GENET archive


3-Food: Tesco (UK) pushes for GE free Canadian animal feed

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  Canada slow to follow U.K. ban of altered-ingredients in
        feed; Tesco PLC hopes to initiate curbs next year
SOURCE: The Toronto Star, Canada, by John Spears
DATE:   December 24, 1999

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Canada slow to follow U.K. ban of altered-ingredients in feed;
Tesco PLC hopes to initiate curbs next year

A British supermarket giant is pushing to eliminate genetically
modified ingredients from animal feed, but Canadian businesses
and regulators aren't yet ready to follow suit. Tesco PLC has
already announced that it will remove genetically modified (GM)
products from its store shelves. Now, it wants to do the same in
Britain's barnyards.

"Our target is the complete elimination of GM ingredients from
animal feed," the company said earlier this week. Skeptics
wonder whether Tesco can carry off its new policy. But anti-GM
campaigners say it shows Canada's food industry that eliminating
genetically engineered foods is commercially possible. Tesco has
sent delegations to Brazil and North America to plan how to keep
GM feed from being sold to British livestock producers. The
company says it hopes to get started with the Brazilian soybean
crop in 2000.

Soybeans, canola and corn are the main animal feed crops for
which seed and chemical companies have developed GM strains. Some
are resistant to herbicides, others to common insect pests. Those
who campaign against GM crops worry the new strains tie farmers
into using designated chemicals. They also worry genes spliced
into domestic crops may get cross-fertilized into weeds -
producing pesticide-resistant super-weeds. And they say the
effects on humnan health are unknown.

The reaction of multi-national grain trader Cargill Inc. has been
guarded. "Cargill's position is always that it will work closely
with its customers to try to insure that we satisfy and meet
their requirments," Geraldine O'Shea of Cargill in the U.K. told
The Star this week in response to Tesco. Michael Khoo of
Greenpeace, which has allied with Tesco on GM food, was pleased
with the new policy. He said it proves it's possible to eliminate
GM materials in the face of consumer concerns.

"The more Canadians see it's possible to respond, the more
dissatisfied they'll be with being stonewalled," he said.
Canadian food producers and sellers are considering a voluntary
labelling policy for GM foods, but it's not ready. Asked about
Tesco's position, Geoff Wilson, vice-president of investor
relations at Loblaw Cos. Ltd., said: "We're monitoring the
situation very closely. Our primary focus is to meet the everyday
needs of our consumers." He said Canada has a central regulatory
agency for food safety and labelling - Europe does not - and
added Canada's food safety record is superior. Asked whether
Loblaw would consider a policy on animal feed like Tesco's, he
said: "I have no comment."

Christine Mercier of the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada
was non-committal. She noted that GM and non-GM materials are not
currently separated in Canadian feed. "If there's a demand for
non-GM ingredients, our hope is the system will be able to
provide them," she said. Terry Daynard, executive vice-president
of the Ontario Corn Producers Assocaition, said it may be very
hard to police a ban on GM ingredients in feed. He noted labs can
only detect GM material in protein - which means that oils or
sugars made from GM products can't be detected. Labs can't tell,
either, whether an animal has eaten GM feed. Daynard also warned
keeping GM crops separated during growing, handling,
transportation and processing could add 20 per cent to the cost.

Khoo of Greenpeace argued that raw material costs on average make
up only 20 per cent of the retail price of food, so large
consumer price increases would not be justified. The Canadian
Food Inspection Agency monitors genetically modified crops when
they are introduced. But once it judges a new GM crop to be safe,
it is allowed into Canada and can be mixed with non-GM foods. 


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