Poor lose in GM power play (23/9/2003)

Download the report: ENGINEERING NUTRITION: GM crops for global justice? http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/reportspdf/gmnutrition/gmnutrition.pdf
Poor lose in GM power play
Embargo 00.01am, Tuesday 23rd September 2003
Further information: Tom MacMillan on 07973 137185

The world's poor and hungry are the big losers in the transatlantic power play over GM foods. The latest report from the independent Food Ethics Council demolishes arguments that GM foods are a moral crusade to feed the poor.

"The US government is playing the hunger card to breach EU opposition to GM crops," says Dr Tom MacMillan, the executive director. "Meanwhile, as we saw in Cancun, both the US and Europe are refusing to make the policy changes that are really needed."

Contrary to US claims, the EU's caution on GM crops is unlikely to harm the world's poor and it is not 'immoral'. The new report argues that the EU should maintain a moratorium on GM crops until regulation is reformed to take public concerns more seriously.

The report, 'Engineering nutrition: GM crops for global justice?', also rejects claims that it is in the interests of world's poor to spend more public money on GM research. Future food security research should be driven by the needs of farmers and consumers, rather than only those of international business and the scientific establishment.

"Farmers and consumers are locked out of key spending decisions, then locked into the course of action chosen in their absence - they're offered GM crops in ways they can't refuse," adds Tom MacMillan.

The report questions why resources are invested in GM crops, in the name of solving hunger, whilst existing approaches that might work better are left to languish. One reason is that GM crops can be patented, which makes money for firms and public bodies.

The report reviews the case of GM 'Golden Rice', touted as a solution to vitamin A deficiency, which is a leading cause of childhood blindness. The report argues that Golden Rice may fail in practice even if it is shown to perform on paper.

"GM crops like Golden Rice promise simple solutions, but problems like vitamin A deficiency are complex," explains Dr Eizabeth Dowler, a nutritionist and member of the Council. "Although Golden Rice is unproven, it is already being sold as a reason to spend more on GM research."

Helen Browning, who chairs the Food Ethics Council, says it is time governments got honest.
"GM crops have made food security a big issue for US and EU policy-makers, but for the wrong reasons. If our governments are sincere, they must tackle the unfair subsidies and trade rules that really make people poor and hungry."

Further information: Tom MacMillan on 07973 137185

Notes to editors
- The full report can be downloaded from www.foodethicscouncil.org. For a free hard copy, please contact the council office at the address below.

- The Council is an independent group of scientists, academics and consumer representatives set up to review ethical issues in food and farming and to make recommendations for change. It is chaired by Helen Browning OBE, a member of the Policy Commission on Farming and Food, which reported to the Government in 2002.

The Food Ethics Council, 39 - 41 Surrey Street, Brighton BN1 9UQ t: 01273 766 654  f: 01273 766 653
[email protected]  www.foodethicscouncil.org

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