"I don't think any of us would disagree that, if an alternative exists to a GE solution, it's to be preferred" Mr Hodson QC acting on behalf of the Life Sciences Network at the New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, 8th Feb 2001
Friends of the Earth has just launched a new General Election 2001 website. The site let's you find and challenge prospective MPs in your area to support tough new
legislation making biotech companies liable for any damage caused by GM crops and food.
Make sure your next MP tackles the issues that concern you in the next election. Press for change at:
Thanks in advance for your support,
Sandra Bell Real Food campaigner Friends of the Earth
NFU encouraged to push for greener farming
16 January 2001
The NFU claims excessive environmental regulation is "squeezing the life" out of the industry. Friends of the Earth called on the organisation to put more effort into lobbying the Government to help members follow the environmental regulations.
"Instead of whingeing about measures designed to protect both the environment and consumers, the NFU should put more effort into helping growers save money; by cutting chemical inputs, saving energy and converting to more sustainable methods of farming," said Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth Real Food Campaigner. "There is a huge demand for organic produce, yet UK farmers miss out on sales as most of the demand is met from abroad. Revenues from the proposed pesticides tax should be recycled back to farmers through policies that encourage chemically intensive farms to convert to greener methods of production. And EU subsidies should be redirected to farmers who deliver environmental benefits."
The EU does a welcome u-turn on farming
19 January 2001
The EU Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler's said at Berlin's traditional Green Week agricultural fair, that Europe should "encourage and promote environmentally-friendly production methods which respect animal welfare".
Fischler's comments are similar to the views reported in recent weeks from the German Government, in the wake of the first confirmed cases of BSE.
"Franz Fischler's statement is a breath of fresh air which hopefully represents a wind of change blowing through the EU's thinking on agriculture," said. Pete Riley, Friends of the Earth Real Food Campaigner. "For too long environmentally friendly farming has been treated as a fringe activity. Huge sums of public money have been used to support intensive systems of production that are bad for people, bad for animals and bad for the environment. The BSE crisis shows how seriously things have gone wrong.
"Agriculture Minister Nick Brown must act before the next round of EC reforms, due in 2004, to prevent a further crisis in UK farming. MAFF should use the powers it gained under the last EC reforms to ensure money traditionally spent propping up unsustainable, intensive farming is used to support more eco-friendly systems instead."
FOE is also calling on the Government to give its backing to the Organic Targets Bill which would develop an action plan for organic farming and set a target of 30 per cent of land in England and Wales to be organic by 2010. The Bill has been adopted as a Private Members Bill by Simon Thomas MP (Ceredigion- Plaid Cymru).
Select committee report fails to recommend concrete targets
24 January 2001
The Agriculture Select Committee's report on Organic Farming (published 24 January 2001) backed an action plan for organic farming - which would help the sector develop sustainably, rather than in fits and starts. But the Committee failed to recommend targets for increasing organic production in the UK. Ten European countries have already set targets, including the four countries that now have the highest percentage of land in organic production.
Catherine Fookes, the Organic Targets Bill Co-ordinator from Sustain said: "We are delighted that the Committee agrees that an action plan is needed for organic farming. The Minister of Agriculture has already agreed that an action plan would be useful so now we need them to put words into action. Without an action plan UK farmers will continue to lose out to overseas competitors."
Sandra Bell, Food Campaigner from Friends of the Earth agreed: "The report contains some sound advice, not least that a more strategic approach is needed to develop the organic sector and more resources should be put into training and research to maximise the considerable benefits of organic farming." But she also added: "We are disappointed, however, that the Committee's report falls short of recommending a target for organic farming."
The report contains the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee following its inquiry last year into organic farming in the UK. It looked at customer demand, organic certification, standards, farm assurance schemes, assistance for organic conversion from trade associations, food processors, supermarkets and the Government, pricing, imports and exports.
The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill Campaign, of which Friends of the Earth is a founder member, submitted evidence to the inquiry last year. The Campaign wants to see clear recommendations from the Committee for the Government to set a target for the growth of organic farming in the UK and to back this with an Action Plan. Farmers in the UK are losing out on the boom in demand for organic food at the moment because they have not been given the support they need. About 70 per cent of the organic food eaten in the UK is imported.
The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill was presented to Parliament on January 17th by Simon Thomas MP who adopted the Bill following his success in the Private Members Ballot in December. The campaign has the backing of more than 100 organisations including major retailers, and more than 250 MPs. The second reading debate is scheduled for February 9th 2001.
David Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said: "There are several sound reasons for supporting the Organic Targets Bill. By creating up to 16,000 jobs, for example, the Bill will benefit rural economies and in reducing pesticide use it will help the environment and wildlife."
More information on the Bill can be found at http://www.sustainweb.org/
Ministers call for GM animal feed labelling
29 January 2001
The Austrian and Italian agriculture ministers have called for the immediate labelling of GM animal feed when they met in Brussels to discuss the BSE situation. Since the banning of meat and bone meal in the wake of Europe's BSE crisis, imports of animal feed crops such as soya and maize from the US are expected to increase. Much of this may contain GM material. Friends of the Earth says farmers and consumers have a right to know what is being fed to animals, particularly in light of BSE. Labelling would allow them to avoid GM animal feed. An EU Novel Feed Regulation has been under discussion in the European Union for the past three years. In its White Paper on Food Safety, The European Commission promised to present a proposal by September 2000. But nothing happened then nor has it since, which means that unless emergency measures are taken, no legislation will be in place in member states until at least 2002.
"Labelling of GM feed has been postponed since at least 1997," pointed out Heike Moldenhauer, Genetech Expert at Global 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria). The Agriculture Ministers should wake up and take consumers' concerns seriously. It's irresponsible to rush headlong towards the next agriculture scandal."
Gill Lacroix, Biotechnology Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe agreed: "A succession of feed crises have proved it's essential we know what's being fed to farm animals. EU citizens have made it clear they want to avoid GM food. Labelling will help them do this. One of the lessons of the BSE crisis is surely to provide more information about the food on our plates. Legislation mustn't be delayed any longer - we need GM feed labelling now."
Bo Normander, GMO Advisor at NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), said: "Strict rules on labelling of GM animal feed should be applied in order for farmers - particularly organic farmers - to be able to avoid GM contamination. Labelling should appear clearly and contain information on how and why the product has been genetically altered."