Lidl goes GM free with own label fresh milk

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Retailers, government and NGOs have long been pushing for a GM free meat, milk and eggs supply chain in Germany Image: iStock
Retailers, government and NGOs have long been pushing for a GM free meat, milk and eggs supply chain in Germany Image: iStock

Related tags Gm free soy Milk Gm

Discounter, Lidl, says it is leading the charge in the private label shift to GM free milk in Germany.

Its own brand fresh milk, Milbona, has been certified against the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture supported non-GMO label, Ohne Gentechnik (OG).

lidl milk
OG Milbona fresh milk carton © Lidl Germany

The OG certification scheme is run by the German Association of Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG).

Lidl is the first German supermarket chain to get the accreditation for private label milk. 

Lidl said growing consumer demand encouraged it to convert its dairy supply chain to GM free; as of this week, its new non GMO Milbona milk product is available in all its stores throughout Germany.

And the leading discounter said its own label cheese will go GM free from September in Germany.

The OG seal, added Lidl, will not hike up Milbona milk’s retail price. It also stressed it has compensated its dairy farmers in respect of the higher costs involved in switching to GM free soy usage. 

Ohne Gentechnik (OG) criteria 

VLOG, which allows licensees the use of the OG seal on manufactured food products that meet the standard, says if industry operators want to comply with the OG labelling criteria, they must aim for no GM content.

This means they can show, at most, traces of up to 0.1% GM raw materials. 

There are exceptional cases where the law permits a higher presence of GMs. “These exceptions are documented as ‘adventitious’ or ‘technically unavoidable’. In such cases GM content of up to 0.9% can be permitted as per EU Regulations 1829/2003 and 1830/2003,”​ said the association

Private label migration

Other German retailers like the Rewe Group and Edeka are also in favor of gm free soy usage across their ranges.

Last year, Dr Ludger Breloh, head of strategic purchases for Rewe, the second biggest retailer in Germany with a presence in 11 other European markets, said it and the other German supermarkets had begun conversations with their entire supply chains with the aim of having as many private label meat, egg and milk products GM free.

“Most own brand poultry, turkey and egg products in Germany have gone GM free; the big move is on milk now,”​ Alexander Hissting, general manager of VLOG, told FeedNavigator today.

Five of the 10 biggest dairy processors in Germany hold a VLOG OG user license, and thus are certified compliant for GM free production, including DMK, Arla Foods, Bayernland Gruppe, Hochland and Zott. “And we are currently in talks with three more of those leading dairy companies in terms of their application for an OG license,”​ said Hissting.

FrieslandCampina has been labelling dairy products non GMO since 2008 in that market, but under its own logo, not the VLOG OG certification.

Hissting said the private label pork sector in Germany is lagging behind on this front. “But, no doubt, retailer pressure will see a shift to GM free in that meat segment over the next few years as well,”​ added the VLOG representative. 

OG certified Edeka own label poultry meat © Edeka

Soy volumes 

Germany needs 4.5 million metric tons of soy meal from overseas to meet its animal sector protein gap. Typically, dairy cows and fattening cattle get 0.8m Mt of that volume, while poultry receive 1.2m Mt, and pigs 2.5m Mt.

Hissting reckons about 20% of the total volume of soy imports coming into Germany would be non GMO, sourced from Brazil, and mainly certified as GM free – and responsibly produced - by the ProTerra Foundation, a Dutch sustainability initiative to which the main GM free soy certifying body, Cert ID, is accredited.

In August 2015, on a visit to Brasilia with Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the German minister for agriculture, Christian Schmidt, told media then that expansion of non GM soy production in Brazil was high on the German agenda in terms of the talks between the two governments.

Since the mid-1990s, all three soy origin countries — Brazil, Argentina and the US — have seen a rapid increase in the cultivation of GM soybeans. Only about 10% of the 94m Mt of soybeans cultivated in Brazil is GM free.

Brazilian soy certified as GM free according to the ProTerra standard totalled around 4.5m Mt last year.

Mapping of GM free soy purchases

Augusto Freire, president of the ProTerra Foundation, said the organization is intending to try and map Cert ID certified GM free soy sourcing per region in Europe. “As it is, GM free soy arrives into Rotterdam in large volumes, purchased by a European buying consortium, and the exact destination country for GM free soy, thereafter, is extremely challenging to track. But more and more supply chains in Europe are demanding this data to provide concrete evidence of their responsible soy sourcing commitments,” ​he told us.

He said that level of data would help to prevent misrepresentation by NGOs or policymakers of responsible soy sourcing initiatives at the European processor or feed manufacturing level.

According to Freire and Dr Hermann-Josef Baaken from the German feed manufacturers’ association (DVT), the omission of Germany [and other German speaking markets] from the recent WWF soy scorecard report completely skewers that NGO’s rather damming assessment of responsible soy sourcing by European players.

“When one of the most relevant countries in Europe is not involved in the study, it is clear the soy scorecard results have no bearing for decision makers,”​ said the DVT representative.

Premium hike 

But Freire strongly warned that there must be greater alignment of the producer side in South America with the soy buyer side in Europe to keep the GM free soy supply going and growing:

“The current premium price attached to GM free soy from Brazil is extremely high. It has shot up to $190 per metric ton due to the fact the buyers did not declare their interest early on, and a lot of producers could not hold onto the GM free soybeans in their storage facilities – they ended up getting comingled with GM beans.

“There has to be more commitment shown from the purchasing side at the start of the year to ensure greater stability in the market and lower premiums, but we say this year after year,” ​he stressed.

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