Silent Invasion

Public unaware that most milk, dairy products and pork from GM
PRESS RELEASE, 16 November 2007

Nearly all the milk, dairy products and pork in UK supermarkets are being produced from animals fed on GM crops, and none of this is labelled, according to a Soil Association investigation. Tests of animal feed and a survey of company policies have revealed that all the supermarkets are widely allowing the use of GM feed. The report found that around 60% of the maize and 30% of the soya fed to dairy cattle and pigs is GM. [1] Most consumers are unwittingly eating food produced from GM crops everyday.

Supermarkets have been trumpeting their non-GM food policies, having removed all of their own-label foods made directly with GM ingredients by October 2002 in response to consumer concerns. However, unknown to most of the public supermarkets did not prohibit the use of GM animal feed. Because of a legal loophole, there is no requirement to label food produced from GM-fed animals so shoppers will find it hard to avoid food produced from GM. [2]

Currently, the only food standard that guarantees the non-use of GM feed is organic. The basic food industry mark, the ‘Little Red Tractor’, allows the use of GM feed. Even ethical labels like ‘Freedom foods’ allow animals to be fed GM crops. For non-organic food, Marks & Spencer offers the only refuge in offering all its milk and fresh meat from non-GM feed, but it does allow GM feed for its frozen and processed foods. All meat and dairy foods can and should be produced from non-GM feed. Unlike the dairy and pig sectors, the poultry sector has widely adopted non-GM feed policies, though around a third of eggs are from GM-fed hens. [3]

This GM stealth invasion of the UK food-chain is denying consumers their right to make fully informed choices. For years, the Food Standards Agency has been assuring consumers they would not be exposed to GM material by eating meat and dairy products from GM-fed animals. Scientific studies have now found small amounts of GM DNA in milk and animal tissues from GM-fed livestock. [4] And studies on GM-fed livestock are finding horrendous effects, including lesions on the gut, toxic effects in body organs, unexplained deaths and stunted growth in their offspring. [5] This raises concerns about the long-term health impacts on humans consuming products from GM-fed animals.

Patrick Holden, Soil Association director said:
"This amounts to deception on a large-scale. This is not just accidental contamination, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM grain are being used to produce our food each year. Biotechnology companies have clearly used imported animal feed as a Trojan Horse to introduce GM into the UK food chain, despite the fact that the British public have voted overwhelmingly against GM.

"The research on the presence of GM DNA in food from GM-fed animals and the impacts on animals is alarming. We urge the public to only buy meat and dairy that are known to be produced from non-GM fed animals, and to write to the supermarkets and ask them to stop allowing the use of GM feed. While it is excellent that Marks & Spencer and the poultry industry have restricted GM feed already, all retailers and food sectors should follow their lead. We also call on the supermarkets to label these products so they are being honest with their customers."

A key concern is that future supplies of non-GM feed will be threatened unless there is wide-spread consumer awareness on this issue and pressure on the food industry to ensure that meat and dairy products come from livestock raised on non-GM feed. [6]

In the past, supermarkets have resisted direct demands for the use of non-GM feed, citing inadequate supplies of non-GM soya or excessive costs for farmers. The Soil Association has established that supplies are abundant and can expand to fit demand. The retail cost is minimal and should be paid for by the retailers, not farmers. The example of the poultry sector shows it can be done. [7]

Although food from GM-fed animals does not have to be labelled, animal feed does have to be labelled if it contains GM ingredients. Most feed (75%) is now labelled as ‘GM’, however, our survey found that most farmers (59%) did not know if their feed was GM. Soil Association tests also revealed a high level of breaches of the EU labelling laws – nearly 20% of feed contained GM soya above the 0.9% labelling threshold but bore no GM label. [8] The FSA are responsible for enforcing the legislation but are not conducting any tests to do so.


