"GM crops are not interesting for the consumers or the farmers but only to a handful of multinational companies" - José Bové speaking in Norfolk this week
"Multinationals are trying to take the farmers hostage" - FranÃ§ois Dufour of Confédération Paysanne speaking in Norfolk this week
"Like I said before, I would rather be fishing with my grand kids than fighting this but by golly somebody, somewhere, sometime has to take a stand" - Percy Schmeiser speaking in Norfolk at the 2020 ‘Feeding or Fooling the World?’ debate
1. GM free picnic (non) coverage - right to reply
2. Response to JN Rounce of the Norfolk Beekeepers' Association
3. Keep on buzzing - Dr Bartlett on GM and honey
4. FEELING CROSS (from Schnews)
5. LOCAL FOOD: THE GLOBAL SOLUTION
6. UK farmers - only minority think use of GM technology important
1. GM free picnic (non) coverage
Extracts from the following letter and a response from Eastern Counties Newspapers are due to be published in the Evening News 'Right to Reply' column on Tuesday June 19th.
Letters Page, Eastern Daily Press
I’m writing to express my concern regarding the complete absence of any representatives of the press at today’s GM Free Picnic arranged by the Green Party and local residents of Pilson Green, which is part of the village of South Walsham.
Pilson Green is in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, but despite this is the location for one of Norfolk’s fifteen genetically modified crop field test sites. There has been widespread concern in the village - including almost 100% objection expressed at a recent public meeting.
This afternoon, a number of local residents and visitors gathered in what appeared to be idyllic surroundings next to the village pond, in a timeless summer scene marred only by knowledge of the proximity of the nearby test site. Those attending included all ages from young children to those of more senior years. Many passers by stopped for a chat, fresh locally grown strawberries and a glass of wine, and the atmosphere was one of genuine community and friendliness.
I understand that members of your staff were notified, but failed to attend. Judging from the number of people at the event, the issue of GM crop trialling in Norfolk is of some considerable local concern, and I am saddened that you felt it to be of insufficient interest to your readers.
2. Response to JN Rounce of the Norfolk Beekeepers' Association
The following letter was published in the EDP Friday 15 Jun 2001
I would like to comment on one of the points raised by JN Rounce of the Norfolk Beekeepers' Association in today's letters (EDP June 12). As the grandaughter of a beekeeper, and someone who enjoys eating honey, I am extremely concerned about buying honey which may have been contaminated by genetically modified crops. Sadly, one of the only ways to do this nowadays is to seek out certified organic honey imported from areas of countries such as Tanzania or Zambia which are still GM free, or to ask friends to bring back local honey from areas of the UK which are predominantly pasture and as yet have no official test sites.
I'd love to support local beekeepers, but feel wary of doing so since trials of genetically modified oilseed rape began across Norfolk. Contrary to Mr Rounce's suggestion, it is not the honest, informed and heartfelt protest against GM oilseed rape by individuals such as his fellow beekeeper Neil Boyle which might "damage" the trade in Norfolk honey. The damage has already been done, by the minority of farmers and research establishments who have ignored public opinion and persisted in hosting trials of GM crops on their land.
3. Keep on buzzing
not yet published
To: Letters Editor, EDP.
From: Dr. Jeremy Bartlett, 12 Helena Road, Norwich, NR2 3BZ.
I was interested to read J.N. Rounce's concerns that Weasenham beekeeper Neil Boyle may be damaging the trade in Norfolk honey (EDP Letters, 12 June 2001).
Mr. Boyle has good reason to be concerned about his bees and honey, living near to a GM oilseed rape trial site. Oilseed rape is the single most important honeybee forage crop in this country. His bees are very likely to visit the field that is less than two miles from their hives and bring back a large number of pollen grains from the crop. In doing so they act as a means of cross-pollination of any other oilseed rape in the vicinity and quite possibly wild relatives such as charlock and wild radish that are common in many parts of Norfolk.
Only a small percentage of honey's weight is made up of pollen but a typical 10 gramme portion contains 20,000 - 80,000 grains and people who are allergic to honey are usually allergic to the pollen it contains. Given the rudimentary nature of the safety assessments of GM crops and the haphazard nature of the process of genetic modification, it is not possible to rule out that the GM oilseed rape does not contain new allergens and toxins. The GM oilseed rape certainly contains a novel protein, the PAT protein, which has never been part of the human diet (or an oilseed rape plant) before. Bees rely on pollen as their sole source of protein, so could be affected much more seriously than humans. Bacteria in bee guts can also take up DNA from GM oilseed rape, though the consequences of this are unknown.
Along with farmers who do not wish to grow GM crops, Mr. Boyle is concerned that his livelihood is being threatened for the sake of a biotechnology company's profits. Bizarrely, Mr. Rounce, instead of offering sympathy, seems to be saying "be a good ostrich, keep your head in the ground and perhaps the threat will go away." Unfortunately it won't, unless Mr. Boyle and many other beekeepers and farmers make a fuss.
