Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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September 25, 2003

GMO - no thanks, say British

Britain has had its public consultation over the introduction of genetically modified foods and the growing of GM crops to produce them. The response was overwhelming as reported by The Independent's environment editor Michael McCarthy today.

85% of the respondents thought GM crops would benefit producers, rather than ordinary people and a similar percentage (84%) believed they would cause "unacceptable interference" with nature.

The industry response from the umbrella body for the GM companies in Britain, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council: They reject the report's findings, saying that "public meetings do not equal public opinion," although the ABC's chairman, Paul Rylott, had been a member of the debate steering group and issued no dissenting opinion in the report itself.

It is now up to the British government to heed - or not, as the case may be - what the British public has so clearly expressed in a government initiated debate of the issue.


A pledge to pull up GM crops was launched today as the results of the Government's public debate on genetic modification were announced in London. The Green Gloves Pledge, a pledge to peacefully remove GM crops or support those who do, was formally announced this morning with the delivery of a six and half foot green glove to Tony Blair at the gates of Downing Street bearing the question "Which part of No GM do you not understand?" An accompanying letter to the Prime Minister was also handed in.

The Green Gloves Pledge states "If the UK Government gives the go-ahead to commercialise the growing of GM crops against the overwhelming wishes of the British public, I pledge to non-violently remove GM crops from the ground or support those who take action to remove GM crops".


Meanwhile, New Zealanders are campaigning to make their government extend the moratorium on GM products and crops. Their slogan: Take 5 seconds - to vote (by SMS) - smart!

GM crops? No thanks

Britain delivers overwhelming verdict after unprecedented public opinion exercise

By Michael McCarthy Environment Editor

25 September 2003

The title of the debate was "GM Nation?" But that is precisely what the British people do not want their country to be, according to the official report from the national consultation on genetically modified crops and food presented to the Government yesterday.

The unprecedented test of public opinion, which over six weeks this summer involved 675 public meetings and elicited more than 36,000 written responses, revealed a deep hostility to GM technology across the population.

Alongside fears that GM crops and food could be harmful to human health and the environment, the debate threw up widespread mistrust and suspicion of the motives of those taking decisions about GM - especially government and multi-national companies such as Monsanto.

On a whole series of questions GM-hostile majorities were enormous, with 85 per cent saying GM crops would benefit producers not ordinary people, 86 per cent saying they were unhappy with the idea of eating GM food, 91 per cent saying they thought GM had potential negative effects on the environment, and no fewer than 93 per cent of respondents saying they thought GM technology was driven more by the pursuit of profit than the public interest. Figures in support of GM were, by contrast, tiny.

Even special focus groups, deliberately selected from people who were uncommitted one way or another, to tease out the views of the "silent majority", and whose members were initially prepared to admit the technology might have benefits, opposed GM technology more the more they learnt about it, the report discloses.

The extent and the unequivocal nature of the hostility revealed by "GM Nation?" will represent a substantial political hurdle to those who wish to bring the technology to Britain as soon as possible - led by Tony Blair and his Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the giant American and European agribusiness companies such as Monsanto and Bayer.

Yesterday Mrs Beckett reaffirmed a promise that the Government would "listen" to the views the debate has highlighted and respond to them publicly, although she made no such pledge that it would take account of them in deciding its course of action.

But that was what the Government had to do, said green groups, the organic agriculture movement and others sceptical of the values of GM, who warmly welcomed the report. "The Government will ignore this report at its peril," said Pete Riley, the GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "The public has made it clear that it doesn't want GM food and it doesn't want GM crops. There must not be any more weasel words from the Government on this issue."

The umbrella body for the GM companies in Britain, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, rejected the report's findings, saying that "public meetings do not equal public opinion," although the ABC's chairman, Paul Rylott, had been a member of the debate steering group and issued no dissenting opinion in the report itself.

