GM crops and foods in Britain and Europe
GM crops enter Britain mainly as animal feed. There is no commercial growing, but an experimental trial of GM wheat began in 2012and will continue in 2013.
GM crops and food can enter Europe as food, animal feed, or biofuels. GM food and feed must be approved by EU regulators and must be labelled, but meat and dairy products produced from animals fed on GM feed are not required to be labelled. In 2011, the EU decided to allow low levels of unapproved GM crops in animal feed. GM crops can be grown experimentally with approval from national regulators, or commercially if approved by the EU.
The current situation is summarised below.
For more about how GM crops and foods are regulated see the GM crops:Regulation section.
GM foods and feed
Large quantities of GM soya and maize are imported into Europe, including Britain, as animal feed. Meat and dairy products fed on GM animal feed are not labelled as GM-fed in British supermarkets. The EU has also decided to allow GM feed to include trace levels of crops which have no safety approval in Europe (i.e. are unauthorised GM crops). Campaign group GM Freeze has published a list of where to buy non-GM-fed meat, milk and eggs. Food and Water Watch Europe has also published campaign information.
Waitrose continues to require non-GM feed for poultry, eggs and lamb. In April 2013, Tesco, the Co-Op and Marks and Spencer announced they will no longer require poultry to be fed on GM-free feed, following similar decisions by Morrisons (March 2012) and Asda (September 2010). Sainsbury is keeping some product lines fed on non-GM soya, but is dropping others. There is a danger that suppliers will no longer segregate GM and non-GM soya in shipments to Britain if the major retailers do not demand it and easily available sources of non-GM meat and dairy products will be lost. However, organic and pasture-fed meat and dairy products will remain GM-free fed.
Some other countries in Europe (Germany, France, Luxembourg, Austria) have Government-sponsored voluntary labelling schemes for non-GM-fed meat, milk and eggs so that consumers can choose to buy non-GM-fed products. Organic standards also require non-GM feed. In Sweden, GM feed is no longer used at all, due to consumer pressure. In 2012, Turkey announced that GM-fed meat, milk and dairy products would be labelled.
Most British retailers do not sell other GM foods and if they stock them they must be labelled (this is also the case elsewhere in Europe). GM Freeze has produced a list of products it has found here. This includes GM cooking oil which is used in some chip shops and takeaways.
A large percentage of GM maize grown in the US is now used in industrial-scale biofuels (agrofuels) subsidised by the US Government. Biofuels do not have to be labelled as containing GM crops and it is possible that some GM biofuels are entering the EU, including Britain.
Only two GM crops have been approved for commercial growing in the EU. One is a variety of pest-resistant maize (Bt maize) produced by Monsanto (known as MON810). This is grown mainly in Spain (and in smaller quantities in some other countries) for use in animal feed. Cultivation of MON810 is banned in France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxemburg and Hungary.
The other GM crop approved for cultivation in the EU in 2010, is a potato known as the Amflora potato, which has been genetically modified by BASF to produce starch for use in paper-making: it was grown in small quantities in Germany and Sweden in 2011. BASF then withdrew from planting GM crops in Europe in January 2012.
No GM crops are currently grown commercially in Britain. The Bt maize that is grown in Spain is not suitable for growing here and the pests it is resistant to do not occur in Britain. Attempts to introduce herbicide-tolerant GM crops into Britain have been very controversial, because of the expected harmful effects on wildlife and the likely emergence of superweeds. None of these crops are currently approved for commercial growing.
Many experimental field trials of GM crops are conducted in Europe. In Britain, there are currently two field trials of GM potatoes (one in Norfolk and one near Leeds). A new trial of GM wheat began in March 2012, at the Rothamsted research centre in Hertfordshire.
Campaign group GM Freeze has started a campaign to stop GM wheat.
In June 2011, the UK Coalition Government outlined its policy on GM crops in its response to the Science and Technology Committee's report on bioengineering. A summary of the policy has been added to the DEFRA website (under the heading Government policy).
In 2012, the GM industry met with ministers to promote the return of GM crops to Britain. In late 2012, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Prime Minister David Cameron began to make public statements in support of GM crops.
