Former Dupont PR flak Martin Livermore tells readers of the Financial Times that the Science Review report has ensured that the UK now has no option but to allow GM crops commercialisation.
Implicit in his argument is a point spelt out in a Guardian article by Alok Jha. Jha arguess the reportmarks "an important milestone for the pro-GM lobby" because it has committed "the UK to legalising genetically modified food technology" - "with this lacklustre document has slipped the government's last chance to come up with a reason, if it so wished, to stop GM plants from being commercially produced in the UK." This Jha argues is because, "Proper scientific evidence of harm to people or the environment would have been the only way the case against the crops could have been made."
The pro-GM lobby's desperation to achieve this result explains the extreme pressure brought to bear on sceptical members of the Review panel.
These days Livermore operates out of the anti-environmental lobby group the Scientific Alliance as does GM Science Review panelist Michael Wilson.
The article below by Andy Rowell gives an insight into Livermore's professional activities while at Dupont.
UK has no option but to allow GM crops commercialisation
By Martin Livermore
Financial Times, Jul 24, 2003
It is refreshing to see the science of genetically modified crops reviewed on the basis of factual, objective evidence rather than the hypothetical hazards put forward by some groups ("Scientists give broad support for GM technology", July 19).Science does not provide all the answers, but it enables the right questions to be asked and addressed in a rational manner in order that knowledge is advanced.
The science review confirms that there are not food safety issues associated with GM crops and that any questions of environmental impact are equally relevant for other components of farming systems.
The UK government will have no option but to take the rational decision to allow commercialisation of approved GM crops. Market forces will then determine their success or failure.
London WC2N 4JF
Sowing seeds of doubt
DuPont attempts to influence anti-GM food campaigners
The Guardian, Wednesday August 2, 2000
A leading GM company is trying to weaken a national campaign for a moratorium on the growing of GM crops in Britain by questioning whether some of the coalition's constituent organisations truly represent the views of their members.
A UK representative of DuPont has sparked the behind the scenes row by attempting to persuade four of the largest and most influential partners in the five-year freeze to withdraw their support. The coalition, set up in February last year, now comprises over 100 national trade unions, religious, environmental, consumer and development groups, along with 500 local authorities and 100 companies. In total they represent over 3m people.
The coalition is calling on the government to introduce a freeze on the commercial growing of GM crops; on the imports of GM foods and crops and on the patenting of genetic resources for food and crops.
Now Unison, the Townswomen's Guilds, the Local Government Association and the National Federation of Women's Institutes have been approached by Martin Livermore, an external affairs manager for DuPont UK, asking them to stop supporting the freeze and join an alternative coalition.
He provoked an angry response by claiming that the rank and file members of these organisations might not really support the freeze. "I would ask you to consider whether this position at least truly reflects the opinions and best interests of your members," wrote Livermore to one organisation.
His letter added: "There is a common myth that there is overwhelming opposition to crop biotechnology and food derived from it in this country . . . I would urge you to reconsider your support for a campaign which has - in the absence of evidence - made up its mind, and seeks to prevent the general public coming to its own decision."
"These large membership organisations actually do have a very good democratic base for decision making," says Helena Paul, chair of the five-year freeze. All the organisations involved had consulted their members as to whether to join the freeze. In 1998 the Women's Institute conducted a survey on GMO's amongst its members and last year 8,000 WIs voted on a motion to support the freeze at its annual conference. Unison also voted to join at its national conference.
"The letter is based on insufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues," says a spokesperson for Unison, which has also published a report on GM crops and food production. "The report reflects our policy of support for the campaign, and a policy which is sceptical about the claims made by the GM companies about their technology.
Livermore is unrepentant. "We are not going to get acceptance of the technology without trying to build bridges. I feel it was worthwhile as an individual to make contacts to see if we could get dialogue going."
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