Dr. Jeremy Bartlett.
4.FEELING CROSS (from Schnews)
The first votes of election day were cast not in a ballot box, but in a field of genetically modified (GM) Oilseed Rape. In the early hours campaigners cut an 'X' shaped swathe through the controversial GM crop currently growing at Munlochy on the Black Isle, Inverness. ["a splendid ironic gesture by people who are prevented from the democratic process" - Dr Michael Foxley, Highland Council]
All over the country GM crops continue to be mysteriously trashed. Six out of 13 oil seed rape trials have been destroyed by night-time pixies and mother-nature has destroyed another two. The remaining five sites may not provide enough data for pharmaceutical giant Aventis to introduce the crop as a commercial variety, possibly delaying this by a year.
SchNEWS spoke to one of the pixies who told us "Opinion polls have shown time and again that the public doesn't want these crops polluting the environment. Government and businesses won't listen, so the only thing to do is destroy the crops".
It's not just in Britain that pixies are active, in Belgium three trials have recently been destroyed.
In fact it looks like things may only get worse for Aventis and their mates, as the 'Justice system' appears to be unable to make most charges against GM protesters stick. Many charges are dropped and even if they go to court, juries often find them not guilty of criminal damage.
This week seven GM campaigners were cleared by magistrates for aggravated trespass. They successfully argued that as no other people were present in the field the action was not "aggravated". Soon the authorities are gonna run out of laws they can use - hopefully leading to a decriminalisation of crop trashing.
*For a list of all UK test sites including which ones have been destroyed, visit www.geneticsaction.org.uk/testsites If there's a test site near you, contact GEN on 020 76900626. For a guide to night-time gardening, contact TOGG on 01803 840098
5. LOCAL FOOD: THE GLOBAL SOLUTION
The foot and mouth crisis, the reorganisation of the Common Agricultural Policy and opposition to the World Trade Organisation's agricultural rules, all provide opportunities for a radical transformation of food and agriculture towards smaller scale, sustainable production and more local consumption. The speakers at this public meeting will address the practicalities of such a transition.
A public meeting on Monday, July 9th, 2001, 7.00pm. Admission: FREE Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1 (Nearest tube station: Holborn)
Professor Tim Lang (Centre for Food Policy)
* The local approach for transforming UK agriculture following foot and mouth
Vandana Shiva (Director: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Delhi)
* A world trade regime to protect sustainable farming livelihoods globally
Caroline Lucas (Green MEP)
* Transforming CAP to LEAP - the Localist European Agricultural Policy
Alan Simpson (Labour MP for Nottingham South)
* Localising the rules: the role for the govern-ment in UK agriculture, CAP and the WTO
Colin Hines (author Localisation - A Global Manifesto)
* How 'localisation' could help solve world food problems
6. UK farmers - only minority think use of GM technology important (forward from nlpwessex)
Although just under half UK farmers think the GM farm scale trials should continue, interestingly only a third think the ability to use GM technology is important according to a large farmer survey by high street bankers Lloyds TSB (see Farmers Weekly report below).
If only a minority of UK farmers think the use of GM technology is important, and most consumers do not want it, then why continue with it?
This is an interesting question for the new Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which has replaced MAFF after the general election.
One of the new department's most urgent tasks is to carry out a review of farm and rural policy under the guidance of its new Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett. To quote East Anglian farmer and agricultural columnist David Richardson in the same edition of Farmers Weekly:
"The questions that will be asked will include: Should the livestock industry be allowed to return to its previous stocking levels? The answer will almost certainly be No. Can intensive farming methods, established 20 or 30 years ago, be allowed to continue in the face of consumer rejection? No...
......farmers will only persuade [the members of the agriculture review body] to support and, yes, protect them, if they can demonstrate that the industry is in touch with contemporary society; that it can and will respond to the wishes of consumers; and that farmers care as much, if not more, about the countryside in which they operate than the rest of the population....
So, the next few months are crucial. Agriculture can decide to co-operate and, in return, may be helped to survive. Or it can stick to its old ways and go the way of the dinosaur, the dodo and British Coal. Which is it to be?"
NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX
Opinion divided on big GM crop trials
Farmers Weekly 15 June 2001
FARMER opinion is equally split on whether farm-scale GM crop trials should go ahead. In a 16,800-farmer survey, which just over 3000 responded, 49% were in favour and 48% against.
Arable farmers were most positive, with 64% saying yes, and hill farmers most opposed, with 78% against GM farm trials, says the Lloyds TSB Agriculture survey.
Among beef, sheep and pig producers, 60% were opposed.
Further questioning reveals that only one-third of farmers felt that the ability to use GM technology was very or fairly important, while 42% said it was not important and 22% were undecided.