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FOOD SECURITY CONCERN – 87

 

 

There is another ‘wave’ of pressure from the NFU, scientists, the industry, some farming publications and our government to legalise the growing of GM crops in England. Details attached.

 

On 3rd March the European Commission - supported by the UK government – proposed that two EU member states drop their ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified maize. The proposal was defeated.

 

The focus here is on the power of vested interest and lack of independent political scrutiny which enabled the technology to get firm hold in USA. When the drive for GM in the US was at its height it had powerful support. The attachment gives details of this support, which I find breathtaking.

 

The US Center for Responsive Politics points out that this is a classic case of the revolving door syndrome, the conflict of interest caused by the constant movement of professionals back and forth between the private and public sectors.

 

A search in Britain, which does not give similar access to information, revealed relatively low numbers of known political links with the industry from 1998. The attachment looks at the conflicting interests of MP Peter Luff [no longer active in this field], Dr Lutman, Andrew Bennett and Lord Sainsbury.

 

The devolved governments are made of sterner stuff, cheering and encouraging those who do not want to see GM crops grown.

 

In 2007 the Scottish government announced:

 

“The Executive's intention is to maintain a moratorium on the planting of GM crops in Scotland. GM crops are not grown in Scotland and we believe this respects the wishes of Scottish consumers who want local, high-quality produce. Scotland has a wonderful and varied environment, rich in biodiversity and we do not wish to jeopardise this.”

 

On 4 March, 2009 came the announcement of a Welsh Assembly consultation document:

 

On 4 March, 2009 came the announcement of a Welsh Assembly consultation document, aimed at making Wales one of the most difficult places in the world to grow genetically modified crops.  While Assembly Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, accepts that it is not legally possible to declare Wales GM-free, the intention is to introduce regulation far more restrictive than in other parts of the UK. Farmers growing GM crops would have to inform all their neighbours and would also be legally liable to compensate any whose crops became contaminated.

 

The ‘polluter-pays' principle in relation to GM crops exists nowhere else in the world. #

There is another ‘wave’ of pressure for the growing of GM crops in England, but Wales is taking an unprecedented stand – see final paragraph.


The National Farmers Union has backed calls for politicians in Europe to give farmers the chance to grow GM crops after recent surveys showed a majority of farmers in favour of the technology.


Professor Patrick Wall, until recently chairman of the European Food Safety Authority is reported in the Farmers Guardian to have said that it is crazy not to authorise GM crops for cultivation when they were permitted safe for import.


Pressure is mounting from some scientists for Europe to end its resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops and on the 3rd March there was a failed attempt by the European Commission supported by the UK government - to force two EU member states to drop their ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified maize.


Instead of the usual debates about GM the focus here is on the power of vested interest and lack of independent political scrutiny which enabled the technology to get firm hold in USA. When the drive for GM in the US was at its height it had powerful support:








The US Center for Responsive Politics points out that this is a classic case of the revolving door syndrome, the conflict of interest caused by the constant movement of professionals back and forth between the private and public sectors.


A search in Britain which does not give similar access to information, revealed relatively low numbers of known political links with the industry.


In 1999 The Observer reported that Bell Pottinger, the lobbying firm acting for Monsanto was paying up to £10,000 a year to Peter Luff, the chairman of the influential House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee which policed Government food policy.


A year later concerns are recorded about Dr Lutman, who works at the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR), where he heads the weed biology and control research programme. He is also on the panel of CropGen, whose chairman has said it exists "to provide a voice for crop biotechnology in UK". CropGen is being funded initially by a group of biotechnology companies, among them Monsanto.

IACR is part of a consortium of research groups carrying out government work on farm-scale trials of GM crops, undertaking contracts worth £3.3 million. Dr Lutman is co-author of a report to the government on progress on the trials.


In 2002 Andrew Bennett, a senior civil servant in the Department for International Development [DFID] - director of rural livelihoods and environment at the department and principal policy adviser to ministers - left to join Syngenta, the world's largest agribusiness and second largest GM food company, formed by the merger in 2000 of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis Agribusiness and the British GM company Zeneca.


Mr Bennett helped to frame the department's policies and influenced its decision to contribute £600,000 a year to GM crop research in poor countries. DFID backed Vision 2020, a British aid programme in Andra Pradesh, India, funding the McKinsey report that advocated a state plan to introduce prairie-style farming and GM crops - rejected and reversed after the next state election.


In 1998 Lord Sainsbury was appointed as Minister of Science and Technology. He was the largest backer of biotechnology company Diatech whilst in charge of promoting biotechnology at the Department of Trade and Industry and a member of the Cabinet Biotechnology Committee. For 11 years he owned the company which controls the worldwide patent rights over a key gene currently used in the genetic modification process, He resigned from his minsterial post in 2005


The devolved governments are made of sterner stuff. In 2007 the Scottish government announced:

“The Executive's intention is to maintain a moratorium on the planting of GM crops in Scotland. GM crops are not grown in Scotland and we believe this respects the wishes of Scottish consumers who want local, high-quality produce. Scotland has a wonderful and varied environment, rich in biodiversity and we do not wish to jeopardise this.”

On 4 March, 2009 came the announcement of a Welsh Assembly consultation document, aimed at making Wales one of the most difficult places in the

world to grow genetically modified crops. While Assembly Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, accepts that it is not legally possible to declare Wales GM-free, the intention is to introduce regulation far more restrictive than in other parts of the UK. Farmers growing GM crops would have to inform all their neighbours and would also be legally liable to compensate any whose crops became contaminated.


The ‘polluter-pays' principle in relation to GM crops exists nowhere else in the world.

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