UK supermarket chain, Morrisons, has dropped its GM-free feed requirement for poultry meat and eggs, as it looks towards strengthening its focus on sustainability.
The decision to permit the use of GM feed in its poultry supply chain was announced at its recent farming conference in Harrogate, Poultry World has reported.
The move follows years of industry lobbying, after supermarkets unilaterally banned all GM in poultry feed in 2001, even though they continued to allow it in other livestock rations.
David Evans, head of agriculture at Morrisons, said the company recognised that feed was becoming a major item of expenditure for livestock producers.
"Uniquely, poultry farmers have faced restrictions on the use of GM-feed, but this policy will be increasingly difficult and costly to maintain as the availability of non-GM protein, namely soy, decreases," he admitted.
"We are moving to permit the use of GM feed in the poultry supply chain and are strengthening the focus of sustainability, through the increasing use of certified sustainable soy," he added.
NFU chief poultry adviser Kelly Watson welcomed the move. "The availability of non-GM soya is declining all the time as producers worldwide switch to GM alternatives. The cost of non-GM has pushed up poultry feed prices, so this move to allow GM will help make feed more affordable, while making poultry production more sustainable. We would like to see other supermarkets follow suit."
The Soil Association has castigated Morrisons’ decision to drop its GM-free feed requirement as a “huge step in the wrong direction” and is now calling for all GM products to be clearly labelled.
Other major UK supermarket chains, Sainsbury's and Tesco have confirmed that all of their fresh and frozen poultry produce would continue to be fed non-GM feed.