Have your say in the UK's GM debate (15/5/2003)

15 May 2003

Have your say in the UK's GM debate

1.Have your say in the GM debate
2.GeneWatch and the Public Debate - *useful materials and info*
1.Have your say in the GM debate
10 Downing Street Press Release
People can have their say on genetically modified crops at conferences in Birmingham, Swansea, Taunton, Belfast, Glasgow and Harrogate between 3 and 13 June.

The conferences will launch the national debate on GM issues - called 'GM Nation?' - and there will also be discussions in towns and villages around the country. People keen to hold their own event can get a debate toolkit, including a film, booklets and even helpers for large meetings.

"We know many organisations and individuals are already planning their debates and discussions," said Professor Malcolm Grant, who is chairing the board running the national debate. "We are keen for other groups to make a start - book the church hall or a room over the pub - and give us a ring to get hold of the debate materials. The number to ring is 020 7261 8616."

The independent GM debate steering board will use the results from all these discussions to produce a report for the government by the end of September. The government has committed itself to making a written response to the report and taking account of the outcome from the public debate when making future policy decisions on GM issues.
2.GeneWatch and the Public Debate
From: "Becky Price" <[email protected]>

Dear All,
GeneWatch has put together some materials around the public debate.  We have 6 double sided A4 information sheets that outline what we feel are the most important issues for people to cover. Their titles are:

1) GM Crops: Environmental Saviour or New Form of Pollution?
2) GM Crops and Food: Good for Your Health?
3) GM Food: Your Right to Choose?
4) GM Crops: Bringing Hope to the Starving?
5) Can GM and Non-GM Farming Co-exist in the UK?
6) Who Should Pay if Things Go Wrong with GM Crops and Food?

They are all available as word documents on our website
www.genewatch.org/debate/debate.htm , alternatively we can post you copies.
(Tel: 01298 871898)

On our website we have also have a news section, covering the main developments in the debate and a how to (and why) get involved section (see below). In this section we have included things not directly related to 'the government sponsored debate' because we feel this year is just really important to make your voice heard on GM generally and as all GM-Act subscribers will know, not necessarily the best way.  Please feel free to use these materials at either the regional or local meetings or in any way you feel appropriate.
All the best

GeneWatch has been closely following the GM public debate process and, along with many other groups, we are critical of a number of aspects of the debate (see below). Despite these problems, GeneWatch believes that as many people as possible should take part in the debate process. If few people take part, then the Government, when making its decision about GM crops in the UK later this year, will be able to say the UK public no longer really cares about GM. The concerns raised by the public over the last five years will then be ignored.

Unfortunately, because many organisations have quite rightly been highly critical of the organisation of the debate, the National Farmers Union (NFU) are the only national organisation to have officially agreed to take part in organising local public meetings.

'GM Nation?', as the debate is now called, will consist of a series of meetings on a regional and local level. Each meeting will be provided with a toolkit consisting of a video, a CD-ROM and a workbook containing a feedback form where each individual will be able to express their views on both GM and on the process of 'GM Nation?' itself. GeneWatch therefore feels that it is very important that people try to become involved in the process and this can be done in a number of ways:

3rd June: NEC, Birmingham - 3.00pm
5th June: Brangwyn Hall, Swansea - 6.00pm
7th June: Holiday Inn, Taunton - 2.00pm
9th June: Kings Hall, Belfast - 2.00pm
11th June: Quality Hotel, Glasgow 6.00pm
13th June: Pavilions, Harrogate (Yorkshire Showground) 2.00pm
To book tickets and for more information about the debate, contact Lee Hancock at the Central Office of Information (COI) on 020 7261 8528.

2) Find out where local meetings are taking place in your area and attend them. GeneWatch has asked the Central Office of Information (COI) to place a list of local meetings on its public debate website at www.gmpublicdebate.org. However, if they don't do this or you don't have access to the Internet, you can ring Lee Hancock as above.

3) Organise your own meeting. If you are part of a group with an interest in GM (e.g. a local community group or the Women's Institute) then you can organise a meeting as that group. However, you can also organise a meeting as an interested individual. The COI will provide anyone organising a meeting with a toolkit containing a video, CD-ROM and a workbook for each person attending the meeting. The toolkit is intended to act as stimulus material for discussion in the meetings. The workbook will also contain the feedback form and this will be your opportunity to express directly how you feel about both GM and about the process of 'GM Nation?'. The COI have said that they may be able to help people with the publicity and organisation of local meetings. The meetings should be organised for after the launch date of 3rd June and before the end of July. Again, ring Lee Hancock as above.

4) If you can't attend or organise a meeting, you will be able to use the public debate website (www.gmpublicdebate.org). At the moment, we understand that the website will contain stimulus material similar to that on the CD-ROM and that there will be an opportunity to fill in the feedback form.

5) This is a good time to organise other events and distribute leaflets and other information about GM crops and food. GeneWatch has a series of short issue papers as well as longer briefings and reports that we can send you (see www.genewatch.org or ring 01298 871898).

6) Friends of the Earth are trying to get each Council in Britain to declare itself a GM-Free Zone. To get involved in their campaign, see www.foe.co.uk, email [email protected] or ring 0113 2428153.

7) Many people would prefer to buy animal products such as meat, eggs and cheese from animals that had not been raised on GM feed. Many supermarkets promised customers they would meet these wishes, but some have failed to do so and may back down from those promises. Greenpeace are trying to stop that happening and if you want to help, contact them on [email protected] or 020 7865 8100.

NB: GeneWatch is interested in collecting experiences of people getting involved in the public debate. We would like to know how easy or difficult it is for you to contact the COI and become involved in the process. Please let us know by getting in touch via:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01298 871898
Post: GeneWatch UK, The Mill House, Manchester Road, Tideswell, Derbyshire,
SK17 8LN.


1) A lack of adequate resources and restricted time-scale.

2) The Government's continuing with the process of granting EU commercialisation authorisations for import and growing of GM crops.

3) The exclusion of the Farm-Scale Evaluations from the debate because the report will not be produced until at least September, by which time the public debate will have been finished.

4) The dates, time-scale and organisation of the debate have been continually changing. This makes it very difficult for the public to understand what is going on and how to get involved.

5) Confusion as to how the three strands of the debate (the science review, the economics review and 'GM Nation?') will fit together. In theory, each should have informed the other. However, the science review is now well underway and will produce a report in the early summer of 2003 and the economics review will be published in June 2003. It will therefore, not be possible for their reports to be influenced by the public debate.

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