1.Letter to The Guardian from Clare Oxborrow
Your report (GM crop trial locations may be hidden from public, 16 February) neglected to mention that our Department for Environment actually made it easier for BASF to carry out its GM potato trials last year. It allowed the trial to go ahead before the potatoes had been tested as safe for health, something BASF said would be too expensive.
Despite this helping hand, a second trial, approved for a farm in Hedon, near Hull, failed to go ahead last year because of justified concerns raised by local farmers, local authorities and the public about the impact on their economy and environment.
It's not activism that's preventing GM crops taking hold in the UK but a complete failure by the industry to make a convincing case for why we need them. GM crops have lead to a massive increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yields or tackle hunger and poverty. The Government should remember that it represents the British public, not the GM industry. As such it should back green farming systems, such as organic, which are already delivering for the environment and jobs and have broad public support.
Friends of the Earth
2.Letter to The Guardian from Pete Riley
Ian Sample (GM crop trial locations may be hidden from public, 16 February) appears to have been swept along with the pro GM propaganda he was offered by the biotech industry to the point where his article became inconsistent.
To back up industry calls for keeping GM test site location secret, he wrote 'Elsewhere in Europe, fields are not pinpointed so clearly, with companies giving only the region in which the trials will take place, or submitting details to a tightly-control-led public register'.
However, earlier in the article he claimed that '77% The percentage of Monsanto's crop trials in France that were attacked by campaigners' (or was the figure 65% as stated in the body of the article further down the page?).
From this one could draw the conclusion that not pinpointing the field where the trials are being held in France has failed to stop such actions.
Hiding GM sites in the UK will not be the answer because neighbours will have to be informed, as the presence of the trial could impact on their business through cross pollination, and word will get out. The reason for farmers and beekeepers being concerned about contamination is that people are looking for food without GM presence and have been supported by all the major supermarkets and hundreds of smaller businesses in that desire since the late 1990s. Widespread cultivation of GM crops would make keeping to such standards much more difficult if not impossible.
The reason we don't have GM crops growing commercially growing in the UK is not because of activists taking direct action but because they were found to be harmful to farmland wildlife or they were withdrawn by the company which developed them (in the case of GM fodder maize). In the whole of the EU, the area of commercial GM planting amounted to just 0.23% of farmland last year - a significant proportion of which was in Spain. It's not just the UK that does not like GM crops.
Rather than writing a major article on keeping GM test sites secret, one is left wondering why Ian Sample did not produce a piece looking at why the major seed corporations have got themselves stuck in a deeply unpopular GM cul-de-sac (which has not produced consistent yield improvement in any crop) and how UK science should drop its obsession with the GM solution in farming to research options that meet all the demands being placed on agriculture of producing safe food with the minimal environmental footprint.