LONDON, England, 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 them.”
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 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 summer.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved