Cows dance on Sainsbury's roof to launch national actions against GM animal feed (3/3/2004)

Cows Dance on Sainsbury's Roof to launch National actions against  GM animal feed.

2.Cows Dance on Sainsbury's Roof to launch National actions against GM animal feed

Herald Express, 2 March 2004

A pair of Friesian cows from Totnes have hit the roof in a supermarket protest over so-called Frankenstein Food.  The anti-genetically modified food campaigners dressed as cows were part of a 17-strong group from Totnes and Exeter who took their protest to Sainsbury's supermarket at Alphington, Exeter, as part of a national day of action against GM. The "cows" took to the roof of the store with a protest banner while other campaigners handed out leaflets, put warning labels on products they claim contain GM food, took over the store loudspeaker system for a short while and released protest balloons inside the building.

The protesters were eventually evicted from the supermarket. The campaigners, mainly from the Totnes Genetics Group, say they are concerned about GM feed being fed to cows which supply milk and dairy produce to the supermarket chain. A Totnes group spokesman said: "Sainsbury's promised back in 2001 to phase out the feeding of GM to the animals that produce its own brand products.

"Not only have they failed to do so, and failed to label such products clearly, but now they're trying to silence those who are explaining what's really going on."

A spokesman for Sainsbury said: "The integrity of the food we sell is our first priority so we are surprised that they have chosen to target us.

"We were the first of the major supermarkets to eliminate GM ingredients from all our own-label products.

"We have every confidence in the integrity of our milk and support the Food Standards Agency advice which stated: 'No genetic material or gene products from GM plants used in animal feed have yet been detected in milk.'"

Cows Dance on Sainsbury's Roof to launch National actions against GM animal feed
[GEN via Robert Vint]

Across the country this Saturday (28 Jan 04), in seven different Sainsbury's supermarkets, disgruntled shoppers and bandit labellers took to the aisles to protest against the company’s ongoing use of GM to feed the cows that produce their dairy products. Local grassroots groups linked by GEN (The Genetic Engineering Network) organized the event, and more protests are promised  across the country in the next few weeks. In Exeter, Sherbourne, Taunton, Coventry, Bracknell, Wales, Plymouth and London shoppers were leafleted and GM fed dairy products  labelled.

The idea is simple - To stop the growing of GM crops by ensuring that there is no market for the GM fodder maize the  government are trying to commercialise. In Holland, supermarkets made a commitment not to use GM feed, and although they have GM maize with full approval no one's planted any.

Although not all the reports are back in yet, here's what happened in the South West:

In Exeter's Alfingnton Road Sainsbury's two dancing Friesians occupied the roof with a banner declaring GM FED DAIRY - untested, unlabelled and in here - and stayed there for over two hours. Meanwhile a banner, lifted on two giant helium balloons, hung from the ceiling inside the store, (alas not for long - the ceiling was a bit low for the 5ft wide banner and 4ft diameter balloons).

The tannoy was briefly taken over by protesters warning shoppers of Sainsbury's policy. A cow and a giant mutant maize handed out leaflets inside, before being forceably ejected, and three of the checkout girls spent  their break outside with the protesters, asked for leaflets and quietly said-  'good on you, we agree'. The police were called, but were almost  embarrassingly co-operative, and there were no arrests, despite the entire  milk and dairy stock being labelled by 17 other protesters (which resulted in  the deputy manager running out screaming to the police 'they've done criminal  damage to our cheese!'). Almost all of the labelled products were  subsequently removed by the staff, which will have amounted to a not insubstantial loss to Sainsbury's. There was a strong media interest (hampered by technical difficulties at the GEN end on the day). By none the less local TV and radio covered the story and all the local papers are running the full story and pictures.

In Plymouth people leafleted for an hour and a half both inside and outside the shop before the police were called and GM fed products were also labelled inside the store.

GM, by the supermarket's own admission, is currently fed to the cows that produce their dairy products, as well as to the cattle and pigs that make their beef and pork in their non-specialist ranges. Yet there is no labelling to alert shoppers to the presence of this GM in the food chain. The Co-op and Marks & Spencers already sell totally non-GM reared meat and dairy as standard, due to deep customer concerns about the issue.

They have good reason to be worried. Bob Orskov  OBE, Director of the International Feed Resource Unit in Aberdeen has said that 'As a scientist I wouldn't drink milk from cows fed GM maize with the present state of knowledge'.

Sainsbury's  claim that they haven't kept their promise because of their 'concern about the commercial impact of this on farmers'. Yet the appallingly low price that Sainsbury's currently pays farmers for their milk is causing a crisis in agriculture, while they and the other major supermarkets cream off huge profits on the massive mark up on the shelves. John Sherrall, the Chairman of FARM 'The independent voice of farmers' explained, 'Sainsbury's suppliers now pay farmers less than their production cost for their milk. GM maize will not end this injustice but contaminate neighbouring farms and food crops, destroying more livelihoods'.

The protesters in Exeter were supported by customers - who attached flags with  the message 'support farmers, not GM' to their trolleys and who went to the  Customer Services desk to demand that 'Sainsbury's start paying a fair price for GM free milk.'

One of the campaigners added, 'Safe food is a right, not a privilege, and at the moment people don't even  know what’s going into the food chain. A lot of the customers we’ve talked to are shocked that this backdoor into GM exists and they aren't being told  about it. After all the evidence about the environmental and agricultural damage caused by GM crops, and with the shadow of BSE hanging over us, isn't  it about time Sainsbury’s kept its promise?'

These are the tactics which got GM ingredients labelled and off the supermarket shelves five years ago- and started the seizing-up of the Biotech industry. They work. If you want an info pack with action ideas, labels and  Sainsbury's specific leaflets contact GEN via 01803 840098.


Editors notes:

1. The first GM crop being proposed for commercial growing in the UK is a kind  of GM maize to be used as cattle fodder.

2. Over 80% of GM crops grown globally are for animal feed, after the widespread public rejection of the technology in food  


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