GM is an anti-choice technology
NOTE: An edited version of the following letter from Peter Melchett was published in the EDP newspaper in response to a previous letter from Prof Derek Burke (Little evidence as anti-GM campaign robs us of choice, June 15 2010) who headed the UK regulatory committee that gave approval to the sale of the first GM foods.
For more of the recent correspondence in the EDP see
For more on Derek Burke see 'The GM Godfather'
The GM industry doesn't really want you to choose
EDP, June 22 2010
Professor Burke may see himself as neutral in the debate about GM food, but he is seen by those sceptical or opposed to GM as a leading pro-GM campaigner.
Few campaigners for any cause would try and cram so many misrepresentations into one letter.
First, Professor Burke claims that the regulatory committee he chaired was balanced, but its members were overwhelmingly pro-GM - even the so-called consumer representative went on to work for a GM lobby group at Monsanto. Second, he claims 'campaigners' forced supermarkets to drop GM tomato paste, when every supermarket said it was their customers they listened to. Third, he says 'claims' of environmental damage from GM crops have not stood up to scientific investigation.
The only serious scientific study on the environmental impact of GM crops in the UK, funded by the Government and run by neutral scientists and the GM industry, found that GM crops were generally worse for farmland wildlife than non-GM.
Fourthly, he implies that the experimental blight-resistant potato is needed to reduce spray use.
In fact, new, non-GM varieties of blight-resistant potatoes have been grown commercially in the UK for several years now.
Most misleading of all, Professor Burke says farmers and consumers need the 'choice' of GM crops and food (even though consumers have overwhelmingly rejected GM).
He omits to mention the ferocious battles the GM industry has fought all over the world, and especially in the US, to try and stop accurate labelling of GM food, because they know that if consumers have accurate labelling, and are informed about GM, they don't buy the products.
After fierce political and legal battles in the US, some dairies won the right to label their milk as GM hormone free. Sales of Monsanto's GM hormone (injected into cows to increase milk output) plummeted, and Monsanto sold the business.
This is the choice Professor Burke's allies want to deny British consumers. GM is an anti-choice technology - as Mark Price, CEO of Waitrose said last year: "Waitrose continues to maintain our non-GM stance, partly because we know our customers don't want it. The major problem with the technology is that it is a 'one in, all in' deal, and that simply isn't fair on those farmers who want their land to remain GM-free."
The Soil Association