Clown steps down

Feature story - 21 April, 2004
Ronald McDonald entered the Queen Street branch of McDonald's in Auckland, New Zealand, today and handed in his resignation. The dramatic action was taken by the infamous fast food clown in protest at McDonalds' use of chicken fed on genetically engineered (GE) soy meal.

Ronald McDonald quits in protest when he learns that his hens are fed on GE chicken feed

"I'm so upset to learn that stores named after me are using GE-fed chicken," said Ronald. The iconic red and yellow character was encouraging McDonalds' customers to send messages demanding that the fast food chain stop using GE chicken feed and commit to a non-GE poultry, egg and ingredient supply.

Mr McDonald was accompanied by a flock of indignant chickens wearing bibs with the message "Say NO to McGE - GE fed chicken." The poultry protesters handed out mock 'happy meal' packs with crayons, stickers and colour-in postcards for customers to send to the fast food giant demanding they make the shift to non-GE feed.

Greenpeace spokesperson Steve Abel commended Ronald's protest actions. "It seems like a bit of fun but it's actually a serious issue," said Abel. Imported GE soy feed is the biggest source of GE contamination in the New Zealand food chain." McDonald's chicken is supplied by Australian poultry giant Inghams who bring in around 50,000 tonnes of GE contaminated soy annually.

"McDonald's and Inghams should stop using GE ingredients and feed, out of a commitment to customer preference, concerns about potential health impacts and for the good of the environment," said Abel. Independent research found that 75 percent of consumers wanted chickens that had not been fed GE soy meal. Tegel, New Zealand's largest poultry company, have an active non-GE feed policy and import certified non-GE feed from the US.

Ingham claim that their next shipment of soy meal into New Zealand, due in June, is non-GE soy from Brazil. However, according to Ingham, the shipment is not certified as non-GE so it could be significantly GE contaminated. Inghams also have no commitment to sourcing non-GE soy now or in the future. This unverified shipment cannot legitimately be used to claim a non-GE policy by Inghams or McDonald's.

"GE soy production in the US and Argentina has led to increased chemical use, lower yields, herbicide resistant weeds and contamination of conventional crops." McDonald's already has a Europe-wide policy of excluding GE in food and poultry feed.

Ronald's iconic smile was twisted with disillusionment as he handed in his resignation to management. "I'm not clowning around" he stated in the brief message scrawled on blue paper.

Greenpeace in global GE blitz

Elsewhere, Greenpeace has launched global oppostion to GE products by land, sea, and supermarket:

Bilbao, Spain: On April 20th, Greenpeace volunteers and activists in Spain occupied the soya processing facilities of Moyresa/Bunge in Cartagena to highlight the importation of an estimated 4 millions tons of GE soya into Spain. On April 21st, Moyresa/Bunge has announced that it is going to convert its facility in Bilbao, Spain to a GE free zone. Victory!

Porto Allegre, Brazil: Greenpeace's "Biosafety Patrol" exposes shippers of GE "caught in the act" of violating the Brazilian legislation and international laws the ship Saturn V is boarded and inspected by a team of Greenpeace volunteers. The ship was loading GE soy with no documentation, in violation of the Cartagena convention which stipulates that no GE products can be transported without documentation identifying them as GE.

European Union: New labelling laws went into effect on Sunday which mandate that agricultural products for human consumption containing GE be identified as such. Greenpeace has launched "Trolley Watch" to help consumers identify and expose GE products in their own supermarkets.