For further information please contact:
Gundula Azeez, Soil Association policy manager, 0117 987 4560 /
Soil Association press office, 0117 914 2448 /

Notes to editors:

[1] Silent Invasion – the hidden use of GM animal feed in the UK, Soil Association, November 2007. Full report available on request. A pdf of the report is available on the Soil Association website: Click here for the full report
(It can also be downloaded from the link at the bottom of this page).

The Soil Association tested 37 feed samples from dairy, pig and poultry farmers and surveyed supermarket and feed company sourcing policies. 73% of the feeds tested contained GM soya, with 27% containing soya that was over 70% GM. The company information showed that GM maize (used in the refined form, maize gluten, and so hard to identify in tests) is also widely used. The dairy sector is worst: in the tests, 51% of the soya was GM and it is widely using maize estimated to be around 60% GM. The pig sector is also a concern: the soya was 20% GM and soya makes up a larger proportion of the feed. (See Chapter 3.1 to 3.3)

Based on our findings, we estimate that around 400,000 tonnes (290,000t of GM maize gluten and 146,000t of GM soya) are imported each year to produce manufactured feed for the dairy, pig and poultry sectors (out of a total of 467,000t of maize gluten and 1,123,000t of soya used in manufactured feed for these sectors). Note, the total amount of imported soya and maize gluten that contains GM is far higher. If imported grain used for ‘home-mixing’ of feed by farmers and the small amounts used for fattening beef and sheep (but not wholly grass-fed animals) are included, the total GM feed used would be higher. (See Chapter 4)

[2] The Soil Association is calling on the Government and European Commission to introduce a legal requirement for GM labelling for foods produced from GM-fed animals. This is supported by the public:

An NOP survey in 2006 found that 87% of the UK public believe food from GM-fed animals should be labelled (up from a finding of 79% by the National Consumer Council in 2001).
A European-wide petition for such labelling collected a million signatures by February 2007. (See Chapter 6)
NOP poll of 1000 UK adults carried out 9-11 June 2006 and weighted to be nationally representative.
“One million EU citizens call for labelling of GM foods”, by Helena Spongenberg, 5 February 2007, EU Observer.

[3] The only general sources of meat and dairy foods from non-GM-fed animals are:

For milk and pork: Marks & Spencer provides the only major source of non-organic milk and fresh pork produced from non-GM fed animals. In all other supermarkets, milk and pork is produced from GM-fed animals, apart from organic food and Sainsbury’s ‘Farm Promise’ milk available in some stores.

For chicken: the British poultry industry is the one sector to have mostly excluded GM feed. Apart from Iceland, own-label fresh chicken and turkey in the major supermarkets and Lloyd Maunder poultrymeat, is all produced from non-GM feed. However, frozen chicken, processed chicken products (eg. chicken nuggets), chicken served in restaurants and take-aways are often not British but supplied by importers, and probably from GM fed animals.

For eggs: own-label eggs in the major supermarkets are produced with non-GM feed, except for Iceland. All organic eggs and the following egg brands are produced with non-GM feed: ‘Woodland’, ‘Corn Gold’, ‘Columbus omega-3 rich’, ‘and ‘Church and Manor’ duck eggs. Nearly all ‘free range’ and ‘barn’ eggs are produced from GM feed. And there is no requirement for Lion Quality Eggs or ‘free range’ eggs to be produced from non-GM feed. This means non-organic eggs sold by independent retailers, including some ‘free range’ eggs, may, unless labelled otherwise, be from GM-fed chickens. About half of caged eggs, including probably most used in processing and catering are produced with GM feed.
For frozen and processed meat and dairy foods: organic is the only general option for products such as yoghurt, cheese, cream, butter, ice cream, frozen meat, bacon, ham, sausages, meat pies, corned beef and ready meals.

M&S is well ahead of the other supermarkets. However, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose offer a few non-organic meat and/or dairy items produced from non-GM feed, besides their own-label fresh chicken, turkey, eggs and farmed fish. Iceland offers no non-organic products from non-GM fed animals.

