*Krebs wrong - organic no elitist fad
*GM crops 'worse than Nuclear-waste'
*EU Farm Ministers Split Over Pace of GM Approvals
Krebs wrong - organic no elitist fad
UK: Organic sales increase in the north of England, the north-south divide is closed
5 Sep 2000
Author: Clare Harman
Reports from northern branches of the superstore chain Asda are showing a distinct increase in demand for organically produced food, and dispelling the elitism that seemed intrinsically linked to the organic image.
While several years ago sales of organic produce were limited in the north of England, a spokesman for the store said that recent figures proved that “There is no longer a north-south divide. More and more people are enjoying organic food and awareness of its availability has spread.”
The north-west is proving the second highest organics selling region in the UK, clocking up 16.38% of sales, which compares favourably with the south-east's leading 18.3%. Asda managers from Moss Side, Manchester's poorer area, calculated that their branch actually sells more organic produce than the Asda in Roehampton, South London.
With demand for organic produce increasing by 300% since the beginning of 2000, Asda has announced the new arrival of 155 new lines to its stores, with the chain investing £1m in its organic range.
Coming so soon after the chairman of the government's food agency, Sir John Krebs, told BBC viewers that no evidence existed to prove that organic produce was healthier, Asda's director of produce, Peter Pritchard, explained that the increased sales “prove that the produce is finally shaking off its elitist image.” The assumption of a north-south divide in demand can now be put aside.
GM crops 'worse than Nuclear-waste'
Wednesday September 6, 2000
Genetically modified crops pose a greater threat to the environment than nuclear waste or chemical pollution, the executive director of Greenpeace told a court yesterday.
Lord Melchett, head of Greenpeace UK, was speaking on the second day of a retrial at Norwich crown court in which he and 27 others are charged with causing criminal damage to a farm scale trial of genetically modified herbicide resistant forage maize.
Questioned by Owen Davies QC, defending, Lord Melchett said that he thought genetic modification represented the most serious threat to the environment.
"Because it is alive it's not like chemical pollution which you can clean up or even nuclear waste. It might take thousands of years, as in the case of Chernobyl, but it will eventually disappear. GM, if it gets into the environment in a way that causes a problem is probably impossible to stop or recall.
"The other element is that it is capable of going everywhere. Chernobyl was contained to a large area of Europe including Britain but it could not go all over the world. GM because it's alive can ... and could affect generations to come. You can't sweep it up, pull it in, it has not got strings attached."
All 28 defendants deny the charges, which arose from action at a field at Lyng, Norfolk, last July, claiming they acted to protect other crops from imminent contamination by GM pollen. At the original trial they were cleared of theft but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the criminal damage charges.
Lord Melchett, 52, said the group had intended to uproot six acres of maize and return it to its owner AgrEvo (now Aventis) at its headquarters in Kings Lynn.
"I believe the crop when it flowered would release GM material widely into the environment around the field and further afield.
"When that was released it would cause damage to other agriculture, organic crops and honey, conventional crops, soil and wildlife. Once that GM material was released it was alive and it would remain alive and continue to spread and would be unstoppable."
Lord Melchett denied the attack on the field was a publicity stunt and said they had acted because the danger of contamination was imminent. He said he was horrified to learn that at the conclusion of the trial the GM maize had been ploughed back into the soil rather than removed.
"It never crossed my mind that in July 1999 they [AgrEvo] would simply spread the stuff and plough it in. I was horrified, it seems very irresponsible to me. It was obviously the cheapest method but the most dangerous I can imagine as a farmer."
William Brigham, the owner of the land on which the crops were being grown, had given an interview to Farmers Weekly in which he said the GM maize was about to flower releasing its pollen.
"We realised that if we were to protect the environment we would have to move in the next few days," said Lord Melchett.
The trial continues today.
EU Farm Ministers Split Over Pace of GM Approvals
September 5, 2000
By David Evans
BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) - European Union farm ministers were divided Tuesday over how fast to clear new genetically modified crops and maintain public confidence already battered by a series of health scandals.
France, as EU president, is trying to build a consensus around the cautious position on GM crops. But at an informal meeting of EU farm ministers it was criticized by several member states for being "too defensive."
In a strongly worded policy paper drawn up ahead of the meeting in the French resort of Biarritz, France called on governments "to slow down or stop this mad dash for production."
"It has to be recognized that the imposition of GM foods by large multinational companies raises serious doubts as to their basic motive since their enthusiasm for health and environment protection has never been spectacular" it said.
French farm minister Jean Glavany said two member states, Belgium and the Netherlands, openly criticized the text for being too cautious. Officials added both Germany and Britain also felt the EU should be more positive.
"Some felt it was too cautious. We now have to work toward harmonizing views" Glavany told a press conference after the two day meeting.
However, France has a major ally in Italy, whose farm minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio is an outspoken critic of new gene altered crops. The split threatens to make it more difficult for EU food safety commissioner David Byrne to push through plans to kick start the EU's GM authorization procedure, which has been stalled by an unofficial moratorium.
Much to the annoyance of the United States, the world's major GM crop grower, the EU has not cleared any such crop for three years while new legislation is being drawn up.
Byrne said new legislation would be finalized over the next few months and would include provisions on labeling, traceability, time limited authorizations and a continuing need for research.
EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler said the reality of GM crops could not be ignored, either within EU food production or in imported goods. But the Commission would continue with an approach based on giving consumers full information.
"We should not disregard what biotechnology has to offer. We must also include the probable economic and social implications" Fischler said.