GM crops a waste of time, No 10 study will tell Blair (10/7/2003)

By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent
The Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2003

The Prime Minister will be told tomorrow that there is no economic argument to support commercial growing of genetically modified crops in Britain.

The conclusion of a Downing Street study, one of three government investigations into GM crops and food, is a serious blow to Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary.

They have said that Britain needs to allow GM crops to be commercialised for economic reasons.

But the report dismisses that argument and goes further, telling Mr Blair that there is also no case for investing in GM crops to ensure Britain has a lead in the development of GM pharmaceuticals - for example, plants modified to produce antibiotics.

It even argues that there could be a "strong role for the UK to play" in providing non-GM foods, a recommendation that will be seized upon by the organic lobby as further justification for its call to ban GM crops so that organic crops are not contaminated.

With a science review due to report imminently and the GM public debate, which started last month, the economic assessment is part of the Government's investigation into the viability of GM crops.

It has considered the likely economic outcome of various scenarios, including full or partial commercialisation of GM crops and an outright ban on their cultivation.

The report comes as the president of Canada's National Farmers Union arrived in Britain to warn British farmers that GM crops, in Canada and elsewhere, have failed to live up to their promises of increased yields and reduced costs.

Stewart Wells said: "UK farmers should not be fooled."

Lyle Wright, a Canadian NFU member who accompanied him, said: "The promises come first and only later come the realities of contamination and genetic pollution, higher seed costs, market loss and superweeds."

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