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GM industry steps up lobbying on liability (24/10/2007)

1.GM industry modify their approach - Guardian
2.The gains of GM crops won't be felt with over-regulation - Julian Little, chair of ABC
3.The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) - GM Watch

NOTE: Check out Becky Price's article on the liability issue: 'If biotech companies have confidence in their industry, are happy with current safety assessments, and are keen to win over a distrustful public, why are they so reluctant to take responsibility for environmental damage?' (GM industry should put its money where its mouth is) http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,2176837,00.html

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1.GMO modify their approach
David Adam
Ecosoundings, The Guardian, Oct 24 2007
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/24/1

Astute observers may have noticed an increase in activity from the GMO industry recently, but why? The answer lies inside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and on the desk of new minister Joan Ruddock. One of Ruddock's responsibilities is deciding how an EU directive on environmental liabilities should be translated into UK law. And beneath the radar of the green groups, the GMO industry is quietly terrified that a severe interpretation could send it packing, with ramifications in the rest of Europe. The expense account of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council - a front group for the industry's big players - is battling on their behalf (see today's Comment [BELOW]).

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The gains of GM crops won't be felt with over-regulation
Julian Little
The Guardian, October 24 2007
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/24/gmcrops.comment

[Julian Little is chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council]

There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world - a number set to increase dramatically in the next 25 years - and the amount of agricultural land available to feed each person recently dipped below 0.3 of a hectare for the first time. So how can we produce enough food for a growing population, while reducing carbon emissions?

There is no silver bullet. Among the steps that should be taken are reducing energy use and increasing the amount of food, feed, fibre and fuel we get out of arable land. We have to look at a variety of tools for farmers - including the safe and responsible use of GMO technology. Countries worldwide, including the UK, can't ignore innovations that could help us achieve sustainable food production.

Chris Pollock, chairman of the government's independent advisory committee on releases to the environment, said recently: 'The future sustainability of British farming would be in grave jeopardy if farmers were not permitted to adopt new technologies that were proven to increase yields or have other benefits.' He added that 'if we are serious about sustainable agriculture, we have to be open to new technologies'.

In terms of environmental protection, profitability and effectiveness, regulation needs to be fair, proportionate and enforceable. Legislation must not be a barrier to innovation in a sector that needs to adapt swiftly to changing climatic patterns and economic demands, such as the need to produce fuels and raw materials from crops, increasing animal feed prices, and the spectre of food price rises.

The government is currently deciding how to incorporate into law the environmental liability directive (ELD) introduced by the EU in 2004. Our industry supports the objectives of protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and the government's science-based approach to the ELD, but we want to ensure that unnecessary 'gold-plating' of generic legislation does not occur.

The truth is that GM crops are the most rigorously tested of all crops and have been successfully grown by farmers across the globe for more than 10 years. More than 200bn meals containing GM ingredients have been consumed in the last decade, without a single, substantiated health incident. Today, GM crops are used by 10 million farmers in 22 countries across the world, including six EU member states. The benefits include increased yields, reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and a reduced environmental footprint.

The ELD, rightly, aims to follow the 'polluter pays' principle, but is a blunt instrument that risks becoming discriminatory. Current regulation makes case-by-case assessments of potential risks to the environment long before any crop can be commercialised - and the fear is that an additional, unnecessary layer of regulation may prevent the development of this technology and deny enormous benefits to UK farmers.

Email your comments to [email protected] If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly 'for publication'

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3.Note on the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC)
GM Watch

In 2002 Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta set up the UK lobby group, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC).

The ABC is part of Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe (ABE) which also represents industry lobbies in Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, and Sweden. Other openly industry-backed lobby groups in Europe include EuropaBio and the UK-based CropGen, which operates with the assistance of the same PR agency (Lexington Communications) as the ABC.

The first chairman of the ABC was the former Head of Syngenta Seeds UK, Stephen Smith. Its next chairman was Paul Rylott, who was followed by Julian Little.

Initially, the ABC was represented by Weber Shandwick, one of the world's largest PR companies. However, in November 2002 it changed to Lexington Communications, run by Mike Craven, a former aide to the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Prior to Lexington, Craven was the Labour Party's chief media spokesperson and before that a lobbyist with Market Access. While Craven was Managing Director of Market Access it faced accusations of a 'massive disinformation campaign' in lobbying for the European 'patents on life' directive, which was approved despite strong public opposition.

More on Craven: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=139

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