1. Four British supermarket chains – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, and “the Co-Op” – have announced that they will begin selling poultry and eggs from chickens which were fed GM soy. The items won’t be labeled. This reverses their previous policy banning such items from their stores. They join Asda and Morrison’s who previously broke off from the boycott. That leaves only Waitrose among large British retailers maintaining the no-GM poultry/egg policy. All the chains sell unlabeled GM meat and milk.
2. Tesco put out a press release telling three lies about why they’re doing this.
A. LIE: There’s not enough non-GM soy available. TRUTH: ABRANGE, the Brazilian Association for Producers of Non-GMO Soy, and the certification groups CERT-ID and ProTerra, quickly put out releases and reports denying this. They say there’s more than enough non-GM soy to supply all of Europe. Retailers in Germany, Austria, and France confirmed this.
(Further confirmation came at the same time in China, where a consortium of Brazilian soy producers met with Chinese government officials about future soy exports to China. In response to Chinese requests for large amounts of non-GM soy, even the regular Brazilian trade group (primarily pro-GMO) assured them that Brazil could fill that order. So it’s not just the non-GM trade group saying so, but the regular industrial trade group saying so as well.
This is also another example of China showing up the West on GMOs.)
B. LIE: Genetically modified DNA doesn’t persist in the meat or eggs of animals fed GM feed. TRUTH: Many studies have found that, contrary to longstanding pro-GM dogma, GM DNA often does survive cooking and digestion. Even the British government, pro-GMO Food Standards Agency (FSA – analogous to the FDA, where it comes to food) has found that GM material may persist in animal tissue. Tesco is doing nothing here but regurgitating an old lie which was disproven long ago.
C. LIE: GM soy is a beneficial product vs. “pests and diseases”. TRUTH: There’s no GM soy which has any special qualities vs. pests and diseases. Indeed, the domination of proprietary GM varieties, worthless for this purpose, has suppressed the availability of public domain varieties which do have such resistance. The only commercialized GM soy is herbicide-tolerant, specifically “Roundup Ready”. It does nothing but enable ever more massive amounts of poison to be sprayed upon it. But this crop is failing, as superweeds resistant to glyphosate are becoming more and more prevalent. Roundup is collapsing around the world. That’s why the corporate system is trying to commercialize GM varieties resistant to even more toxic herbicides – 2,4-D, dicamba. These are precisely the virulent poisons Monsanto originally promised to render obsolete. We see what a lie that was, and we know that these poisons will also fail the same way glyphosate has. What, even more viciously toxic, poisons will be next? Isn’t this insanity? Why are we doing it? Ask yourself that.
3. What’s the basic position of the abolition movement on these supermarkets?
In principle, this is a squabble within the system, a squabble within globalization. No matter how you shell them, these are commodified and globalized industrial soybeans, GMO or not. They’re part of rainforest-destroying, climate-change-driving industrial agriculture. We have reformists who want Better Globalization, and Better Big Ag. It’s similar to the labeling movement in the US, to the extent that labeling is advertised as a panacea. In themselves, these kinds of fights aren’t significant steps toward Food Sovereignty.
Big picture, this is a squabble within the malign and doomed industrial sector. But targeted, from the point of view of a GMO abolition movement, we can launch a precision strike by forming an alliance with the reformists for a supermarket boycott campaign. The goal would be to halt GMO progress, help non-GM producers, and open up space for POE (democracy Participation, Organization, Education).
This is a potentially winning tactical battleground, because supermarkets are vulnerable. The longstanding targeted campaigns of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) provides a blueprint for how to conduct the campaigns. One chain at a time. Since Tesco has chosen to be so obnoxious, maybe them first? The campaign must start right away, in order to take advantage of the current media spotlight on the issue.
It would be tougher to get started in the US. But if the CIW can do it, we can do it.
But real abolitionists and fighters for Food Freedom must treat this, and labeling, the way democracy activists must treat any fight for reform within the hierarchy. We can support examples like Card Check or workplace discrimination fights, but we take the opportunity to point out that efforts like these aren’t sufficient, that they rely on system attrition which is not favorable to the people, and that no nominal success can ever be taken as a sign to relax our efforts. On the contrary, each proximate fight is also the occasion to build a permanent abolition movement. The real, fully conscious goal is always to abolish GMOs and build the Community Food sector.