Criticising the debate's methodology, the ABC claimed that nearly 80 per cent of the debate response forms "can be clearly identified by cluster analysis as being orchestrated by campaigning groups". The chairman of the debate, Professor Malcolm Grant, rejected the accusation.

The report is indeed likely to be widely seen as reflecting public opinion, and Mrs Beckett herself legitimised it yesterday by saying it had been "a new way of engaging the public in the policy-making process."

The embarrassment that "GM Nation?" will cause to Mr Blair and his like-minded colleagues is all the greater in that it is the third such in as many months, after two other GM reports, both commissioned by ministers and published in July. One final report is now due before the Government decides whether to give the go-ahead to the commercial growth of GM crops in Britain. This is on the farm-scale evaluations of GM crops, a four-year trial designed to see if the deadlier weedkillers used with them cause new harm to the environment. It is due to be published on 16 October and will be the crucial document in the debate, because the decision to go ahead is taken by the EU in Brussels, and the only way the Government can countermand it is by finding new evidence of harm to human health or the environment from GM technology - such as crop trials may provide.

The general mood, the report said, "ranged from caution to doubt, through suspicion and scepticism, to hostility and rejection." Professor Grant said: "I now look forward to the Government's responding to the points raised in the debate, and taking these into account in the future formulation of policy on GM."


* 20,000 people attended 675 meetings across Britain

* The public sent in 1200 letters and e-mails

* The website received 2.9 million hits in just six weeks

* 70,000 feeback forms were downloaded; 36,557 were returned

* 93% of respondents believed GM technology was driven by profit rather than public interest

* 85% thought GM crops would benefit producers, rather than ordinary people

* 84% believed they would cause "unacceptable interference" with nature

* 54% never want to see GM crops grown in Britain

* 86% were unhappy with the idea of eating GM food

* 93% said too little was known about health effects

* 2% were happy with GM foods in all circumstances

See also related articles:

GM experimental plot raided

GM protest in Sacramento, US

Independent Science Panel on GM

GE Crops won't end hunger

GM 'could be another Thalidomide'

Bayer deals blow to UK GM crops

GM giant abandons bid to grow crops in Britain

Bayer abandons British crop trials

Robin McKie, science editor, Sunday September 28, 2003, The Observer

A key GM crop developer, Bayer, has decided to halt UK trials of genetically modified plants. The move is seen as a major blow to the industry. Bayer was the last company carrying out GM trials in the UK, though it said yesterday it hoped to start up again soon when conditions were 'more favourable'.

The company blamed Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett for its decision. Her insistence that the locations of all trial sites be made public had forced its hand, a spokesman told The Observer.

Until last week, Bayer CropScience, Bayer's crop subsidiary. believed it was close to a deal that would allow GM crop test sites - which are regularly destroyed by protesters - to be kept secret. Instead of having to publish exact map references for fields, companies would only have to name the county in which it was holding a trial.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment had said this vaguer notification was 'acceptable in terms of risk assessment', while the police have always complained that explicit disclosure of test site locations has been a major factor in aiding 'crop-trashers'. But at the last minute the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told Bayer it would not support this change in regulations.

'In the absence of any moves to ensure the security for trials, Bayer CropScience has no choice, therefore, but to cease its variety trial activities in the UK for this coming season,' said the official. 'It is disappointing the criminal activities of a small minority of people have prevented information on GM crop varieties being generated.'

Most GM crop trials carried out over the past few years have been sabotaged, not only those of Bayer. Other companies have pulled out. Now Bayer, the last to continue with them, has decided to call it a day. The current 'brain drain' of UK agricultural scientists to the US and Canada is now only likely to intensify.

The fact that companies also specifically blame Beckett for this latest blow is particularly intriguing. Last week, a letter from Beckett to her fellow Ministers said Britain should back EU laws that ban all GM-free zones, a move that would give the go-ahead to the commercial growing of GM crops here.
But as long as test GM trials are exposed to sabotage, the prospects of commercial growing look remote. 'This is a back-door moratorium,' said an industry source.

