Impact of GM crops still causing concern (8/9/2003)

The People's Report on GM Crops compiled by Newcastle University was published today, based particularly on two parallel citizens' juries, taking place in different parts of the UK, that have just considered the GM crops issue.

In addition to the press article below, you can find all the details of the citizens' juries vedicts here: http://www.gmjury.org/

You can download the press release (96KB), report summary (20KB) or the full report (487KB) as PDFs.

The verdicts of the two independent juries broadly agree, in that both juries call for:

*A halt to the sale of GM foods currently available, and to the proposed commercial growing of GM crops. This conclusion is based on the lack of evidence of benefit and the precautionary principle.
*Long-term research into the real risks of damage to the environment and the potential for harm.
*An end to blanket assertions that the GM crops are necessary to feed the starving in the Third World, given the complex social and economic factors that lie behind such hunger.

Wider concerns expressed by the juries in their verdicts included:

*A concern that the gradual privatisation of scientific research is threatening the independent regulatory assessment of GM technologies, together with a call for future research to be more accountable to the population.

*A condemnation of the way in which the elected Government has merely paid 'lip service' to public debate on such a major issue as GM, together with suggestions of specific mechanisms whereby such debates could be improved.

*Concerns that Government communication and media coverage does not give sufficient weight to the importance and complexity of the GM issue, together with suggestions of organisations whose remits could be expanded to address this.

*Proposals to curb the power of large agro-chemical corporations to impose new technologies on farmers and consumers, with little regard to what those farmers or consumers - whether in the industrialised or Third Worlds - actually need.

*The need to transfer risks that may arise from GM technologies away from farmers - who currently have to sign contracts that make them liable for problems - and towards the corporations that have developed the technology.
Greenpeace UK press release about Citizen's Jury announced today:
By Amanda Brown, Environment Correspondent, PA News, 8 September 2003
The possible impact of genetically modified crops on the environment continues to cause concern among the public, according to a report out today.
With the Government results of the three-year GM crop trials not now expected to be published before mid October, the GM jury is calling for the moratorium on commercialisation of this technology to continue.
Their decision comes after hearing evidence from a wide selection of expert witnesses on issues related to GM foods.
The citizens' juries also urge the Government to carry on for the long term with testing GM crops in fields.
The People's Report on GM Crops complied by Newcastle University and funded jointly by the Consumers' Association, Greenpeace, the Co-operative  Group and Unilever, highlights the jurors' concerns on issues including the impact of GM crops on farming and the environment, food safety and potential health effects, as well as the Government's handling of the debate.
The report sets these findings against the background of similar recent work in this area, both in the UK and abroad.
Two juries were held simultaneously in Newcastle upon Tyne and St Albans.
Helen Colclough, a juror from the Newcastle group said: "We believe that the implications of GM technology are not yet fully understood and have not been adequately shared with the public.

"The jury felt because of this we could not justify an unqualified green light to GM crops being grown in the UK."
Vinay Thoree, on the St Albans jury, said: "There is a general misconception that GM food will lead to human mutations.

"However, the attempts by manufacturers of GM technology to persuade us that the UK will lose out if we do not embrace GM is disingenuous.

"Evidence shows that the GM crops currently on the market offer little benefit to consumers, the environment or the Third World.

"If the UK and developing countries really want to gain from GM then industry must develop products that will do more than line the pockets of the manufacturers who produce it."

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