GeneWatch UK PR: Supermarkets must stop harm to Monarch Butterfly, end GM animal feed use

30th January 2014

GeneWatch UK today urged UK supermarkets to end the use of genetically modified (GM) animal feed as new evidence emerged of devastating harm to Monarch butterfly populations in the USA (1). The blanket spraying of GM crops with the weedkiller glyphosate (brandname RoundUp) has wiped out the milkweed habitat where the butterflies lay their eggs. Other factors, such as deforestation also play a role.

Today's report confirms earlier scientific papers which show the massive loss of milkweed habitat, caused by growing GM herbicide-tolerant crops, such as Monsanto's RoundUp Ready GM soya, which is imported to Britain in large quantities for use in animal feed.

"Milk, meat and eggs from animals fed on GM crops are not labelled for consumers, so people are dependent on retailers' decisions on requirements for suppliers" said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK "Supermarkets must take action now to stop the use of GM animal feed and save the Monarch butterfly".

Major supermarkets, except Waitrose, have backtracked from commitments to phase out the use of GM animal feed in the last few years. Sainsbury maintains only one GM-free fed product line, whilst other supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons claim they cannot source GM-free feed. However, in some European countries, such as Sweden, GM feed is not used at all, and in Germany and France many labelled GM-free-fed products are available.

"People must not be force-fed products that are damaging the environment" said Dr Wallace "At the very least there should be labelling but ideally supermarkets should use their buying power to secure GM-free-fed meat, milk and eggs for all their customers".

Today's news follows concerns that the next generation of GM crops will be resistant to even more toxic weedkillers, such as 2,4-D (one of the ingredients of Agent Orange) (2). These crops are close to approval in the USA, Argentina and Brazil, where farmers are struggling with an explosion of superweeds that are resistant to RoundUp. 2,4-D resistant maize and soya is likely to be imported to Britain in large quantities in future unless supermarkets take a stand against its use.

For further information contact

Dr Helen Wallace 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)

Notes for Editors

(1)    Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear. Associated Press. 29th January 2014.

Testbiotech, GeneWatch UK and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Press Release: Stop risky herbicide 2,4-D. 27th January 2014.[cid]=568237&als[itemid]=574132

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