FARM on NFU position on GM coexistence including insurance (8/10/2003)

The UK's National Farmers Union (NFU) Council has agreed a position on the coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic agriculture. It should shortly be available on the 'policy work' section of their website: www.nfuonline.com

In the meantime someone has sent a copy to the alternative farmers' organisation FARM. As is made clear by the comments from FARM below, although the NFU's President Ben Gill is retiring his sorry legacy of putting the  interests of the biotech industry before those of their own members lingers on.

Gill, like GM extemists Anthony Trewavas and Chris Leaver amongst others, is a member of the governing council of the UK's main plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre. He was dubbed 'Biotech Ben' by the satirical magazine Private Eye because of the extremity of his support for GM crops.
from FARM:

NB - extract below from [the NFU] document re Insurance, but as FARM has revealed from its survey published in the Evening Standard last night and in a number of papers, on the radio and TV today (8/10/03) NO insurance company will offer insurance to farmers on GM crops including the NFU's own sister organisation, NFU Mutual!

"d. Insurance. Of the possible financial instruments to compensate non-GM growers against economic loss due to admixture we would favour an insurance-based approach. In principle, first-party insurance against economic loss due to admixture is the most attractive insurance option. Insurers might be expected to offer lower premiums to non-GM growers who implement protocols to reduce the risk of their crop becoming contaminated.

"However, we recognise that most insurance companies would be reluctant to offer insurance in the early stages of introduction of GM crops due to the uncertainties in assessing the risk of admixture. We suggest in the medium to longer term following an introduction of GM crops much of this uncertainty may have been resolved, though insurers could be expected to make any decision to offer insurance based on their assessment of the commercial prospects for insurance products."

Robin Maynard, FARM national coordinator said:
"It beggars belief that the self-styled leading farming organisation is recommending insurance as a possible compensation measure to its members to facilitate the commercialisation of GM crops into the UK when not one single company will offer such insurance. Either the NFU Council has been asleep over the past day or two or it is deliberately ignoring the realities facing farmers in the UK. If the latter, it is hard not to conclude that the NFU at the HQ level is overtly pro-GM and content to see not co-existence, but GM contamination throughout UK farming."

We presume the [NFU] document was forwarded to us following today's publicity by a disgruntled or disbelieving NFU member, possibly a Council member given its immediacy?

FARM has produced a briefing setting out the practical and commercial implications of GM crops for working farmers
No-one will insure GM crops
Summary of PRESS RELEASE  as sent out yesterday: 7/10/03 - for immediate release

"The worry is that GM could be like Thalidomide - only after some time woulthe full extent of the problems be seen"
- Insurance company spokesperson

A survey of the principle insurance underwriters in the UK, carried out by the new campaigning group FARM, found that neither farmers considering growing GM crops or non-GM farmers seeking to protect their businesses from contamination by GM crops would be able to find anyone willing to give them insurance. [1]

The survey conducted by FARM staff and working farmer members revealed a level of opposition from companies taking on the risks of insuring GM crops, comparable to the public's hostility to purchasing and eating them.

Insurance company spokespeople compared GM crops to 'Thalidomide', 'Asbestos' and 'Acts of Terrorism'. [2]

All the companies surveyed felt that too little was known about the long term effects of growing these crops on human health and the environment to be able to offer any form of cover: "50 years ago insurers were writing policies for asbestos without a care in the world - now they are facing claims of hundreds of millions of pounds. The insurance industry has learned to be wary of new things, and there is a real feeling that GM could come back and bite you in 5 years time", said one company spokesperson.
Tearing Down Biotech's 'Berlin Wall'

EXCERPT: "Proponents of GM crops claim that public fears over GM risks are exaggerated and way beyond what is justified by 'scientific' risk assessments. But that is exactly the type of situation where attractive highly profitable insurance business can be done. Yet the insurance sector is deliberately avoiding such business. Why? It seems clear that they are well aware that the science is immature and that the assessment of GM related risks may be operating well beyond the capacity of science to identify them in advance of their widespread use. It is that scientific immaturity which goes to the heart of the debate and concern about GMOs. Why are we unwilling to recognise that reality politically when the de facto actions of commerce and industry confirm that internally they recognise it economically?"
Tearing Down Biotech's 'Berlin Wall' - 4 May 2003

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