Celtic rebellion - Irish, Scots, Welsh reject Blair's Biotech Britain (24/7/2006)

1.Irish farmers fear GM crops contamination
3.Wales must do better than England to protect farming from GM threat

1.Irish farmers fear GM crops contamination
Daily Mail (Ireland), 21 July 2006 http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php

Anti-GM crop campaigners urged the [Irish] government not to back plans to introduce the first commercial growing of GM crops which could end up contaminating Irish crops across the border.

The government in the North is due to publish papers on the cultivation of GM crops which could mirror the British government's decision yesterday to allow commercial growing of the GM crops by 2009.

The British plans could lead to the GM pollution of agriculture including organic food and honey.

It is understood the Northern Ireland government could follow suit.

But yesterday anti-GM protesters and farmers in Ireland hit out a the potential plans, saying crops could be contaminated because the pollen from genetically modified rape seed can travel a distance of 26 km from the nearest crop.

They predict such a move could destroy Ireland's food industry.

The British government argued that the controversial crops should be grown on secret sites across the UK, so reducing the risk of protests.

The proposals mean that GM pollen pollution of conventional crops, organic crops and honey will be legalised up to a threshold of 0.9%.

Farmers whose crops suffer higher levels of contamination will be entitled to little, if any, compensation.

And GM contamination of gardens and allotments will be legalised, with no upper limit on the level.

Michael O'Callaghan of GM Free Ireland said the move would lead to the contamination of Irish crops.

He added: "It has been proven that pollen from genetically modified rape seed has travelled a distance of 26 km from the nearest GM crop, so it is inevitable that Irish crops will be affected by GM crops in Northern Ireland."

But he also pointed out that the Irish Government is planning the allow the commercial growth of GM crops, despite a pre 1997 election pledge from Fianna Fail not to do so.

"Ireland is heading in the same direction," he said. "While the Government went throught the motions of a National Strategy plan on GM crops, they excluded the majority of the stakeholder from the consultation process.

The Department of Agriculture issued a draft policy on co-existence last December and are now reviewing some of the submissions. Legalisation is expected at the end of the year or the start of next year."

And Mr. O'Callaghan said that GM contamination of crops could have negative impact on the Irish food export market as many European food chains do not want to use GM ingredients in their food.

"It's a recipe for widespread contamination and it could destroy the food industry in Ireland," he said.

"It should be remembered that Fianna Fáil mad a pre 1997 election pledge not to release GM crops in Ireland, but they have changed their mind since."

Eddie Punch, General Secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association said: "We should capitalise on the food island idea that Bord Bia are trying to promote. The best barrier against GM contamination is the Irish coastline.

"The EU talks about having a small buffer zone so GM seeds won't spread.

"But that doesn't have any credibility as wind will carry the seeds to neighbouring farms.

"If you look at the situation along the border there are many farms that cross into both the north and the south so contamination is possible."

For immediate release - 21st July, 2006

Following the launch of the consultation on GM crops in England & Wales on Thursday, Green MSPs have reiterated their call for a robust and effective strategy in Scotland, and for the consultation on that strategy to be launched as soon as possible.

Mark Ruskell MSP, Green speaker on environment, has proposed a bill at Holyrood to make GM companies strictly liable for any economic damage as a result of contamination caused by GM crop trials and commercialisation.

The Westminster consultation has been widely criticised by GM campaign groups, consumer interests and the organic farming sector, as a "sham" exercise designed to pave the way for the commercial growing of GM crops in England & Wales, with proposed measures on co-existence which are weak, and will ultimately lead to the widespread proliferation of uncontrolled GM contamination throughout non-GM and organic crop production.

In response to publication of the Westminster document Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife has tabled a motion in Holyrood urging Lib Dem Environment Minister, Ross Finnie to take a more precautionary approach that genuinely protects the interests of Scottish farmers and consumers, and to publish a GM co-existence and liability consultation for Scotland, which includes a rigorous strict liability regime guaranteeing that any economic damages suffered by non-GM farmers are fully compensated by the GM industry.(1)

Commenting on the need for the Executive to act Mr Ruskell said: "The Executive have been promising a consultation on GM crops for years and yet so far there has been nothing. Now they will have to follow DEFRA's lead. Any consultation that starts with the assumption that GM crops can happily co-exist with conventional and organic crops is a smokescreen to allow the biotechnology companies free reign in our food and farming. Consumers don't want GM, and they don't want foods contaminated with GM - it could not be clearer. If Scottish produce can remain GM free then the future of our farming industry will be strengthened. Contamination by GM has cost conventional and organic farmers in North America dear - we must not make the same mistakes in Scotland. All economic liability must fall onto the GM companies, who must carry the can for contamination."