[4] Until 2005, studies which tried to detect GM DNA in milk, eggs and tissues from GM-fed animals had only detected non-GM DNA from the crops, indicating that GM DNA was also probably present in low quantities even if it had not been detected (Chowdhury et al, 2004; Phipps et al, 2003; Einspanier et al, 2001). On this basis, although it was not strictly supported by the science, the FSA and biotechnology industry claimed consumers would not be exposed to GM material by eating food from GM-fed animals. Now, however, four studies by different scientific teams have detected GM DNA in milk and pig and sheep tissues from GM-fed animals (Sharma et al, 2006; Agodi et al, 2006, Mazza et al, 2005; reports by Ralf Einspanier, 20 October and 20 December 2000). (See Chapter 5.1)

[5] The report includes a review of GM feeding trials (12 animal and 1 human) that found negative health effects (all controlled against non-GM crops). Our report also describes some of the ways in which these findings were dismissed by the FSA / European Food Safety Authority and the biotechnology companies, and lists seven scientific reasons why genetic engineering changes the biology of plants, posing risks to health (See Chapter 5.2):

Russian rat trial of GM soya: very high mortality and stunted growth in the offspring (Ermakova, 2005)

Italian mice trial of GM soya: metabolic effects on body organs (Malatesta et al, 2002 and 2003; Vecchio et al, 2004)

FSA-commissioned human trial of GM soya by Newcastle University: GM DNA transfers out of food into the body’s gut bacteria (Netherwood et al, 2004)

Monsanto rat trial of GM maize: changes in body organs indicating toxic effects (report by Monsanto, 2002; review by Dr Pusztai, 2004; Séralini et al, 2007)

Aventis chicken trial of GM maize: mortality doubled and significant change in composition of meat (reports for the Chardon LL hearing, 2002; review in “Food safety – contaminants and toxins, CABI publishing, 2003)

Aventis rat trial of the novel protein of GM maize: reduced body weight and metabolic effects (same references as for Aventis chicken trial)

UK study on sheep: in a few minutes, the genes in the GM maize move into the bacteria in the mouth, changing their characteristics (Duggan et al, 2003)
Monsanto rat trials of GM oilseed rape: reduction in body weight and increased liver weight (significant as the liver is the organ of detoxification) (US FDA, 2002; Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms, 2004)

Australian mice trial of GM peas: allergic reactions, including inflammation of lungs (Prescott et al, 2005)

Calgene mice trials of GM tomatoes: gut lesions and 7 of 40 died within two weeks (review in “Food safety – contaminants and toxins, CABI publishing, 2003)

UK Government-commissioned rat trial of GM potatoes by Rowett Research Institute: gut lesions (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999)

NB: These studies were all designed to identify health impacts; the animal trials often referred to by the biotechnology companies are largely irrelevant as proof of safety, being mostly studies carried out for commercial purposes on the efficacy of the feed, rather than ‘toxicological’ studies involving tissue analysis.

[6] Due to promotion by the biotechnology companies, the area of GM soya is rapidly expanding in Brazil, the main global supplier of non-GM soya. GM soya now accounts for 45-50% of the total, up from 20-25% in 2005. The market for certified non-GM feed must be secured to ensure the current non-GM area remains and that the industry segregates the GM and non-GM crops.

[7] Based on calculations by the Royal College of Agriculture, the increase in costs of using non-GM feed at the retail end would be only 2-4p/kg for pork and bacon, and 0.4p/l for milk, if the non-GM soya premium is 7%. (See Chapter 6)

[8] Since 18 April 2004, according to EU legislation, feed containing GM material or derivatives of GM crops must be labelled as GM. The only exception is if the feed producer uses a non-GM source but some EU approved GM material up to 0.9% is later found to be present due to contamination. 19% of the feed samples we tested (seven of the 37 samples) had no GM label, yet contained GM soya over 0.9% threshold. Remarkably, the soya in five of these samples was over 80% GM. Worse, two were pure soya feeds made of 100% GM soya. (See Chapter 3.1)


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