- Consultation responses
- GeneWatch UK: Response to FSA consultation on EU harmonisation of "GM Free" labelling 26th February 2013
- GeneWatch UK: Response to BIS consultation on Agri-Tech Strategy 23rd November 2012
- Press releases
- Joint PR: China moves to source GM-free soya supplies: why will Tesco not do the same in Britain? 23rd April 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: Tesco misleads customers on GM chicken feed and bows to pressure from Monsanto 11th April 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: GeneWatch warns of conflicts-of-interest in parliament on GM crops 4th January 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: GM industry fund parliamentary group to promote return of GM crops to Britain 27th November 2012
- GeneWatch UK PR: Taxpayers' R&D spend needs more accountability: stop wasting it on PR for GM crops 23rd November 2012
- GeneWatch UK and GM Freeze Press Release: Monsanto meets ministers to push return of GM crops to Britain 25th October 2012
- GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch welcomes MPs' report on sustainable food and MEP's decision to halt patents on conventionally-bred plants 13th May 2012
- Press articles
- The Observer: M and S, Co-op and Sainsbury's say chickens will be fed on GM soya (12th May 2013)
- AllAboutFeed: EU retailers pledge support for Brazilian non-GMO soy (8th May 2013)
- Politics.co.uk: Comment: The government's backing of GM foods is short-sighted and wrong (25th April 2013)
- The Independent: Genetically modified crops needed to 'feed the world,' says Government's chief scientific advisor Mark Walport
- The Guardian: Consumers should have the right to know if they are eating GM food (19th April 2013)
- Daily Mail: Let farms grow GM food, says PM's personal scientific adviser: Top adviser backs calls to relax rules on crops (18th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Supermarkets misled on GM soya claims (17th April 2013)
- Farming Online: Brazilian exporters 'puzzled' by UK supermarket GM claims (16th April 2013)
- The Scottish Farmer: GM maize move leaves UK 'cold' (12th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Consumers don't trust supermarkets on GM food, poll finds (12th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Tesco drops resistance to GM feed for poultry (12th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: REACTION: Tesco drops non-GM for poultry (12th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Co-op ditches guarantee of non-GM feed for its poultry (12th April 2013)
- EUbusiness: Italy asks EU to halt GM maize cultivation (4th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Sainsbury's to fund broiler feed research (1st April 2013)
- Independent Daily Express: Spain Leads EU in GM Crops, but No One Knows Where They Are (27th March 2013)
- Farming UK: Feed is contributing to climate change, says crop expert (18th March 2013)
- The Grocer: Stop the Crop campaign takes aim at GM crops in Europe (19th March 2013)
- Daily Mail: Time for Europe to let British farmers grow GM food, says environment minister (11th March 2013)
- FT: UK set for GM food push in Europe (8th March 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: FARMER FOCUS: going alone on GMs is worrying (3rd March 2013)
- The Grocer: Retailers urged not to relax rules on non-GM feed (21st February 2013)
- Daily Mail: Farmers push to lift supermarkets' ban on GM-fed hens as they argue conventional feeds are too expensive (18th February 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Rothamsted plans GM winter wheat field trial (7th February 2013)
- Farming UK: Egg producers call on major retailers to abandon Non-GM rule (1st February 2013)
- Europolitics: BASF drops EU potato bid (30th January 2013)
- The Grocer: Stop horse play with food (and that includes GM) (26th January 2013)
- Food Navigator: EU health commissioner to prioritise talks on GM crop bans (24th January 2013)
- Nasdaq: Europeans Should Reconsider Suspicion of GM Crops - Lobby Group (22nd January 2013)
- Metro: GM food: A better way of farming or a health risk? (22nd January 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: GMs threaten our green and pleasant land (20th January 2013)
- Mother Jones: Enviro Crusader Turns Pro-GMO, Anti-Organic - And Anti-Logic (16th January 2013)
- Permaculture.co.uk: Polish Farmers Protest Sale of Land for GM Crops (15th January 2013)
The Telegraph: Egg prices up 40 per cent (15th January 2013)
Egg prices have rocketed by 40 per cent over the past year as the cost of non genetically modified feed soars and new welfare rules come in, a new report shows.
- Daily Mail: Two in three shoppers demand GM product labels in embarrassing consumer backlash for government against 'Frankenstein foods' (9th January 2013)
- The Telegraph: GM food should be labelled by supermarkets - FSA (9th January 2013)
- The Grocer: FSA study sees consumer demand for GM feed labelling (9th January 2013)
- The Guardian: UK government's enthusiasm for GM not matched in developing nations (4th January 2013)
- The Guardian: Bad weather prompting more British farmers to favour GM use (4th January 2013)
- Daily Mail: Ministers launch PR drive to shake off 'Frankenstein food' image of GM crops (3rd January 2013)
- The Guardian: GM food: British public 'should be persuaded of the benefits' (3rd January 2012)
- The Warsaw Voice: Poland imposes farming bans on GM maize, potatoes (3rd January 2013)
- The Telegraph: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson tells farmers to push GM (3rd January 2013)
- The Telegraph: Zac Goldsmith attacks 'deceitful' David Cameron (18th December 2012)
- Daily Mail: 'Frankenstein food' a good thing? It's all great GM lies (17th December 2012)
- The Telegraph: The seeds of another GM row are sown (14th December 2012)
Reuters: U.S. trade deal could be a lot for Europe to swallow (11th December 2012)
The US wants to weaken EU regulations on GM crops and foods as part of a new trade deal.