For further information contact Green MSPs press office on 0131 348 6360/ 0771 761 8771 or Andrew Thompson on 07881 846984


1. Motion to the Scottish Parliament tabled by Mark Ruskell MSP

That the parliament, notes the publication by DEFRA of a consultation exercise on the coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops; further notes comments by Ian Pearson, the UK environment minister, that GM contamination of conventional and organic crops is inevitable should GM crops be grown commercially in the UK; observes that Mr Pearson’s dire warnings are borne out by the experience of farmers in North America, where organic and conventional farmers have been driven out of business following contamination by GM material; acknowledges widespread public rejection of GM agriculture, and observes that as long as this remains the case there will be no market for GM produce in the UK; welcomes the unprecedented growth in demand for organic produce , up 30% over the past year and now valued at GBP1.6 bn across the UK, in marked contrast to the GM sector ; supports the right of the organic and conventional agricultural sectors to protect their products, market reputation and livelihoods from the effects of GM contamination ; finds it strange that the UK government seems intent on jeopardising the future of a valuable and thriving agricultural sector by supporting the interests of the agricultural biotech industry, whose products virtually no one wishes to either purchase or consume; strongly believes that whatever coexistence measures are put in place, they must be backed up by a rigorous strict liability regime, with any economic damages suffered by non-GM farmers fully compensated by the GM industry; and calls on the Scottish Executive to publish its own consultation on GM coexistence and liability, and to take a more precautionary approach that genuinely protects the interests of Scottish farmers and consumers, the overwhelming majority of whom wish to remain GM-free.

3.Wales must do better than England to protect farming from GM threat
Friends of the Earth Cymru Press Release
Immediate Release: Friday 21 July 2006

Friends of the Earth Cymru has slammed UK Government plans to allow widespread contamination of agriculture by genetically modified (GM) material in England and challenged the Welsh Assembly Government to take action to protect farmers in Wales.

A Government consultation launched on Thursday, on how GM and non-GM crops can 'co-exist' in England, is a thinly disguised attempt to allow GM crops in through the back door, warned the group. "Coexistence" is a devolved matter and a consultation from the Assembly Government on the same issue in Wales is expected in the autumn.

Friends of the Earth Cymru hopes that the Assembly Government will act on its policy that it "remains determined to adopt the most restrictive approach to GM crop cultivation in Wales that is consistent with European and UK legislation" [1]. The group is working in an alliance with the Farmers Union of Wales, the National Federation of Women's Institutes – Wales and GM Free Cymru to keep Wales GM Free.

The English consultation [2] seeks views on what practical measures are needed to allow GM crops to 'coexist' with conventional and organic crops and who should pay when farmers suffer economic damage caused by GM contamination. But the crucial issue of how to ensure that non-GM crops are protected from GM contamination will not be asked, because the Government's consultation assumes that significant levels of GM contamination are acceptable.

The consultation is being carried out under EU rules whereby member states can put in place measures to prevent GM contamination of non-GM crops. But under European food labelling rules, accidental GM contamination of up to 0.9 per cent is allowed before foods have to be labelled as GM. The UK Government has taken this to mean that 0.9 per cent GM contamination in conventional, and potentially even in organic, crops is acceptable. [3] This approach has been criticised in a legal opinion from an expert in European law, as being "fundamentally flawed" and "wrong in law".

The consultation also questions whether public registers of GM crop locations will be necessary. Friends of the Earth believes that the public has a right to know full details of where GM crops are being grown, and public registers must be made mandatory.

Friends of the Earth Cymru Director Julian Rosser said: "This consultation in England is a complete sham. It highlights the lengths the UK Government will go to back the biotech industry and pave the way for GM crops to be grown in Britain. The only way biotech companies will be able to grow their crops on a large scale is to allow widespread GM contamination of conventional and organic crops. And this is exactly what the UK Government is preparing to do.

"The Welsh Assembly Government must stick to its desire to see a GM Free Wales by committing to the strictest possible rules which would protect Welsh food and farming from GM contamination. The Welsh consultation must go much further than the English one or our agriculture and environment will be at risk."

Friends of the Earth Cymru says the Assembly Government should:

*Put in place strict rules aimed at preventing GM contamination of all non-GM crops, down to the limit of detection currently 0.1 per cent

*Support legislation to ensure that biotech companies are strictly liable for any damage to the environment and to farmers' livelihoods;

*Continue to campaign for local decision-making on GM crops. In the UK 60 local authorities have passed resolutions opposing GM crops in their areas, covering a population of 18.5 million people. The Assembly Government has been working with other regions of Europe to demand right to declare themselves GM Free.

Although there are no GM crops being grown in the UK, either commercially or in outdoor trials, biotech companies have lodged 12 applications to grow GM crops in Europe, which, if approved, could be grown in the UK. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 20 October 2006.



[1] Reaffirmed as recently as 14 July in an email from Jonathan Charles, Plant Health and Biotechnology Branch of WAG to Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru.

[2] http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/gmnongm-coexist/consultdoc.pdf

[3] Page 10 of the consultation document (above) says:

"...any statutory coexistence measures must aim to minimise unwanted GM transfer into non-GM crops so that they do not exceed the EU 0.9% threshold." "...The 0.9% figure is a level that food and feed supply chains should in general be able to observe with measures that do not impose an excessive burden. Coexistence can only work on the basis of a pragmatic threshold"

[4] The Government is consulting on:

*Options for practical measures which aim to keep GM contamination below the 0.9 per cent labelling threshold set by the EU. *Whether a threshold below 0.9% should apply to organic production *Options for compensation to farmers if their crops are contaminated. *Advice to farmers on setting up voluntary GM free zones

Julian Rosser
Friends of the Earth Cymru
33 Castle Arcade Balcony
Wales CF10 1BY
Tel 029 2022 9577
Fax 029 2022 8775
[email protected]
Web: http://www.foecymru.co.uk

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