Soil Association ruffles feathers at ASDA store to highlight Stop Poison Poultry campaign

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A petition calling for British retailers to tackle a wave of pesticide poisonings in the Amazon linked to the chicken on supermarket shelves was handed in at a branch of ASDA today. 

More than 30,000 people have now supported the Soil Association’s Stop Poison Poultry campaign – which has highlighted how endangered wildlife is falling victim to toxic chemicals sprayed on the Brazilian soya fed to British chickens. And 1800 people also wrote to a supermarket CEO calling for action.

The supermarket campaign was launched after the organisation said it discovered that none of the UK’s leading retailers have any policies to monitor or restrict the use of highly hazardous pesticides in their soya supply chain.

Campaigns advisor Cathy Cliff handed in the petition to an ASDA in Bristol near to Soil Association headquarters today, with copies also sent to Aldi, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

She said: “British shoppers should be able to buy products that aren’t linked with environmental destruction, but unfortunately this can’t be said for most chicken on our shelves.

Soil Association campaigns advisor Cathy Cliff at the Bristol ASDA store today

“The soya British chickens are eating is linked to the deaths of precious wildlife in South America – bees are being wiped out by the billion, and the bodies of animals who eat insects, like birds and bats, are being found with a cocktail of chemicals in their bodies.

“These poisonings are not the fault of our farmers or retailers, but the evidence is deeply concerning, and in a letter dismissing our campaign the Brazilian embassy labelled the poisonings as ‘not a cause for concern’.

Supermarkets can lead the charge 
“That’s why we’re asking UK supermarkets to lead the charge and use their considerable power to demand action from government and bring about real change by cleaning up their supply chains.”

The campaign also highlights that the UK Government could help to address the issue by introducing ‘maximum residue levels’ for all produce used for animal feed, including soya sourced from Brazil.

Currently, while produce for human consumption like fruit and vegetables has legally defined maximum residue levels, soya used as animal feed is exempt.

Hazardous pesticides are also manufactured in the UK and exported abroad, even though they would be illegal to use here – so the Soil Association is asking retailers to support their call for such exports to be banned by the government.

The Soil Association says that despite the public mandate and agreement from retailers action from retailers and other supply chain actors also remains slow.

None, it says, have yet committed to eradicating these chemicals from their supply chains by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, evidence of poisonings is mounting in the Amazon and Cerrado, with bees, endangered tapirs, fish, frogs, birds of prey, and bats across vital Latin American ecosystems falling victim to the toxic chemicals sprayed on soya.

First steps with Aldi
But, in a meeting last month, Aldi Corporate Responsibility team members met with Soil Association advisors to start the conversation.

Cliff added: “Our meeting with Aldi was positive and encouraging. It was the first step in what we hope is a journey to a more sustainable food system in the UK – one that does not enable farming practices abroad that would be illegal to carry out here.

“It is also encouraging that the leading retailers have been taking positive strides to address deforestation associated with soya and most of them acknowledged that more needs to be done to stop the poisonings that British chicken production is complicit in.

“What we need now is for the all the supermarkets to work both with us and with each other together to influence government, to increase transparency in supply chains, and to ease their reliance on imported soya by investing in British-grown protein crops. 

“There are no quick fixes, but we can and must do better to eradicate the hidden scandal taking place on British supermarket shelves.”

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