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Blairís Strategy Unit Report on GM crops and responses (11/7/2003)

"Today's report confirms the views of supporters of the Five Year Freeze that there is still no need to rush towards commercialising GM crops." - Five Year Freeze

"Even the Prime Minister's closest advisors haven't been able to come up with a convincing economic case for GM crops in Britain. The only benefit seems to be making it easier for farmers to apply chemical herbicides, but consumers would pick up the bill for keeping GM crops separate by having to pay higher costs for non-GM foods," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director. "Making the barley barons' lives a bit easier is not a good enough reason to risk irreversible harm to the environment and human health." - GeneWatch UK

http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page4127.asp
Strategy Unit (SU) press release on the report

Download the report, exec summary, etc. here:
http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page3673.asp

Below are responses to the report from GeneWatch UK and the Five Year Freeze.

A consultant from PG Economics (see below) was presented on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning as if he were one of the authors of the SU report. Marcus Williamson, Editor of Genetically Modified Food-News <http://www.gmfoodnews.com/> comments on the curious relationship between PG Economics and the Strategy Unit:

I note that the SU has included a very biased report on this page, titled: "Consultancy support for the analysis of the impact of GM crops on UK farm profitability"

The report is produced by PG Economics Ltd [PG is "Peter" and "Graham"], whose directors are, according to Companies House:

Director:       BARFOOT, PETER DOUGLAS...
Director:       BROOKES, GRAHAM JOHN...

Peter Barfoot's career in the biotech industry can be seen here:
http://www.bioportfolio.com/bioport/resume.htm

Graham Brookes bio can be seen here:
http://www.europabio.org/upload/documents/GB_press_release/EuropaBio_Graham_Brookes_final.doc

Why has this company, with such vested interests in biotech, been allowed to produce such a pro-GM document and have it placed on the SU website?!
---
PRESS RELEASE - 11th July 2003
NO GOOD REASON TO PURSUE GM CROP COMMERCIALISATION IN THE UK NOW:

GeneWatch UK response to Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Report on GM crops The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report on GM crops published today (1) has revealed that there are no obvious economic benefits from the GM crops currently on offer. It argues that data from elsewhere on benefits is mixed and may not apply to the UK. The potential that GM crops and foods could bring unexpected harmful impacts to human health and the environment is another factor.

"Even the Prime Minister's closest advisors haven't been able to come up with a convincing economic case for GM crops in Britain. The only benefit seems to be making it easier for farmers to apply chemical herbicides, but consumers would pick up the bill for keeping GM crops separate by having to pay higher costs for non-GM foods," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director. "Making the barley barons' lives a bit easier is not a good enough reason to risk irreversible harm to the environment and human health."

The Strategy Unit report also shows how the extent of regulations makes an impact on the profitability of the GM industry. If regulations are weak, profits will be higher but unanticipated harm may arise.

"It will be a test of Mr Blair's integrity to see if he really is open-minded about GM crops and pro-environment and pro-health as he has said before. Will he allow the biotechnology industry's interests to override environmental protection or people's safety and right to choose?"

"The report points to possible benefits in the future, such as GM crops to produce drugs, but these are years away and raise all kinds of new safety questions - will drugs get into the food chain, for example?" said Dr Mayer. "The logical conclusion from the Strategy Unit's study is to invest in other forms of production which will deliver the kinds of food and environment people want."

The report also concluded that the UK's science base will be affected by any decision on GM crops and that the 'image' of our science and industry could be damaged if there is a negative reaction to GM crop commercialisation.

"The image of UK's agricultural science base is in tatters as a result of BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease. Seeing GM as the future of science is outdated. We need a much more innovative approach which does not pretend you can predict and control plants and agriculture gene by gene," said Dr Mayer. "If UK science simply follows the GM route and does not carve out new paths suited to our needs, we will simply trail along behind the US, picking up their leftovers."
- ends -

For more information contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office); 07930
308807 (mobile)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and Benefits of GM crops". Strategy Unit, 11th July 2003. See: http://www.strategy.gov.uk.
---
STRATEGY UNIT REPORT CONFIRMS THERE IS NO RUSH TO COMMERCIALISE GM CROPS IN THE UK
11th July 2003
PRESS RELEASE

To-day's report from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, 'Field Work: Weighing Up The Costs And Benefits Of GM Crops', is welcomed by The Five Year Freeze alliance as confirmation that there are no immediate benefits to be had from the current generation of GM crops.

