Responses to Government announcement on GM maize

tliouk office at
Sat Mar 13 15:45:09 GMT 2004

From: Martin Haggerty <martin at> 
Date: Wed Mar 10, 2004 7:26pm 
Subject: Responses to Government announcement on GM maize  

Here are the responses of GeneWatch UK and Friends of the Earth to 
yesterday's announcement from the Government allowing the commercial 
growing of GM maize.

I am sure that this is by no means the end of the anti-GM campaign, 
however; just the start of a new phase, one of determined public 
resistance. I myself am looking forward to donning my green gloves 
next year.

Best wishes,


GeneWatch UK Press Release
Tuesday 9th March 2004: For immediate release


Today, the UK Government announced its intention in principle to 
proceed with GM crop growing in a move which manages to 
simultaneously ignore:

* its own science review;
* the PM's Strategy Unit assessment of the costs and benefits;
* the House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee;
* and the GM Nation? public debate.

"The Government has ignored the conclusions of the public debate, had 
no debate in parliament, and given the biotech industry the benefit 
of the doubt about scientific uncertainty." said Dr Sue Mayer, 
GeneWatch UK's Director. "They've betrayed the public's trust, no 
wonder people are cynical about our political system".

"The Government is behaving very arrogantly with GM crops. They claim 
to be taking a scientific approach, but have closed their eyes to the 
limitations of our knowledge," said Dr Mayer. "The Science Review 
concluded that the public were not anti-science and that there are 
gaps in our knowledge about the issues worrying people. Clearly, the 
Government is more interested in the profits of the biotech industry 
than good science. Giving the go-ahead before any rules are in place 
to deal with contamination or if other things go wrong, shows how 
little regard the Government has for the public, non-GM farmers or 
the environment."

"Questions still hang over the GM maize and the FSE results" said Dr. 
Mayer. "The FSE's have been re-analysed to look at the non-GM trials 
that didn't used atrazine, but this was only four sites which is a 
very limited number. If this was a clinical test for a new drug we 
would go back and do the trials again, our farm wildlife is in such a 
precarious state we need to be very careful. And farm scale trials 
are only one part of the GM safety jigsaw."

For further information please contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 
or 07930 308807


1. The Second Report of the Science Review Panel underlined the 
rational nature of the public's concerns: "Far from being 'anti-
science', there was a strong theme in the Public Debate for further 
research to be done." And "[a]n important outcome of the Science 
Review is that many of the uncertainties and gaps in knowledge it 
addressed, for example in long-term impacts on health or the 
environment and the co-existence of GM crops with other crops, 
coincide with concerns expressed during the Public Debate." 

2. One of the conclusions of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit 
review of the costs and benefits of GM crops was that: " But no 
procedures can be 100% effective, and there will always be the 
possibility - however small, or disputed - that some unforeseen (and 
possibly unforeseeable) adverse impacts to the environment or human 
health may occur, particularly in the longer-term. The potential 
irreversibility of some of these impacts also has to be taken into 
account when considering this possibility". (Field Work. Weighing up 
the costs and benefits of GM crops. p16)

3. In its conclusions the Environmental Audit Committee stated: "We 
are concerned that the GMHT forage maize trials were based on an 
unsatisfactory, indeed invalid, comparison. It is vital that the 
Government permit no commercial planting of GMHT forage maize until 
that crop is thoroughly re-trialled against a non-GM equivalent grown 
without the use of atrazine." See:

4. The public debate conclusions included that: ".... the general 
population would prefer caution: commercialisation of GM crop 
technology should not go ahead without further trials and tests, firm 
regulation, demonstrated benefits to society (not just for producers) 
and, above all, clear and trusted answers to unresolved questions 
about health and the environment" 'GM Nation? The findings of the 
public debate'.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Friends of the Earth" <neilv at f...>
Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 1:32 PM
Subject: from FOE: Blair thumbs up to GM maize

Immediate Release: Tuesday 9 March 2004

Friends of the Earth today attacked the Government after it gave
qualified approval to the commercial development of GM maize. The
decision ignores the views of the House of Commons Environmental Audit
Committee, public opinion and considerable scientific uncertainties

The Government today announced that GM maize can be grown in the UK -
provided it gets national seed list approval and pesticide approval
(see below). It said that the maize, Chardon LL, will have to be grown
under strict conditions, with only one application of the pesticide
Liberty (Glufosinate Ammonium) being permitted. Friends of the Earth
challenged the Government to say how it would enforce this.

