Azara Blog: NFU advisor believes GM soya should be allowed to be used to feed chickens

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Date published: 2008/06/08

The Financial Times says:

Spiralling food prices are placing supermarkets under pressure from farmers' leaders to put poultry fed with genetically modified products back on their shelves.

The National Farmers Union has held talks with the product managers of all the major supermarkets to explain that shortages of non-GM soyabeans - the key protein source for poultry - was making it both extremely expensive and increasingly difficult to source the GM-free products demanded by retailers.

Robert Newbery, chief poultry adviser to the National Farmers' Union, said: "We”re really struggling to work out where we”re going to get non-GM soya from." The meetings followed letters earlier this year from the NFU to all the main retailers. The letters suggested supermarkets get rid of non-GM requirements for all their foods except their organic ranges.

There is no sign yet that the campaign has forced a change in policy but Mr Newbery said the supermarkets would have to give way before too long. Food producers say the UK's resistance to GM crops hurts British consumers by raising prices.
Supermarkets stopped selling poultry products (including eggs) from animals reared on GM-feed in the late 1990s following a consumer backlash.

At the time, regular soya was only slightly more expensive than GM soya for British farmers. But as the world”s biggest soya exporters have devoted more land to GM crops, the cost of unmodified soyabeans is rising. British farmers are currently paying around £276 per tonne for GM soya, and £293/t for non-GM.

With the US, the world”s biggest soyabean producer, now 95 per cent GM, the UK has looked to Brazil for a GM-free alternative. But Brazil, the world”s second biggest soya exporter, is expected to increase GM plantings from 54 per cent of its total crop to 65 per cent next year and 80 per cent over the next decade.

Mr Newbery said supermarkets should alter their policies on GM voluntarily before changes are forced on them. "Ultimately they will change because [the non-GM feed] will run out... The Brazilians are not going to bother growing non-GM just for the UK."

It will be interesting to see if Newberry is correct. The "consumer backlash" of the 1990s was fomented by the academic middle class people who run the country, and in particular who run the media (e.g. the BBC), and who object to so-called GM products for religious reasons (i.e. they hate corporations, and in particular hate American corporations). These people actually want food to be more expensive, and in particular want chicken to be more expensive, so in some sense they have achieved victory on all fronts. But sooner or later some supermarket (e.g. Tesco or Sainsbury) will break ranks and decide to put the interests of their customers above the narrow, partisan, misguided interests of the academic middle class. Sooner or later Britain will be carried kicking and screaming into the 21st century, long after most of the rest of the world. (Well, to be fair, on this issue, most of the EU is as bad as the UK.)

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