Monsanto, Bayer: Antitrust claims against seed producers can go forward

USA Today, 9/24/2003

The antitrust portion of a lawsuit accusing Monsanto and some of its seed-marketing rivals of plotting to control genetically modified corn and soybean prices should be allowed to go forward, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel's 13-page decision this month threw out part of a 1999 lawsuit by a group of farmers who said they had suffered losses because of global resistance to genetically modified crops. But the judge said a claim alleging antitrust violations can proceed because "genuine disputes of material fact remain."

Victoria Nugent, a lawyer for the farmers, on Wednesday praised the ruling, calling it "a very good result for our clients."

Bryan Hurley, a Monsanto spokesman, said the company was pleased that the judge had narrowed the scope of the case, and was confident it would ultimately prevail against the antitrust claim.

Monsanto and others named in the case - Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont unit Pioneer Hi-Bred - have denied the farmers' claims that the companies plotted for years to fix prices. Casting the lawsuit as a political stunt, Monsanto has rejected claims that genetically modified seeds and foods are unsafe.

Bayer CropScience, a product of Bayer's acquisition of Aventis CropScience last year, is a relatively minor player in the lawsuit, named in just one of the case's nine counts, a spokeswoman said. If the case ever went to jurors, "we're quite confident that they will find no activities unwarranted from us," said Peg Cherny, vice president of government affairs and communications.

Messages left Wednesday seeking comment from Pioneer and Syngenta were not immediately returned.

The suit alleges that Monsanto, using its biotechnology patents, coordinated with the other accused biotech companies to fix prices and force farmers into using genetically engineered seed. The lawsuit also alleged there is "substantial uncertainty" as to whether the crops are safe.

In a ruling released Friday, Sippel rejected negligence and "public nuisance" claims by farmers who grew non-genetically modified corn and soybeans but who argued, among other things, that their crops were tainted by Monsanto's genetically modified seeds, and that the company wrongly hawked seeds critics called environmentally unfriendly.

Those farmers offered no proof of their claims, Sippel ruled. The judge has yet to rule on whether the lawsuit should have class-action status. Such a declaration could expand the case to include more than 100,000 farmers, said Michael Hausfeld, another lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Corn and soybeans genetically designed to kill pests or withstand herbicides have become widely popular in the United States, but they've have met consumer resistance overseas. Genetic engineering involves splicing a single gene from one organism to another.

Biotech opponents have focused on persuading food makers not to buy genetically modified crops and getting governments to require the labeling of altered foods.

See also:

The Future of Food - Fake Foods
Since the introduction of genetically modified organisms into our food supply over 10 years ago, many scientists, farmers and consumers have voiced their concerns over a variety of issues, such as safety, drift, contamination and so on. Internationally, there are already signs that genetic engineering (GE) is more than just a risky business decision. There are consistent reports now showing that this untested new technology is already having negative consequences on the farmers and the environment...


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Thursday September 25 2003
updated on Saturday September 27 2008

URL of this article:


Related Articles

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Schmeiser's Battle for the Seed
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GM crops like thalidomide say insurance companies
Major agricultural insurance companies are refusing to underwrite risks of genetically modified crops in what appears to be a prescient way of avoiding future losses. Comments from the insurers liken the hidden liabilities of genetic modification with the desaster of Thalidomide, a drug which in the early sixties gave us thousands of deformed babies (who grew up into thousands of seriously handicapped adults) after great sales hype had convinced everyone,... [read more]
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October 09, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

GMO for profit - not a runner
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Food is of crucial importance to good health. The international food code, also called CODEX ALIMENTARIUS, was set up in the 1960's, ostensibly to promote the safety of foods. But recently, Codex has come up with an extraordinary piece of advice: "Be careful about those nutrients." A Codex Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplement Guideline adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in Rome in July this year says just that. On... [read more]
September 15, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger




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