The move by a consortium including Sainsbury, Safeway, Marks & Spencer, Northern Foods, Nestle and Unilever, will come as a huge blow to the GM industry.
Earlier this year, Sainsbury became the latest in a string of British supermarkets, including M&S and Iceland, to remove all GM ingredients from its own-brand range of foods.
Now the supermarket giant has teamed up with food producers to ask the world's biggest grain producers to grow them GM-free crops for poultry, cattle and pig feed.
A letter from Sainsbury's head of food safety to a genetic testing laboratory in the United States, which the Independent on Sunday has obtained, shows that the company is actively pursuing a route to GM-free meat.
The move follows rising fears about the development of antibiotic resistance from GM food which could arise from feeding GM crops to animals.
Scientists have warned that GM crops containing an antibiotic resistance marker gene could harm our ability to fight fatal diseases such as meningitis, typhoid and Aids-related illnesses with penicillin.
GM animal feed, containing crops grown in the United States, is used in Britain but there are no laws requiring it to be labelled as such. "We took the decision to remove GM ingredients from our own-brand products earlier this year because our customers wanted that," said a Sainsbury's spokesman. "The logical next step is to try to find GM-free animal feed. People want the meat they eat to be fed on non-GM feed."
The Oxford Union will tomorrow debate a motion proposing that farm animals should not be fed GM material. The organisers of the debate say Monsanto, the genetic engineering compnay, withdrew from speaking on the GM animal issue "because it was afraid of losing".
Jeff Rooker, the food safety minister, also declined to speak after his invitation was vetted by the office of Jack Cunningham, who has been pushing the Government's defence of GM food. Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who sparked a furore over GM foods, will argue for a ban on GM animal feed.
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