Delay GM crops, say groups speaking for 8m / Perry's work not "credible science" say MPs (6/3/2004)

1. Perry's work not "credible science" say MPs
2. Delay GM crops, say groups speaking for 8m members

1. Perry's work not "credible science" say MPs

Dr Brian John has drawn our attention to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee's brutal dismissal of the Letter by Joe (Scientists for Labour/Greens are Trotskyites) Perry et al published yesterday in Nature as a spoiler tactic against the Committee's damning report. The Committee's Chairman says Perry's Letter is neither "robust nor particularly credible science."

Here's the full quote on the research from their press release:

In response to queries about how this conclusion fits in with recently published findings in "Nature" magazine which suggest that GMHT fodder maize would still be better for biodiversity in a post-atrazine environment, Peter Ainsworth MP, Chairman of EAC, said: "It is quite clear that this research is highly speculative.  It appears that meaningful results from only four fields which did not use atrazine or other triazines in the trials can be examined with any confidence, and that this number of fields provides no statistically sound basis upon which to extrapolate results with any certainty whatsoever. Professor Pollock of ACRE who supervised the FSEs told us as much in oral evidence.  It is ironic that this research comes from the same scientists who ran the FSEs and made so much of the need for those trials to be on such a large scale in order to ensure a sound statistical data-set for results.  In order to give themselves a better basis for extrapolation, these scientists have actually included some triazine fields - despite the fact that triazines are to be banned.  The article itself says that its findings are  a "tentative approximation to future weed abundances". This is neither robust nor particularly credible science.

2.Delay GM crops, say groups speaking for 8m members
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Saturday March 6, 2004
The Guardian,2763,1163392,00.html

Nine organisations representing 8 million members, including the National Trust and the Women's Institute, wrote to Tony Blair yesterday demanding that he postpone the introduction of GM crops. The letter was among an unprecedented number of hostile reactions to the news that Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, is to make a statement on Tuesday giving the go-ahead for the first commercial GM crop in Britain.

It coincided with a report from the all-party Commons environmental audit committee which also demanded a halt to the government's plans.

The committee said the three-year crop trials on which the government is to base its case for the introduction of the GM maize were flawed because atrazine, one of the pesticides used on conventional crops in the tests, is due to be banned in the next 18 months, and the effect of GM crops on the environment and wildlife was not being compared with conventional crops which will be grown in the future with the use of a less powerful pesticide.

The MPs said they were concerned that the GM herbicide-tolerant maize trials "were based on unsatisfactory, indeed invalid comparisons" with conventional crops.

Their report added: "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."

The letter from the nine organisations, which include Friends of the Earth, the National Consumer Council, the Consumers' Association, Genewatch and the trade union Unison, expressed dismay at the tone of cabinet minutes leaked to the Guardian two weeks ago.

Quoting the minutes, it says: "Although the government clearly recognises public opinion is against GM food, it is now considering how to develop a 'coherent strategy on promoting biotechnology in the EU' against the wishes of the majority of its citizens.

"We are also 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 continues: "Not enough is known about the broader implications, including the impact on health, the environment and society to justify the possible risks involved in introducing this technology irreversibly into the food chain."

The junior environment minister Elliot Morley said: "The government is not an advocate for GM - we're not here to sell GM to anyone. If people don't want to buy GM produce, they don't have to.

"Clear and accurate labelling is key to informed consumer choice, and all GM products will be clearly labelled.

"We've always made it clear that there will be no blanket approval. Every application will be decided on a case-by-case basis. If the science shows a particular crop should not be grown, we will not allow it to be grown."

The Conservatives' spokesman, John Whittingdale, said: "This raises serious concerns about the validity of the GM crop trials. In particular, the committee has produced evidence that the trials were both too short and too narrowly based to be able to conclude that GM crops can be commercially grown without risk.

"Until the consumer can be satisfied that the production of GM crops is based on sound and thorough research and that a clear framework which tackles liability, contamination and separation is in place, no approvals for commercial plantings should be given."   


Back to the Archive