Clare Devereux, Director of the alliance, said today:

'Today's report confirms the views of supporters of the Five Year Freeze that there is still no need to rush towards commercialising GM crops.  The report signals that there may be 'potential' benefits in the future - but this is no argument to proceed with the current crops when they offer little economic benefit and there is no market for them.  The report usefully looks at GM crops in the wider social context and acknowledges consumer concerns - particularly welcome is acknowledgement of the need to look at alternative methods for achieving the kind of food and farming UK consumers would like to see.'

END

[1] List of Five Year Freeze members attached
[2] For more information contact Clare Devereux, 020 7837 0642 (office), 07803 002825 (mobile), 012373 82270 (home).

 [1]  Supporters of the Five Year Freeze are:
 Action Aid
Action Against Allergy
Additives Survivors' Network
Agricultural Christian Fellowship
Baby Milk Action
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
Biodynamic Agricultural Association
Black Environmental Network
Body Shop International PLC
British Allergy Foundation
British Association of Fair Trade Shops
British Association of Nature Conservation
British Naturopathic Association
Caduceus
Catholic Institute International Relations
Centre for Alternative Technology
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Christian Aid
Christian Ecology Link
Communities Against Toxics
Compassion In World Farming
Council for the Protection of Rural England
Culpepers
Ecologist
Ecology Building Society
Econexus
Elm Farm Research Centre
Ethical Consumer
Farm-A-Round Ltd
Farming and Livestock Concern
Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
Find Your Feet
Food Commission
Food for Health Network
Food Poverty Network
Forum for the Future
Fresh Food Company
Freshlands UK
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Gaia Foundation
Gardeners GMO Group
GE Free Forests
Genetics Food Alert
Genetics Forum
GeneWatch UK
GMO Campaign
Good Gardeners Association
Green & Blacks
Green Books
Green Network
Green Party
Greenpeace
Guild of Fine Food Retailers
Guild of Food Writers
Harvest Help
HDRA
Health Food Manufacturer's Association
Help International Plant Protein Organisation (HIPPO)
Hyperactive Children's Support Group
Iceland Foods
Institute for Science in Society
Intermediate Technology Development Group
International Society for Ecology and Culture
Islamic Concern
Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environment Sciences
Living Lightly
Local Government Association
Longhouse Food Consultancy
Maternity Alliance
Medact
Muslim Council of Great Britain
National Association of Health Stores
National Federation of Women's Institutes
National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd
Natural Law Party
Natures Store Ltd.
Neal's Yard Bakery
Neal's Yard Remedies
New Economics Foundation
New Internationalist
Noah Project
Organic Farm Foods Wales
Organic Gardening
Organic Shop
Organics Direct
Oxfam
People & Planet
Permaculture Association UK
Permaculture Magazine
Permanent Publications
Pesticides Action Network UK
Plamil FoodPlanet Organic
Positive News
Pret A Manger
Resurgence
Scientists for Global Responsibility
Scottish Consumers Association for Natural Food
Small Farms Association
Soil Association
Splice (Genetics Forum)
Student Environment Network
TGWU
The Harbour
Townswomen's Guilds
Traidcraft Plc
Triodos Bank
UNISON
Vegan Society
Vegetarian Society
Vetwork UK
Vinceremos Wines & Spirits Ltd
Whole Earth Foods Ltd
Wholesome Food Association
Wildlife Trusts
Womankind Worldwide
Women's Environmental Network
Woodland Trust
World Development Movement
World Wide Fund for Nature

FIVE YEAR FREEZE CAMPAIGN
The Genetic Engineering Alliance
94 White Lion Street
London
N1 9PF
Tel: 020 7837 0642/01273 822700
Fax: 020 7837 1141
[email protected]
www.fiveyearfreeze.org

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