- The Telegraph: Speed up roll-out of GM crops, says Downing Street (10th December 2012)
- EurActiv: Without Dalli, GMO foes hope for tougher EU policy (12th November 2012)
Farmers Weekly: Animal welfare concerns reduce during recession (6th November 2012)
Reports a Which? survey showing rising public concern over GM foods.
- The Scottish Farmer: GM charm campaign? (1st November 2012)
- Farmers Guardian: Row erupts over GM 'agenda setting' claims (1st November 2012)
- Public Service Europe: Has a deal been done to bring GM crops to Europe? (25th October 2012)
- The Scottish Farmer: Unlock the science! (18th October 2012)
- The Scientist: A Win for GM Crops (10th September 2012)
- The Local: WWF: We're all eating GM-based meat (21st August 2012)
- Public Service Europe: The unsuitable EU authorisation process for GM (20th July 2012)
- MSN News: The big answer: GM crops should not be grown in Britain (11th July 2012)
BBC: Time for a rethink on GM crops?
Industry lobbying from the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) which represents Monsanto and other GM companies.
- Daily Mail: In hot water, MP fan of Frankenstein food who got it wrong on M&S broccoli by saying it was genetically modified (26th June 2012)
- The Telegraph: David Willetts: more focus needed on agricultural research, including GM (26th June 2012)
- Financial Times: Research calls stir 'Frankenfood' debate (25th June 2012)
- BBC: UK bioscience industry gets GBP250m cash boost from government (24th May 2012)
- The Guardian: GM crops: protesters go back to the battlefields (22nd May 2012)
- BakeryInfo: First UK GM wheat trial vandalised (22nd May 2012)
- The Guardian: French ban of Monsanto GM maize rejected by EU (22nd May 2012)
- New York Times: An Entrepreneur Bankrolls a Genetically Engineered Salmon (21st May 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: Number of GM field trials in Europe in decline (21st May 2012)
- GMO Safety: Plant research in Europe: Few new GM plants (18th May 2012)
- Public Service Europe: The dangers of GM - Europe must learn the lessons from America (14th May 2012)
- Channel 4 News: Government must act to secure a sustainable food supply (13th May 2012)
- The Grocer: Morrisons' GM Muck Up (5th May 2012)
- Wales Online: Welsh farmer leads anti-GM crop protest against pioneering wheat crop experiment (3rd May 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: GM wheat trial begins amid high security (28th March 2012)
- The Scottish Farmer: Monsanto's GM maize retreat (26th January 2012)
- EurActiv: Disgruntled GMO firms start pulling out of EU market (26th January 2012)
- European Voice: BASF to end GM crop production for the EU (16th January 2012)
- The Guardian: Tories and Labour renew backing for GM food crops (5th January 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: GM crops: A new way forward (29th December 2011)
- External links
- SpinWatch: The Repentant Environmentalist: Part 2 (27th February 2013)
- GM Watch: Lynas backs down and apologises to the Soil Association (5th February 2013)
- SpinWatch: The Repentant Environmentalist: Part 1 (30th January 2013)
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Science, Dogma and Mark Lynas (11th January 2013)
- Food First: Professor John Vandermeer challenges environmentalist Mark Lynas on GMOs (8th January 2013)
- GM-free Cymru: The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism (6th January 2013)
CEE BankWatch Press Release: Monsanto Should Not Expand Relying on Public Money (19th November 2012)
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provisionally approved a 40 million US dollars financial guarantee to cover Monsanto in case farming companies cannot pay for seeds or agrochemical products they committed to buy from the corporation. The support is to be offered by the EBRD for contracts made by Monsanto with medium and large farmers and distributors in Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
- GM Freeze: UK GM field trials
BIS: Shaping a UK agri-tech strategy: call for evidence (11th October 2012)
Government consultation: deadline 22nd November 2012.
ABC: Going for Growth (June 2012)
Report by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), an industry body which represents Monsanto and other GM companies, seeking more public subsidy for GM crops research in Britain.
TestBiotech: PlantGeneRisk Database on the authorisation of genetically engineered plants in the European Union
Database featuring independent scrutiny of EFSA recommendations to authorise GM crops in the EU.
European Commission: GM Food and Feed
A list of all GM food and feed allowed on the EU market, including crops approved for import and/or for cultivation.
European Commission Joint Research Centre: GMO Register
A register of all experimental and commercial releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the EU.
Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): Genetic Modification (GM)
Provides links to information on GM crops and food in the UK, including field trial sites, legislation, and government policy.