King exaggerates GM progress (27/11/2007)

2.King Exaggerates GM Progress

NOTE: The Government Chief Scientist has said repeatedly that he wants to build trust between scientists and society. Punting GM crops on the basis of no reliable evidence is a strange way of going about it!


Friends of the Earth, Press release, 27 November

GM crops are not needed to deal with growing populations and climate change, Friends of the Earth said today. The environmental campaign group was responding to comments by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, who said today that he believes there is a moral case for the UK and the rest of Europe to grow GM crops. He told the BBC this morning that GM crops will be essential to deal with an ever-growing population and diminishing water supplies.

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said:

'Despite 30 years of research, over ten years of commercialisation, and massive financial support from the UK Government, GM crops have failed to deliver the sustainable solutions that are urgently needed. GM crops often need more pesticides, provide lower yields and cause widespread contamination. The main benefits they have brought are to the handful of multinational companies who have gained an increased control of the food system.

'The vast majority of GM crops are grown in monocultures and are used to feed animals, not people. Intensive meat and livestock farming is itself a significant contributor to climate change and biodiversity loss. We need to urgently tackle the environmental challenges we face. This requires an investment in worldwide sustainable farming methods which meet local environmental and social needs, a reduction in global meat and livestock production and a freeze on the rush to develop agrofuels.'

An official review into last year's GM food scandal where unlicensed GM rice was illegally imported into the UK and sold to British consumers, is to be held by the Food Standards Agency on Thursday. Friends of the Earth campaigners will attend and are available for comment.


2.King Exaggerates GM Progress
GM Freeze PRESS RELEASE, 27 November 2007

GM Freeze have accused Chief Scientist Professor David King of greatly exaggerating the progress made in developing new GM crops around the world and of ignoring the other ways to tackle global climate and poverty challenges.

Professor King, interviewed on the BBC's Today programme this morning (27 November), said that GM crops were needed to cope with a growing population and climate change. At the same time Professor King defended Europe's rigorous safety assessment for GM crops and foods.

King's views contrast markedly with those of Ossama El-Tayeb, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University {1}:

'I wish to add that transgenicity for drought tolerance and other environmental stresses (or, for that matter, biological nitrogen fixation) are too complex to be attainable in the foreseeable future, taking into consideration our extremely limited knowledge of biological systems and how genetic/metabolic functions operate.

'Those who propagate the ideas that any biological function could be genetically manipulated are optimists who are probably victims of a consortium of ‘arrogant’ scientists and greedy business who have strong control on policy making and the media. Having said that, I feel we should not lose hope of reaching such noble goals and should continue to fund such research whose fruits may be reaped by a future generation. These goals have been used by the proponents of currently available genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the control of big business, who propose that GM crops will alleviate poverty soon while in fact currently available ones mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security and positively to the stock market.

'The holders of intellectual property rights for present day GM crops keep teasing us about the potential of GMOs resistant to abiotic stresses and the like while doing nothing about developing such crops for this generation. These are simply not easily exploitable in a business market and are accordingly not on their agenda. Basic research in this area is being funded almost exclusively by public funds.'

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

'Listening to David King you would think that there is a GM magic wand that will enable farmers to overcome all challenges facing them drought, pests, poor soil. He is guilty of exaggerating the progress that has been made in developing GM crops for extreme conditions. GM drought resistant crops have been talked about for well over a decade and are still not close to being available to poor farmers, who rarely get asked what they think or want from plant breeding or agricultural development. Professor King studiously avoided the socio-economic and political blockages to progress. We wish Professor King well in his retirement. We hope his successor will take exaggerated claims about GM crops with a large pinch of salt and that the UK research is directed to the right solutions that the people in the Global South actually want.'


Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065 Eve Mitchell 0207 837 0642 / 07962 437 128


1. http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C14/280307.htm

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