May 22, 2003 (ENS): Environment Minister Michael
Meacher has suggested that the UK government may allow
genetically modified crops to be grown commercially
in the UK regardless of public opinion. Speaking on
the BBC radio program "Farming Today" on Monday
the minister said a ban on transgenic crops would be
illegal unless there is scientific proof that they harm
people or the environment.
The government’s public consultation on genetically
modified (GM) crops begins June 3, but Friends of the
Earth UK did not wait for the formal public comment
period to express its reaction.
Pete Riley, the organization's campaigner on the issue,
said, “The public have made it perfectly clear
that they do not want to eat GM food. Allowing GM crops
to be commercially grown would threaten our food, farming
and environment with GM pollution, and take away people’s
right to say no to GMOs. There is genuine scientific
uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts these
crops have on people, the environment and the food chain.
But this government is so pro-GM it chooses to ignore
In April, the largest independently owned market research
company in Great Britain, Market & Opinion Research
International, released results of a survey showing
that 56 percent of those questioned opposed GM food,
and 14 percent supported it. Other polls conducted within
the past year came up with similar results.
But the UK government, like all European governments,
is under pressure from the United States to permit transgenic
crops. Earlier this month the United States filed a
formal complaint against the European Union's moratorium
on GM crops at the World Trade Organization.
Major issues such as the coexistence of GM and non-GM
crops and liability for economic and environmental harm
are still being debated in Europe and the UK.
Wales, Devon, Dorset, Lancashire, Cornwall and South
Gloucestershire have recently taken action to go GM-free.
This includes taking steps to stop tenant farmers from
growing GM crops, and banning GM food from local food
services such as school meals and residential homes.
Some local authorities have pledged to write to the
UK government and to the European Commission in Brussels
applying, under new European laws, to be excluded from
growing certain GM crops.
Friends of the Earth says these actions are the result
of its GM-Free Britain campaign which was launched last
year. On May 28 Friends of the Earth Europe is organizing
a conference on the subject of GM crops in Brussels.
More information is online at: http://www.gmfreebritain.com
“Next month," said Riley, "the government
is launching its public debate on GM crops. But if it
is to have any credibility, ministers must guarantee
beforehand that if the public say they don't want GM
crops, the government will not give them the commercial
go-ahead. Without that guarantee, there seems little
point in debating the issue.''
The UK government’s GM policy advisers, the Agriculture
and Environment Biotechnology Commission, has been conducting
an investigation into coexistence and liability for
the past two years and is due to report later in the
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All