Earlier this week I posted an article on Facebook and Twitter about supermarkets dropping their bans on chicken reared on GM feed. The story really hit a nerve with me, which is why I wanted to share it. The article highlighted the number of supermarkets that have now dropped their bans, namely Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op and Marks & Spencer. This means Waitrose is the only large supermarket left that stills stands by its original promise – that the chicken it sells is fed on non-GM feed.
When asked why these changes were occurring, the supermarkets explained that there is an apparent shortage of non-GM soya. Global farming methods have made GM free soya increasingly untenable as the producers are switching to cheaper and more efficient production methods. But according to the producers this simply isn’t correct. In fact, non-GM feed producers in Brazil, a major source of animal feed to the UK, said they were producing record amounts of animal feed. They claimed the move was more about the UK wanting to do more business with US GM companies. Is this correct we wonder?
We believe this story is particularly noteworthy because it links to our last blog post, which explained how organic sales were on the rise due to the horsemeat scandal. Consumers are losing faith in certain producers so are switching to organic food because it has more traceability. They have made a choice to change their buying habits because they felt cheated. They are choosing to opt for food that they know more about. But this latest move by supermarkets to drop non-GM fed chickens takes away this idea of choice. Consumers are no longer able to make the choice about whether they have non-GM produce or not. They can only buy what is available.
Before the recession Britain experienced an ethical shopping boom. A high percentage of food was organic or ethically sourced, and people were willing to pay the premium for these products. They had a choice whether to opt for organic or ethically sourced products, and many of them did. But now, since money has become a lot tighter, many consumers are sacrificing conscience free food for less ethical products because these products are so much cheaper. They have a choice of products, and they are choosing to go for the cheaper option. But they still have a choice. If supermarkets begin reducing all their non-GM products they are taking away the most important consumer right – choice.
In addition to choice, consumers need to know what they’re buying. The decision to drop non-GM fed chicken calls for tighter labeling laws. People need to know what they’re buying in order to make their choices over whether they want it or not. If food is not GM free then it needs to be stated on the packaging. According to the Food Standards Agency, 67 per cent of the public want clear labelling if a food product is from animals that are fed from genetically modified plants. We couldn’t agree more. Shockingly, in the past, meat from cattle-fed GM soya was legally sold without labelling. What’s more, some caterers used GM vegetable oil without telling their diners. We think this is despicable. Add to this the horsemeat scandal and you are looking at a whole barrage of deceit. Consumers are increasingly losing the right to make a choice, and this is something we feel strongly about.
We make organic food because we want to. We prefer our food to be natural, rather than laden with chemicals and GM ingredients. But that’s just our opinion. We want our products to be on the shelves so consumers have a choice about whether to opt for organic food over non organic food. We don’t force people to buy organic food. But if organic food wasn’t on the shelves consumers wouldn’t have the choice to buy it.
The decision to drop non-GM fed chicken is a large one. It now leaves us questioning whether this step is just another in a long line of changes. Will more and more stores follow in the supermarkets’ footsteps so they’re not alienated? Will more and more non-GM food be taken of the shelves? Could this spell the end of ethical shopping and consumer choice? We certainly hope not.
What do you think?
Peace, love and non-GM pizza,
What On Earth