New Labour spin operation underway - push for commercialisation (4/3/2004)

We were warned by the leaked cabinet documents to expect an onslught of spin using 'science' and the 'developing world', and we're certainly getting it.

We've had Taverne's article yesterday, a Cabinet leak that commercialisation will go ahead today, 2 written replies from Ministers invoking the Nuffield report, and now news (see below) that Labour-supporting Prof Joe Perry has worked a statistical miracle

The timing of the release of these statistics from Perry on Nature's website is obvioulsy intended to distract attention from the Environmental Audit Committee's findings against GM commercialisation tomorrow. This is clearly a New Labour spin op at its most cynical.

The pugnacious Prof Perry likes to call on Patrick Moore in suggesting that the environmental movement has been taken over by communists and Trotskyites. Even after he was shown evidence of Moore's track record as an industry front man, he continued to make these claims. An evangelical Christian, Perry also claims GM crops are in tune with God's will.

Scientists back GM crop findings
By John Mason, Food and Rural Affairs Correspondent
Financial Times, March 4 2004

The imminent decision to approve the growing of genetically-modified maize in the UK will this week be supported by scientific advice that the crop remains more wildlife-friendly than conventional varieties, despite a European Union ban on atrazine, a widely-used and powerful weedkiller.

On Friday scientists involved in the farm-scale evaluations of GM crops will announce that the ban on atrazine does not overturn their original findings, published last October, that growing GM maize does less damage to biodiversity than non-GM maize crops.

Scientists had found that growing GM maize was more beneficial to weeds and wildlife. But this result was rendered out-of-date by the ban on atrazine, which is used extensively in conventional maize production. Environmental groups claimed withdrawing such a powerful weedkiller could make conventional maize production less damaging to wildlife and so overturn the result.

But Professor Joe Perry, the ecological statistician from Rothamsted Research station who recalculated the trials results following the ban, concluded that if atrazine was not used for conventional production, the benefits to wildlife of growing GM maize were reduced by about one-third but still remained significant.

His findings, to be published on the website of the scientific magazine Nature, will be welcomed by the biotechnology industry and disappoint environmentalists who had hoped the atrazine ban could force ministers to change their minds and block the commercialisation of the UK's first GM crop.

Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, is due to announce the controversial go-ahead for GM maize next week, subject to a number of conditions.  


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