NOTE: Exchange between Dr Brian John and ' Head of Policy on the company's decision to abandon the use of GM-free poultry feed.
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Head of Policy
Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
10th April 2012
Dear Mr Scott,
Thank you for your response. Frankly, I'm amazed at your pre-occupation with price. I know there is a competitive market out there, and you need to hold down prices for your customers, but your comments about non-GM soy being 10-15% more expensive than GM soy, and about GM soy taking 77% of the market, are disingenuous. Of course supplies of pure GM-free soy will be difficult to maintain, just as purity will be difficult to guarantee, largely because of the feeble and opportunistic attitudes of Morrisons and other large-scale purchasers of animal products. The more you encourage the attempts of the GM industry to contaminate the whole of the GM supply chain, the more difficult it will be for organic and conventional GM producers to maintain their place in the global market. In case you had not realized it, it is the intention of the GM industry to make sure that "GM is everywhere" and to ensure that NOTHING can be guaranteed as GM-free. Shame on you, for participating in that cynical exercise.
I am greatly entertained that you should cite the NFU as saying that the use of GM feed "will help poultry producers." Of course it says that. The NFU has been unashamedly promoting GM farming and GM products for more than a decade, at every opportunity, regardless of the wishes of British consumers and ignoring the accumulating evidence that actual harm is experienced by animals fed on GM.
I am at a loss to understand why you seem to think that an increased use of GM soya in the animal feed industry will increase your security of supply. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said in my earlier letter, study after study is now showing chronic toxic effects in animals fed on GM soy and other GM plant material; the EFSA "risk assessments" are famously defective and sometime corrupt, since they depend very largely upon animal feeding studies directed by the GM corporations themselves, specifically designed to show "no harm." Many of the studies accepted as "safety" studies are nothing of the sort -- they are nutritional studies which ignore physiological changes to animal organs and reduced fertility. Furthermore, EFSA ignores all independent studies which should, in a well regulated assessment process, cause the GMO Panel to reconsider some of its earlier (very hasty and ill-informed) safety assessments given to the EC. You should be aware that EFSA is widely mistrusted by the Environment Council and by the EU Parliament -- and there are constant calls for it to be reformed because of its ongoing pro-GM bias and its cavalier disregard for animal and human safety.
An increasing dependence upon GM soy is CERTAIN to diminish security of supply in the animal feed industry, in view of the following:
1. Increasing evidence of environmental degradation and harm to human health associated with the planting and spraying (mostly with Roundup formulations) on extensive GM soy plantations in USA and South America;
2. The development of glyphosate resistance by plant and animal pests in areas where GM soy monoculture is practised, leading to the accelerating development of "stacked" GM varieties and to spraying with additional herbicides. This, as a crop management strategy, is little short of insane -- yields are bound to fall as one crazy technical fix follows another.
3. As evidence of actual harm (to animals fed on GM soy and other GM feed) enters the public domain -- in specialist journals -- at an accelerating pace, the media and the public will become increasingly vociferous in their demands for a total stop to the growing of GM crops.
Where will you and your animal product suppliers then turn to obtain your GM-free supplies? You will, I fear, have the grotesque satisfaction of knowing that you and your RTRS colleagues have done your bit to make the farming of non-GM soya virtually impossible.
The GM soy industry is unsustainable, and I anticipate that within a few years it will collapse. So much for security of supply.
Dr Brian John
On 3 Apr 2012, at 14:43, David FJ Scott wrote:
> Dear Dr John
> Thank you for your email.
> I am sorry you are disappointed by our decision.
> In your email you correctly quote part of our response. The point we also make is that non-GM soy is 10-15% more expensive than GM soy. As the proportion of GM soya production is 77% and rising, a non-GM soya guarantee will be increasingly difficult and costly to maintain. This is recognised by other major UK supermarkets, and the NFU, who have commented, “there is no doubt that this will help poultry producers”.
> We take on board your comments about the RTRS, however, it is our view that it is a step in the right direction. This is why we took the decision to become members, along with Sainsbury’s, M&S, the Coop, Asda and Waitrose. I note the WWF Report, Soya and the Cerrado, which states:
> “…the fact is that many GM crops have already been released and are widely used – 77% of global soya production is GM. This is a reality that has to be faced. If we want to curb the key negative impacts of mainstream soya production, such as the startling destruction of the Cerrado, it is necessary to engage with key soya producers, regardless of production system…In summary, the RTRS provides an opportunity for British food producers, retailers and consumers to acknowledge and tackle part of their footprint of which few of us are aware: the link between the animals we eat and the irreplaceable ecosystems that are being cleared in order to feed us. It represents a pragmatic and effective mechanism for meeting today’s market demands while preserving vital ecosystems for future generations.”
> Your final point was in relation to animal welfare, which is an issue we take very seriously. As you will be aware, no GM feed can be used in the EU unless it is authorised by the European Commission based on an independent risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This assessment covers animal health.
> Our aim, of course, must be to reduce reliance on soya, and where there is no suitable alternative, to develop home-grown sources which lessen the need to import. We are working on this through the Morrisons Farming Programme.
> Yours sincerely
> David Scott
> Head of Policy
> Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
> Gain Lane
> BD3 7DL
> (T) 0845 611 4856
> (M) 07854 496150
> 2011 Grocer Gold Awards - Employer of the Year
> From: Brian John [mailto:
> Sent: 31 March 2012 16:40
> To: David FJ Scott
> Subject: Goodbye to Morrisons
> Morrisons Head of Policy (David Scott)
> 31st March 2012
> Dear Mr Scott
> Following your decision to allow your stores to sell poultry products and eggs from birds fed with GM soy, my wife and I will no longer shop with Morrisons. There is a wide sense of outrage at this ridiculous decision, which goes against the wishes of British consumers and also places the health of consumers at risk.
> I am sure that many others have complained. I gather that this has been your response:
> "Morrisons is not altering its policy on the use of GM in food: we do not use genetically modified ingredients in any of our own brand products and have no plans to change this. However, in order to ease pressure on farmers and to strengthen our ability to hold down prices for consumers, we are no longer specifying that our poultry farmers use non-GM feed. At the same time we are introducing measures to improve the sustainability of the feed supply chain.
> "Morrisons is alive to concerns over the impacts of both GM and non-GM soya production on the natural environment, such as the Cerrado in Brazil. We are working to improve the sustainability of the feed supply chain by investing in research into alternative protein sources and the development of home-grown soya, which would reduce reliance on imports in the future. Importantly, we are also looking to increase the use of certified sustainable soya in our supply chain, through initiatives such as the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS)."
> This response is thoroughly disingenuous. What on earth do you mean by "ease pressure on farmers"? RTRS soy is only cheaper for those farmers who cannot be bothered to source non-GM soy properly -- there is abundant non-GM soy on the global market, and it is obtainable via a number of trading mechanisms including at least one that guarantees to hold prices down in the longer term. The marketing advantages of using non-GM soy are still very great indeed -- instead of which both you and the poultry producers will now have to face a barrage of negative publicity and lost trade. And this statement: "We are working to improve the sustainability of the feed supply chain....." is laughable, given that RTRS soy is about as unsustainable as anything can be, since it is already well known that GM soy production is associated with dramatic environmental and health damage -- not to mention the socio-economic effects in communities in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
fact that you are now apparently signed up to the RTRS brand does you no credit at all -- that brand is involved in the worst kind of greenwashing, and is cynically manipulated by the GM industry.
> And what of your attitude to animal welfare? I have been following the research on GM soy for years, and there is no doubt at all that GM soy is associated with chronic toxic effects in the animals that consume it. Before very long -- in spite of the attempts of the GM industry and our own regulators to suppress research in this field, the damage done to animals by a GM soy diet will be fully exposed for the world to see -- by which time your reputation will have been severely tarnished.
> Bad decision, Morrisons. From now on, no more visits to Morrisons stores for us.
> Yours sincerely,
> Dr Brian John