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Supermarkets Policy

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 18 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Supermarkets G.m. Genetically Modified

Supermarkets have come in for heavy criticism from interest groups promoting sustainable living. Not only is the experience of shopping itself arguably downgraded, as large companies aim to 'pack 'em high and sell 'em quick', but products are compromised as ever cheaper and more standardised products are produced, in the interests of competition. Additionally, supermarkets take business away from smaller local enterprises, and tend to import from abroad in large quantities. Policies such as this conflict with the principle of buying organic, local produce, in a bid to help reduce carbon emissions.

Greenpeace directly criticise U.K. supermarkets for selling threatened fish species and urge them to sell seafood from sustainable sources only. Supermarkets are also criticised for stocking, and thereby promoting the development of, genetically modified (G.M.) products.

Some people may wish to boycott supermarkets completely in an effort to lead a fully sustainable lifestyle. Although all major U.K. supermarkets have undertaken promises to remove G.M. products, campaigners from major pressure groups point to some major problems with this:

  • Meat products from animals reared on GM foods do not currently count as GM foods.
  • Under current regulations, there is allowed to be a presence of 0.9% G.M. produce in a food that is labelled as 'non-G.M.'
  • There are still traces of G.M. food in ready-made meals, that only have to be declared in very small print on the back of the packaging.
However, it is beyond doubt that major supermarkets are making significant efforts to curb G.M. stocks, even despite their being no evidence of inherent dangers in eating G.M. food and now law to prohibit its sale. This is, if anything, a major success story for consumer power. In order to further this success it is possible to sustain pressure on supermarkets by:
  • Letting them know that you are dissatisfied with their policy on sustainability issues in general and particularly: policies regarding the sourcing of produce (which often comes from afar, demanding high fuel expenditure); their policy on G.M. food; their policy on sourcing fish and any other products that are threatened with extinction. You can let them know directly, by writing to their customer relations departments, filling out a comments form in-store, or lobbying your local M.P.
  • Boycotting them.
  • Rewarding supermarkets, such as Marks and Spencer's, who source food completely non-G.M. food products only. This will put further pressure on other supermarkets to change tact.
How you decide to shop for a sustainable lifestyle is a matter for personal consideration. However it is important to have information at and from a wide range of sources before you can make an informed decision. Once you have considered the position of environmental concern groups, it may be worth considering the position of individual supermarket chains that are making efforts to promote sustainable living. Here is an overview of their policy to get you started:
  • Asda: Asda aim to sell organic produce at an affordable price, and are committed to sourcing products from local companies and currently offer 3,000 local products across the U.K.
  • Marks and Spencer's sell the biggest range of organic meat products from animals that are reared on non-gm food. Not only are Marks and Spencer's eggs free-range, but all eggs used in their products are free-range too. Where possible, Marks and Spencer's source foods from the U.K.
  • Sainsburys: Sainsburys have stopped selling Skate and Husk, which are endangered fish. They also are committed to sourcing their organic eggs from chickens free to roam in woodland. They sell organic beef, and have plans in place to shortly source 70% of all organic produce from the U.K.
  • Waitrose claim that they use absolutely no G.M. produce in their own brand food. Waitrose sources 89% of its organic food from the U.K. and has the widest range of organic food on offer, out of all of the major supermarket chains.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many products other than food items are dangerous for the environment (see related article: 'Protect Against Hazardous Chemicals'.) Supermarkets are not yet under as much pressure to address problems with products that contain harmful chemicals (such as cleaning products and toiletries) as they are to address issues concerning food. Customer boycotts of hazardous products may push supermarkets to make further changes.

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If supermarkets are to be friendly to our planet they need to stop filling their fridges with animal products. The livestock industry (meat, eggs, dairy, fish) is a major player in (1) Deforestation (for pasture) (2) Water pollution (manure) (3)Soil degradation (compaction from hooves) (4) Air pollution (methane, nitrous oxide - both far more potent than CO2)(5) Species extinction (land clearing, habitat destruction, (6) Resource wasting (animal products use far more energy and resources to produce than plant foods.) There are plenty of soy or gluten products that look, taste and feel like meat which could be used instead.
Shannon - 20-Jun-11 @ 1:16 PM
If supermarkets are to be friendly to our planet they need to stop filling their fridges with animal products. The livestock industry (meat, eggs, dairy, fish) is a major player in (1) Deforestation (for pasture) (2) Water pollution (manure) (3)Soil degradation (compaction from hooves) (4) Air pollution (methane, nitrous oxide - both far more potent than CO2)(5) Species extinction (land clearing, habitat destruction, (6) Resource wasting (animal products use far more energy and resources to produce than plant foods.) There are plenty of soy or gluten products that look, taste and feel like meat whichcould be used instead.
Shannon - 20-Jun-11 @ 1:14 PM
Well done Sandra for such persistence, I don't think anyone else would have discovered this. I will write to them and ask them what they intend now you have found them out and what is the real situation about the rest of their food. I think if they remove this ingredient, I would feel ok about them. Didn't even know a GMO renin existed, (thumbs up)
marianne - 6-Apr-11 @ 10:06 PM
For some time I have been having a battle with M&S to establish what rennin substitute they use in their vegetarian cheeses, and cheese dishes. I was continually assured that they did not use the GMO ingredient chymosin as a rennin substitute. An in store manager told me they had no GMO in their cheese production, I called customer services, they reiterated this claim. I told them I did not belief them, and could they tell me what rennin substitute they did use. He could not tell me, but said someone else would call me. I was then contacted by M&S, again I was assured that no GMO was used in any of the vegetarian cheeses. I asked could he confirm this in writing, I was going to have the cheese tested. I received a letter from M&S dated 3rd February 2011, in it they admitted they do in fact use the GMO ingredient chymosin in all their cheeses!!!! Only for my persistence, and threat of having the cheese tested they would not have told me the truth! I have now contacted media, environmental health, food standards etc. As they by law should have it labelled GMO and they do not. I myself had told people to use M&S because of the GMO policies. They have lied, lied and lied again to me, but eventually the truth came out. If you want confirmation of this, I will gladly email you the letter I received from them. I am now wondering if they have lied so blatantly about this, can we trust them with all their other GMO claims! Sandra Barr
Sandra Barr - 28-Mar-11 @ 4:56 PM
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