GM in the UK 2004 - Review of the year (parts 1 & 2) (5/1/2005)

Here are parts 1 & 2 of our review of the GM issue in the UK in 2004.

"...we have a good deal to celebrate. The GM industry has effectively pulled out of the UK, and there is now not a single GM variety in the seed listing pipeline. We have seen a quite extraordinary demonstration of people power..." - Dr Brian John

[for more REVIEWS OF THE YEAR, incl. Japan, France and Australia, see: ]

2. My 17 highlights of the year - Jean Saunders of GM-ACT


It's been an interesting year for those of us who are seeking to prevent a plague of GM foods and crops from infecting the UK. For a start, we have a good deal to celebrate. The GM industry has effectively pulled out of the UK, and there is now not a single GM variety in the seed listing pipeline. We have seen a quite extraordinary demonstration of people power, with a host of NGOs, consumer organizations and special interest groups taking on -- and defeating -- the GM multinationals, the British government and a GM propaganda industry which is well resourced and which knows all about media manipulation and spinning techniques. David has taken on Goliath and knocked the giant over, although it remains to be seen whether the said giant has any life left in his battered body.

Those of us who belong to small anti-GM organizations should -- if we have not done it already -- give a massive vote of thanks (and some financial support) to GM WATCH for the manner in which it has kept us informed, week after week, of the main GM stories and the main issues demanding attention -- and for exposing the corruption which lies at the heart of the GM enterprise. WEEKLY WATCH is essential reading for all of us who do not have the time to scour the literature and the web for GM-related news items, and the GM WATCH website (including "The Biotech Brigade") is to my mind the single most influential item in our campaigning armoury. Together with it gives us a fresh and accurate insight into the reasons for the decline and fall of GM corporations and GM science. We have always suspected it, but now we know that the GM enterprise is corrupt from top to bottom. It is based upon dodgy science conducted by scientists whose activities are orchestrated and controlled, and who are "discouraged" from publishing anything which might be inconvenient to the multinationals who pay them. These same multinationals increasingly control the means of communication. Research which might throw up uncomfortable results is carefully avoided. Scientists who do have concerns about the safety and stability of GM crops are marginalised, vilified and victimised, as Arpad Pusztai, Terje Traavik and Ignacio Chapela know only too well. Among their assailants are "phantom scientists" like Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek, who are permanently hidden away from view within the offices of shadowy PR organizations like the Bivings Group and various fake persuaders and lobby groups. There are probably some honest GM scientists around, but they do not have a hope in Hell of winning the sympathy or support of the British public so long as they keep company with people who properly belong in a rogue's gallery of cheats, liars and media manipulators.

Perhaps we should not be too surprised by the revelations about the thuggish and counter-productive working methods of the GM multinationals and their allies, but I am personally amazed that the Blair government has persisted, right through the past year, with its mad campaign to spread GM crops across the British countryside and to ram GM foods down the throats of the people of this country. What on earth can lie behind this strange obsession? We know that our beloved leader chooses his advisers carefully and listens only to those who extoll the virtues of biotechnology and who claim that GM crops and foods are essentially harmless. We also assume that Tony Blair has made a deal with George Bush to "facilitate" the large-scale import of GM foods into Europe and to provide support, off the record, for the GM case being brought by the USA, Argentina and Canada through the WTO against the EU. International diplomacy is as mysterious as it is dirty. But it is intriguing, to say the least, that the PM appears not to hear what the British public has been saying to him very loudly for the last six years -- that they are not convinced about the safety of GM crops and foods, and that they want nothing to do with them. They wonder how many times they have to say "No!" before the Prime Minister understands what they mean. Consumer organizations, the popular media, opinion polls, focus groups and assorted strange consultation exercises have all shown that there is great and continuing antipathy towards GM, and farmers, supermarkets and food manufacturers have all responded to the pressure to keep Britain essentially GM-free. But not the PM. Our Tony, supported by the likes of Sir John Krebs, Lord May and Lord Sainsbury, insists that he and his cronies are right and that everybody else is wrong.

In the promotion of the PM's pro-GM agenda, the farm-scale trials were rigged in order to demonstrate that GM crops are less damaging to the environment than non-GM equivalents. The Government was genuinely taken aback by the results of the sugar beet and oilseed rape trials, but derived a crumb of comfort from the GM maize trials -- in spite of the fact that they too were seriously flawed and used management regimes that would never be replicated in the real world. The Environmental Audit Committee said as much, and was roundly condemned by the Government for its troubles. Margaret Beckett announced in March 2004 that GM maize plantings were to be allowed, in spite of the fact that Chardon LL was already known to be a failure, and in spite of the fact that the Welsh Assembly was refusing to add the variety to the Seeds Register. Bayer then bowed to the inevitable by withdrawing its applications for Chardon LL. Still the Government persisted with its pro-GM campaign, working against many other EU counties to reduce GM labelling requirements and to block other moves designed to control GM releases in to the environment and into the food chain. With John Krebs safely reappointed as Chairman of the FSA the Government knew that the "GM-no harm" message would be trumpeted at every opportunity; and with Bob May at the head of the Royal Society it knew that the GM scientists would be given free rein to trumpet the virtues of the technology. With ACRE, SCIMAC, ACNFP and other key committees all dominated by GM industry placements, it assumed that the public would eventually be bludgeoned into accepting that GM crops and foods should be welcomed by all rational people; but it assumed wrongly, for those committees were shown over and again to be complacent, biased and even incompetent. In fact during the year they contributed, in no small measure, to the inexorable decline of public confidence in science generally, by showing that they have no regard for the public good.

The only Committee that did show some awareness of safety doubts and public concerns, Prof Malcolm Grant's AEBC, proved itself to be so independent and so hard-working that it made Margaret Beckett increasingly irate, and as a reward for its service to the public it is to be wound up, in a fit of pique, before it can do any more damage to Mr Blair's great GM project.

In other areas too, the Government has been involved in extraordinary convolutions while trying to keep its GM balls in the air. It was involved in a despicable Parliamentary campaign to kill off Gregory Barker's Liability Bill, with DEFRA showing a singular lack of commitment to putting anythin


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