The Government also announced a consultation on GM contamination and
liability. But it has refused to back a Private Members Bill by Greg
Barker MP aimed at addressing this issue, which will get its Second
Reading in Parliament later this month [3].

Friends of the Earth's director, Tony Juniper, said
"The Government has given the thumbs up to GM maize, and shown two
fingers to the British public. In demonstrating its pro-GM
credentials, the Government has ignored considerable scientific
uncertainties, shown contempt to Parliament and utterly disregarded
public opinion. Moreover, this crop will be fed to cows to make milk
that will not be labelled as GM, thereby making a mockery of official
claims that policy will preserve consumer choice. We will now fight
this all the way - through the remaining official approval stages and
through the market".

GM maize will still need National List approval before it can be added
to the 'seed list' and sold to farmers. This requires permission from
not only the UK Government, but the devolved governments in Wales and
Scotland (Northern Ireland is directly ruled from Westminster at
present). The Scottish Parliament and, particularly the National
Assembly of Wales, are thought to be reluctant to agree.

Tony Juniper continued
"The Welsh and Scottish executives must stand firm on GM. The best way
to protect their food and farming from GM pollution is to refuse to
allow GM maize to be added to the national seed list."

A background briefing on GM decisions still outstanding is available
online at:

A briefing on GM fodder maize:


[1] Last Friday the Environmental Audit Committee urged the Government
not to allow GM maize to be commercially grown in the UK. It also
called for thorough research into the experience of GM crops in North

[2] Last year the Government held a national debate on GM issues
called GM Nation? The debate consisted of three elements - a science
review, economic assessment and the debate itself. All three strands
highlight reasons why GM crops should not be given commercial
Economics: A report by the Government's Strategy Unit on the 11
July, concluded that public refusal to eat GM food means that there is
little economic value in the current generation of GM crops, and that
continuing public opposition would also affect their long-term future.
Science:: The science review, led by Professor Sir David King (the
Government's Chief Scientific Adviser), and published on 21 July,
raised serious questions about significant gaps in our scientific
knowledge on the potential impacts GM food and crops on our health and
the environment.
GM Nation and public opinion: More than half (54 per cent) said they
never want to see GM crops grown in the UK. A further 18 per cent
would find GM crops acceptable only if there was no risk of
cross-contamination, and 13 per cent wanted more research before any
decision was made. A mere two per cent said that GM crops were
acceptable "in any circumstances" and only eight per cent were happy
to eat GM food (86 per cent were not).

[3] Greg Barker's Bill would introduce separation distances between
GM and non-GM crops, and provide strict liability (and liability
funds) to ensure that if organic or conventional crops suffer GM
contamination, those affected can be compensated. Parliament will
debate the Bill on 26th March 2004.

Pete Riley, GM campaigner, 07712 843 210 (m)
Neil Verlander, Press Office, 020 7566 1649/ 07712 843 209 (m)
Neil Verlander
Press Officer
Friends of the Earth
020 7566 1674
07712 843 209 (m)
Press office direct line: 020 7566 1649

In response to the Government's announcement, Martin Haggerty, a 
founding member of Scarborough Against Genetic Engineering, the 
leading anti-GM campaign group in North-East England, says:

"The Government's decision to allow the commercial growing of GM 
maize goes against the advice of the House of Commons Environmental 
Audit Committee and numerous independent scientists. Much worse than 
that, it also ignores the will of the British people, 85% of whom are 
opposed to the commercialisation of GM crops.

"Far from this being the end of the campaign against GM food and 
farming, it will now be more vigorous and determined than ever 
before. This issue is not only about the quality of our food and the 
future of our countryside; it is also about democracy and freedom."



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