McDonald's NZ goes GE-free

Feature story - 20 May, 2004
Greenpeace New Zealand announced the end of its public campaign against McDonald's following the fast food giant's statement that it will seek non-genetically-engineered feed for its chicken products.

McDonald's backs down on GE in New Zealand.

Our GE campaigner Steve Abel in New Zealand stated that: "McDonald's has given us a position statement consistent with the stance the company has taken in Europe which urges its chicken suppliers to source non genetically engineered (GE) soya feed, and we understand that is due to happen for the immediate future."

"Inghams (which supplies McDonald's its poultry) has stated to McDonald's that their next two shipments of soya meal into New Zealand are to be sourced from a non-GE contaminated region of Brazil. We will be keeping a close eye on these shipments and seeking independent testing of the soy to demonstrate its non-GE purity. And we will continue to campaign for an ongoing commitment from Inghams to source non-GE feed."

Activists in New Zealand undertook a four-week public campaign which targeted McDonald's stores throughout the country with chicken-suited activists and a Ronald McDonald look-alike who staged a mock resignation. The clown was later arrested for blockading the 'golden arch' gates of McDonald's Wiri Distribution Centre. The campaign urged McDonald's to take a position on GE feed.

"While the campaign has been humorous and good-natured, the issue itself is a serious environmental one," says Abel. "GE crops have led to an increase in herbicide use, lower yields, weed problems and contamination of conventional and organic crops."

McDonald's has already been proactive in sourcing non-GE derived ingredients for their products over the last three years. "We commend McDonald's for its efforts to date in ensuring the food ingredients it serves are non-GE derived.

And now, for McDonald's to request that its chicken supplier seek a non-GE feed supply is more good news for both the environment and for the public's GE-free food preference. McDonald's has listened and responded positively to Greenpeace and the public," said Abel.

Inghams however is not prepared to make a public statement and will continue to import GE contaminated soya to Australia due to claimed difficulties with the Brazilian port where the non- GE soya is loaded.

"Inghams won't commit to sourcing non-GE soya for the longer term but it has told McDonald's that its next two shipments to New Zealand are non-GE, which is a good start. However we will certainly keep up the pressure for Inghams to commit to an ongoing and trans-Tasman non-GE soya supply," said Abel.

New Zealand's largest poultry producer, Tegel, has been sourcing a high standard Identity Preserved (IP) supply of non-GE soya from the US since 2001. This comes at a premium of up to US$30 dollars per tonne. Inghams is apparently not prepared to pay this premium for the non-GE US supply so has sought less costly, non-GE Brazilian soya.

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