The Soil Association says it is delighted at Waitrose’s decision to start using non-GM soya from Europe in animal feed for their meat and dairy products – marking the beginning of the end of the last large-scale use of GM crops in the UK.

It claims this is the most significant move in the UK against the use of GM crops since 1999, when British supermarkets took the 70% of processed food that contained GM off their shelves, with it never to return. On that occasion the way was led by one retailer (Iceland), which went non-GM, and the rest followed within a few months.

While European players including France’s Carrefour, the third biggest retailer in the world, German retailers and the German Poultry Association (ZDG), have continued to move away from GM feed, British supermarkets - apart from Waitrose - have actually increased their use of GM animal feed, despite widespread public opposition.

All UK supermarkets still sell meat and dairy products from animals fed on imported GM soya and GM maize – which they are not required to label under EU law. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, GM Freeze and the Soil Association have opposed this large-scale but hidden use of GM crops for over 15 years.

Waitrose is currently the only retailer in the UK that has committed to continuing to use non-GM poultry feed and to start using non-GM soya in other animal feed.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director said: ‘We warmly welcome this very important development. GM soya from Latin America is linked to rainforest destruction, so sourcing non-GM soya from the Danube region, and using more UK-grown protein crops, is good for the climate, good for UK farmers, and good for consumers. We expect other retailers to follow Waitrose’s lead.’