“German retailers, much like the Swiss supermarkets, have made a firm commitment to GM free soy, which some are about to prove through a roll-out of voluntary non GM seal, Ohne Gentechnik, on poultry products.
This move fulfills one of the requirements of the German poultry sector calling for more transparency in the feed to food supply chain,” said Sibyl Anwander, executive director of the non-profit group, ProTerra, which supports sourcing of sustainably produced crops for feed and food.
A survey by Germany’s Emnid poll, taken in January 2014, found that 75% of consumers said it was important to have the OG label (no genetic engineering) on a meat, dairy or egg product.
German soy debate
The leading German supermarkets and the country’s poultry association, the ZDG, have been engaged in intense and often fraught debate since February this year following the poultry trade group’s declaration that it was no longer viable for its members to retain its 10 year old policy of ensuring GM free soy only in their feed.
Retailing powerhouses such as Edeka, Kaufland, and Rewe have been driving the campaign to get egg and poultry meat producers to use GM free soy feed again and have demanded they revert to such sourcing from January 2015.
Meetings between the supermarkets and the poultry manufacturers have been taking place over the past few months, under the auspices of Germany’s QS animal welfare initiative.
But neither retailers nor the poultry sector, when pressed, were willing to reveal the status of those talks.
Discussion has 'moved on'
German poultry integrator, Stolle, part of the Plukon Food Group and a pioneer in terms of GMO labelling, has never stopped supplying GM free fed chicken meat, and continues to do so, as it has done "for years".
Director of the Plukon Food Group in Germany, Bernhard Lammers, thinks the discussion has now moved on.
“At some point next year, we expect to see the entire German poultry industry once again use only GM free soy in their supply chains, but, when exactly, it is too early to say,” he told us.
Swiss retailers ban GM food
Anwander said the Swiss have, evidently, taken a clear decision on the use of GM free animal feed.
The country’s two largest retailers, Migros and Coop, have long banned all GM food – including meat, poultry and dairy produce from livestock fed on GM feed – in their supermarket brands.
But pledges on non GM feed elsewhere would seem to be on shaky ground.
Hilda Runsten, environmental and climate expert at Swedish dairy trade association, LRF Mjölk, told us a few months back that dairy producers in that market are questioning the continued reliance on the use of non-GM soy due to increasing cost pressures.
She said the higher premium associated with non-GM soy is proving a burden for the sector.
Claes Johansson, head of sustainable development at Swedish agri-group, Lantmännen, said the debate on migration to the use of non-GM soy in feed has included all livestock industry stakeholders in Sweden.
Meanwhile, April last year saw most of the major retailers in the UK, except Waitrose, drop their ban on poultry suppliers using GM feed.