Blair uniting the nation against him / No Basis for GM Approvals (5/3/2004)

The Royal Society has a launched a predictable attack on the UK parliament's Environmental Audit Committee. The words of Winston Churchill come to mind, "Scientists should be on tap, not on top."

A tiny coterie of industry-friendly scientists together with Tony Blair are uniting the entire country against them - see item 1. Environmental Audit Committee's press release is item 2.

For more on the Royal Society:

'Safeguards before GM decision'
Ananova, 5 March 2004

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been urged to introduce strict rules to protect organic farmers in advance of any Government decision to give the go-ahead to GM crop commercialisation.  The call comes in a letter from a coalition of groups, including the Consumers' Association, the National Trust, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, Unison and Friends of the Earth.

The move further fuels the escalating row over the new technology, which was further intensified by a hard-hitting report from the all party Commons Environmental Audit Committee published earlier today.  It said the Government must not give the go ahead to the commercial planting of GM maize before more tests are carried out.

But the letter from the coalition says the groups are "dismayed" that the Government appears to be focusing its attention on how opposition to GM might eventually be worn down, rather than addressing the many legitimate concerns that people have about GM technology and incorporating these concerns into its decision making.

The letter adds that "the issue of public choice to grow and eat non GM products is paramount.

"Before the Government can consider agreeing to GM crop commercialisation it must introduce strict regulations governing co-existence to prevent contamination of non GM crops."

The Environmental Audit Committee said the Government must not give the go-ahead to commercial planting of GM maize after the recently completed three year crop trials.

The MPs say more research is needed because atrazine, one of the pesticides used on conventional crops during the tests, is about to be banned.

Critics claim this means the trials were invalidated because the effect of GM crops on the environment and wildlife was not being compared with conventional crops grown using a less powerful pesticide.

No Basis for GM Approvals
Environmental Audit Committee
House of Commons
Press Release - for immediate use
5 March 2004

The Environmental Audit Committee has today published its Report, GM Food - Evaluating the Farm Scale Trials, HC 90, the Second EAC Report of Session 2003-4.

The Report, unanimously agreed by a cross-Party group of MP's, examines the design and operation of the recent farm scale evaluations (FSEs). It looks into the background of FSEs and puts the results into the context of the Government-led debate on GM, and concerns about the general decline of biodiversity in the farmed environment.

The Committee in its Report sets out 27 Recommendations and Conclusions, amongst which are:

a)      "We are concerned that the GMHT forage maize trials were based on an unsatisfactory, indeed invalid, comparison.  It is vital that the Government permit no commercial planting of GMHT forage maize until  that crop is thoroughly re-trialled against a non-GM equivalent grown without the use of atrazine." (Paragraph 14)

b)      "It is inconceivable that beet or spring-sown oilseed rape will be given consents to be grown if managed under the same regime as applied in the FSEs." (Paragraph 63)

c)      "We are very concerned about possible contamination by gene-flow and pollen spread of non-GM crops and insist that the issue of liability be settled before any GM crops are allowed to be commercially grown in the UK." (Paragraph 38)

d)      "We recommend that future GM crop assessments of biodiversity impact should be no shorter than four years." (Paragraph 67)

e)      "No decision to proceed with the commercial growing of GM crops should be made until thorough research into the experience with GM crops in north America has been completed and published." (Paragraph 31)

f)      "We recommend that in future trials the biodiversity benchmark against which GM crops should be assessed should be that associated with the less intensive and more biodiversity friendly end of the spectrum found in UK agriculture, such as organic crops." (Paragraph 73)

g)      "The scope of the trials was very narrow and the results cannot be regarded as adequate grounds for a decision to be taken in favour of commercialisation." (Paragraph 74)

h)      "It would be irresponsible of the Government to permit the commercialisation of GM crops on the basis of one narrow component of the entire evaluation of GM technology.  This would be the case even were there no significant doubts as to the robustness, validity and relevance of the FSE results." (Paragraph 75)

Peter Ainsworth MP, Chairman of EAC, said: "Leaked minutes from a Cabinet Sub-Committee suggest that a decision to open the door to the commercial growing of GM Crops is imminent.  As our Report makes clear, any such decision would be irresponsible in the light of the evidence available from the trials.  No substantive Ministerial announcements should be made until the Government has formally responded to the issues raised in this Report.

I am writing to the Secretary of State today to emphasise this point."

Peter Ainsworth MP will be available for interviews today concern


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