pro-GM stance taken by the Swedish Government when voting at the EU Council of Ministers and criticism of retailer policies from the Swedish National Food Administration. [4]

SCAN’s President said [2]:

We want to see a Swedish meat production in the future. Right now there is a very tough situation on the pork market, which makes it particularly important to work with our suppliers and trade highlight the competitive advantages that can both maintain and strengthen our Swedish meat.

Despite very strong public concern about GM food and crops in Sweden [5], a GM potato (Amflora, used to produce industrial starch) was grown commercially in the country in 2010 on a very small area. Problems arose when an unauthorised GM variety was also planted in error [6]. Sweden’s Amflora planting dropped to a mere 15 hectares in 2011.

GM-free labelling on animal products is now common in Germany and Austria.

Time for UK action

In the UK a 2010 opinion survey carried out for GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth found strong consumer support for meat, milk and eggs to be produced without GM animal feed, and 89% of respondents said they want GM-fed animal products, such as milk meat and eggs, to be labelled as such. [7] A significant majority (72%) said they would be willing to pay more for products not fed on GM-feed.

Meat, milk and dairy products fed with GM feed are not labelled in UK supermarkets, but some retailers and suppliers have taken steps to ensure GM-free products are available. [1]

The Conservative Party manifesto pledged to “ensure that consumers have the right to choose non-GM foods through clear labelling” [8], yet Conservative MEPs voted down an opportunity to introduce labelling of GM-fed animal products across the EU in July 2010. [9]

GM soya grown in the US and South America and imported to Europe for animal feed is causing major environmental problems as herbicide-tolerant super weeds spread across farmland. Aerial spraying of GM feed crops with herbicide in South America has led to serious concerns about health impacts on local people. [10]

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The Swedes are leading to way in establishing a GM-free food chain despite their government’s pro-GM position. This shows that these changes are entirely possible in the UK, despite protestations from the feed industry.

The company’s reasons for making the switch to non-GM feed also prove that this is the future and that it makes good business sense to get in on the act early. The UK retail poultry and livestock industry are lagging behind on this and ignoring the potential to give customers what they want. They should take a trip to Sweden, Germany or Austria to find out how it is done and then completely remove GM feed from the supply chain.

UK supermarkets should stop dilly dallying and finish the switch to non-GM feed across the board. Shoppers are being left in the dark by the retailers about what animal feed is being used, and supermarkets need to recognise that people want to know so they can chose whether they want to buy GM-fed products. The Conservatives pledged clear labelling and that has to include GM-fed products – when are they going to get on with it so consumers can vote with the wallets?

ENDs

Notes

[1] A list of foods produced without GM animal feed available in the UK is here.

[2] SCAN press release in Swedish available at www.cisionwire.se/scan-ab/r/enbart-gmo-fritt-foder-till-scans-grisar,c556350 – Google translation available.

[3] See www.konsumentsamverkan.se/.

[4] USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2010, “Swedish Retail Stores Refuse GMO Food”. See http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Swedish%20Retail%20Stores%20Refuse%20GMO%20Food_Stockholm_Sweden_10-26-2010.pdf.

[5] In the special Eurobarometer poll in 2010 67% of Swedes said that GM food should not be encouraged, 74% thought GM food harmed the environment, and 71% thought was not safe for health. See http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf

[6] See www.bionity.com/en/news/123383/cause-of-starch-potato-comingling-identified.html.

[7] See results of a GkF/NOP opinion survey June 2010.

[8] Conservative Party manifesto for the General Election 2010.

[9] See “MEPs undermine Cameron on food labels”.

[10] See www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html and www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8391748/GM-soy-The-invisible-ingredient-poisoning-children.htm.