UK Groups Target Turkey in Christmas Campaigns

LONDON, United Kingdom, December 18, 2000 (ENS) - Greenpeace UK has released results of a survey into where consumers can buy GM free turkeys this Christmas. Meanwhile, another group, called Animal Defenders, detailed the gruesome conditions inside turkey farms today.

The Greenpeace research is featured in its "Shoppers Guide to GM," which is available online. GM stands for genetically modified, which refers to the practice of altering an organism's genetic material in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination.

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Greenpeace has been at the forefront of a movement against genetically modified foods. (Image courtesy Greenpeace)
The use of recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, sometimes between non-related species.

Food companies might transfer useful genes into plants that lack them to make them more resistant to disease or pesticide. Groups like Greenpeace are concerned about the side effects of genetic engineering, fearing it could create allergies and eliminate indigenous species.

In the UK, the two GM crops are soya and maize (corn). Soya and maize are found in around 80 percent of processed foods.

Under European Union law, GM soya and maize proteins and flour must be labeled as GM but other soya and maize ingredients, known as derivatives do not. So even if a product does not state that it is GM, it may still contain GM ingredients.

GM ingredients are entering the food chain in other ways. GM crops are being fed to farm animals like chickens, pigs and cows, thereby entering milk, eggs, cheese and meat. There is no requirement for foods from animals fed on GM-crops to be labeled as GM.

"Most people don't know that despite massive public rejection of GM, it is still being sneaked into our food by dumping it into the feed of animals like turkeys," said Greenpeace GM campaigner Emma Gibson.

An NOP poll conducted for Greenpeace in September found that 67 percent of those polled were opposed to farm animals being fed GM crops. Ninety percent believed that food derived from animals fed on GM should be labeled as such.

"This continues despite concerns about effects on the environment of growing these crops and lack of knowledge about the long term effects on animal and public health," said Gibson.

"The good news is that more and more producers are going GM free in animal feed and there are plenty of places that you can buy GM free turkeys this Christmas."

Leading supermarkets offering own brand turkeys that are GM free include Iceland and Co-op, while Marks and Spencer offer free range turkeys that are GM free. Other GM free brands include Kelly Bronze and all organic turkeys.

Brands well known to UK consumers that were found to be feeding GM crops to their turkeys include Bernard Matthews, Buxted, Butterball, Brandons and Twydale. Supermarkets whose own brand turkeys were found to be fed on GM include Somerfield and Safeway.

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Greenpeace protest against genetically engineered soya at a soya mill in Corinth, Greece. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace/Karayannis)
ASDA, Tesco and Sainsbury are still feeding GM crops to their turkeys but told Greenpeace that they will stop the practice as soon as possible.

Greenpeace said the simplest way to guarantee food is GM free is to buy organic. This also ensures the food is produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers, and that animals are allowed to roam freely and reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs.

"Shoppers Guide to GM" features information on where to buy GM free mince pies, Christmas puddings and cakes, as well as turkeys. It is at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/Products/GM/home_right.cfm

Other groups are campaigning against mass production of turkeys for different reasons. The UK's Animal Defenders, part of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, secretly filmed inside five turkey slaughterhouses and an intensive turkey farm, during November and December this year.

Posing as a "plucker" or "hanger," an Animal Defender field officer documented tens of thousands of birds crammed inside dark, windowless sheds, birds having their throats cut from the inside, through the mouth and birds struggling as they hang upside down waiting to be killed.

"Many people who enjoy what is regarded as the traditional Christmas dinner will be horrified to learn of the suffering that brought it to their dinner plate," said Fiona Ogg of Animal Defenders.

"At a time when we should be celebrating compassion and calling for peace on earth, the traditional Christmas dinner has become a tragic celebration of gluttony and animal suffering. These birds have been bred to be overweight and are killed at just a few weeks old."