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McDonalds Letter

Letter to Greenpeace released by McDonald's

2 April 2004

Steve Abel
New Zealand
Private Bag 92507
Wellesley Street

Dear Steve

Thank you for your letter of February 20 2004 regarding McDonald’s genetically engineered ingredient policy and categorisation in the Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide.

As we discussed on the telephone, McDonald’s is not in the practice of making solemn declarations of the type requested by Greenpeace. We are; however, very happy to discuss our policy as we believe it is one which your organisation would generally applaud.

Quite simply, our policy is not to serve food containing genetically modified ingredients to our customers. In practical terms, it means we require letters of compliance from our suppliers that they understand and meet our policy. The standard we use for compliance is that set by ANZFA.

The only area of the Greenpeace food guide where I would anticipate any difficulty in meeting your organisation’s questions would be that relating to non-GE feed derived animal products, namely chicken.

I will seek to explain our dilemma. We cannot import chicken – so we are restricted to New Zealand suppliers only. Given the size of our requirements, we are limited to just three potential suppliers. While Greenpeace may have a focus on the GE feed status of those suppliers, we are required to consider a wider range of issues of which animal welfare standards, food safety, security of supply, quality standards, allergen management, processing capability and many others are vitally important.

Our main supplier, Inghams, is aware of our position on GMOs and has documented to us the significant efforts it makes to source non GMO feed, although it has doubts about the sustainability of such feed and concerns about quality. We have been advised that the next shipment of soya to NZ is non GMO and every effort will continue to be made to source non GM soy where quality, price and sustainability can be maintained.

In a statement on the GE status of Tegel products, Tegel declares “Tegel chicken is not genetically modified. There are no novel proteins or DNA present in the chicken and genetic engineering has not been used in the development of the bird.”

Inghams is able to make the same statement to us. Ingham’s assures McDonald’s that the chicken product it supplies is not genetically modified in any way. Prior to replying to your letter we commissioned AgriQuality to test the chicken supplied to us by Ingham’s and we can confirm to you that those tests have validated both Ingham’s and McDonald’s positions that the chicken protein we sell is not genetically modified in any way.

We believe that being able to give this assurance best meets our policy and ability to assure the public of New Zealand that they are not consuming genetically modified chicken from McDonald’s.

On the subject of non GE crops used in feed, Tegel states that “…it is not possible for Tegel to make a GE Free declaration.”

Tegel goes on to say that “with the extensive plantings of GE soya in the USA it is not possible to obtain meal that does not have low levels of contamination. The soya purchased by Tegel typically has less than 1% GE contamination.”

Therefore there is no such thing as GE free feed available to any potential chicken supplier in New Zealand, and no honest declaration of GE free can be made by anyone.

We are well aware of the Greenpeace campaign in this regard. We find ourselves therefore having to take a position which best meets the needs of our customers, whilst negotiating the differing positions of your organization and Inghams.

It is our expectation that all of our suppliers are open to public sentiment regarding their products and we encourage them to have open dialogue so that they make the best decisions for all concerned.

Were Ingham’s able to source a greater degree of non-GE modified soy meal than they already do, we would be highly supportive of that. But even then a degree of contamination is likely (to a greater and lesser extent) no matter what the policy.

In recognition of the efforts McDonald’s has gone to on this issue and our official policy on this matter, it would be correct and fair to confer upon us a green rating at best, and an orange rating at worst. At the very least there ought to be understanding of the complexity of these issues for businesses such as ours.

After our last conversation I assured you that this letter would be sent, and you promised me that our position would be publicised on your website. Thank you for that offer.

Should you like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Liam Jeory Director of Corporate Relations


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