The protests are organised by a variety of pressure groups, including the Women's Institute and Friends of the Earth. The protests were kicked off last Sunday with a naked demonstration by eight members of protest group Bare Witness. It caused such alarm that a police armed response unit was called out to oversee the demonstration.
The groups have singled Sainsbury's out because the retailer pledged to phase out the use of GM feed by its suppliers five years ago. According to Friends of the Earth, the retailer has so far failed to do this. It also criticised Sainsbury's for not letting customers know when meat, milk and other products from animals fed on GM crops are on sale.
Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: 'Customers will be concerned that Sainsbury's has failed to make good their promise to get rid of GM animal feed. The big supermarkets must act now to demand non-GM feed from their suppliers. If they don't, not only will they continue to deny consumers the right to choose food products from animals fed a non-GM diet, but they will threaten the availability of GM-free food ingredients in future.'
Although Sainsbury's is the focus of demonstrations this week, the groups acknowledge that it is not the only grocer to have not made good on its promise to cut out GM. However, Sainsbury's is trialling milk from cows fed on non-GM feed at 190 stores and is soon to decide whether to extend its trial or discontinue it entirely, according to protest organiser Milk Monitor.
Sainsbury's said its standard milk comes from the same suppliers used by other UK supermarkets, hotels, schools and hospitals and that protesters have focused on it because it has always led on GM issues.
On its trial of non-GM milk, the retailer said: 'Our suppliers are required to demonstrate the non-GM status of ingredients using traceability systems and testing regimes. In addition to this, we carry out our own testing using independent laboratories.'
The demonstrations will go on outside Sainsbury's Holborn HQ for the rest of the week, ending on Friday morning.