MPs get overseas advice on GMs (15/7/2003)

also refers to the rcent Chapela meeting
MPs get overseas advice on GMs
Source: FWi, 10 July 2003
By Farmers Weekly staff

BRITISH farmers wondering whether to grow GM crops are looking overseas to the experience of producers in countries where the technology is already being used.

A group of Canadian farmers are urging UK ministers to consider carefully the hidden costs before deciding whether GM crops should be commercial grown.

The group is visiting the UK this week. Among them is Canadian NFU president Stewart Wells, who said GM crops had failed to live up to expectations.

"UK farmers should not be fooled by promises of higher profits or yields. GM crops have not significantly increased yields or decreased farmers' costs.

"If there is a benefit from GM crops, it is that they make it easier to farm very large acreage, driving the shift to larger farms and fewer farmers."

The visit is being hosted by the Small and Family Farmers' Association, whose chairman is Cornish farmer Michael Hart.

"GM crops are not working for North American farmers and they are even less likely to work for UK farmers. Approving these crops here could be a costly mistake."

Elsewhere, a public meeting in Diss, Norfolk, heard from Ignacia Chapela, the scientist who discovered the GM contamination of wild maize plants in Mexico.

Dr Chapela said biotech companies stood to earn big bucks from introduction of GM crops. But he also believes it is difficult to see how they would benefit UK farmers.

The scientist, assistant professor of microbiology at the University of California, said the transfer of genes in GM technology had no ecological precedent.

He claimed the technology was out of control biologically, socially and institutionally and that US farmers were being forced to use it.

His view was denied by Vivian Moses, chairman of the pro-GM lobby group, CropGen, who also addressed the 250-strong audience [416 actually!].

Dr Moses said GM seeds met farmers' needs and their introduction had been followed by "the fastest take-up of a technological advance in the history of agriculture".

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