The supermarket giant said it introduced the OG – no genetic engineering – stamp on its ‘Good and Cheap’ private label poultry products in outlets in the southwest and southeast of Germany last month.
Alexander Hissting, general manager of the German Association of Food without Genetic Engineering, VLOG, told us that in the absence of a ready supply of GM free poultry meat from German suppliers, the retailer had to rely on an Italian poultry company, AIA, to cover its new range.
“This move by Edeka was not unexpected but it is, nonetheless, scene-stealing in light of the intense GM free soy sourcing debate that has been taking place in Germany over the past ten months.
It sends a strong signal to the German poultry sector that retailers are going to push ahead with bilateral agreements in order to get GM free meat products on their shelves, even if that means sourcing beyond Germany,” said Hissting.
Part of the Veronesi Group, AIA, is certified against the rigorous OG standard.
Edeka, Germany’s biggest retailing group, said it intends to gradually extend the OG label to its own brand beef and pork products.
Withdrawal of GM free feed commitment
The German poultry producers’ trade association, the ZDG, withdrew its 14 year-long pledge in February to only use non-GM soy in poultry feed, citing the hike in the costs of the premium attached to sourcing the commodity and the risk of cross-contamination of non GM soy with GMOs.
It made that decision without convening a meeting with the retail sector, with the supermarkets on the offensive ever since.
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 two sectors have been taking place over the past few months, under the auspices of Germany’s QS animal welfare initiative, but talks would appear to be at a standstill. “A roundtable meeting in September came to nothing,” said Hissting.
Interestingly, one of the demands of the ZDG in their ongoing discussions with the retailers has been for the more widespread use of the OG seal on private label meat products in Germany, with the poultry group saying such a move would create far more transparency in the feed to food supply chain.
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.
It supplies the second largest German retailer, Rewe, which also carries a private label GM free poultry range but not one that is certified under the Ohne Gentechnik (OG) scheme.
Ohne Gentechnik (OG) criteria
VLOG, which allows licensees the use of the OG seal on manufactured food products that meet the standard, says if operators in the feed sector want to comply with the OG labelling criteria, they must aim for no GM content.
This means they can show, at most, traces of up to 0.1% GM raw materials.
There are exceptional cases where the law permits a higher presence of GMs. “These exceptions are documented as ‘adventitious’ or ‘technically unavoidable’. In such cases GM content of up to 0.9% can be permitted as per EU Regulations 1829/2003 and 1830/2003,” said the association.