GM foods the wrong debate -- Food Ethics Council
2.Extracts from Food Ethics magazine
EXTRACT: "There have been large numbers of animal studies”¦[that] are generally neither peer-reviewed by independent professional toxicologists nor published in scientific literature; moreover, they are often conducted by the very companies who are applying for permission to market the foods that they are testing." Dr. Peter Lund, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and member of the Government's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and processes. (item 2)
1.GM foods the wrong debate
Food Ethics Council
Press release, 1 September 2008
Ministers' calls for debate over whether GM foods will help feed the world are a red herring disguising a crisis at the heart of British science.
The UK's research institutions and regulators are not set up to respond to public debate about what people need or want, and are hidebound by who holds the purse strings.
This clashes with a growing global consensus on how innovation for better food and farming should work.
In a direct challenge to ministers, the Food Ethics Council urges the government to have a genuinely open debate about the future of food and farming. The council challenges government to:
*Instigate reform of our research bodies, building open discussion on the needs of producers, consumers and the environment into the way research is commissioned; and
*Argue for the overhaul of European regulatory systems for GM foods, embedding public involvement in the process to ensure trust and transparency.
*Make a commitment to discuss all technologies - not just GM - in the debate on the future of British food and farming in a world of rising hunger and climate change.
Dr. Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council said:
"We desperately need a fresh debate about how our food is produced. But we must make sure it isn't just a narrow, dead-end discussion about one set of technologies. Until government has overhauled the research system, calling for another debate on GM foods is like a train driver asking passengers whereabouts they'd like to head.
"To devote our attention to GM, whether through accident or opportunism, is to ignore tough lessons from a decade of controversy."
The autumn edition of the Food Ethics Council's magazine 'GM foods: the wrong debate?' lays the foundation for constructive dialogue that moves on from stagnant arguments for or against GM.
We take stock of ten years of study and deliberation around GM foods, looking at science, values and responsibilities, and public engagement as a new model of democracy. And we invite contributors to tell us how they'd solve some of the key problems GM technology is claimed to address.
We find that whether the challenge is beating hunger or boosting the economy, good governance and an ability to listen to different viewpoints are key.
In April this year the UK Government signed up to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).
The IAASTD's main message supported by over sixty countries worldwide is that the way the world grows its food will have to change radically to face the challenges of a growing population and climate change.
It finds that the incentives for science to address the issues that matter are weak, and that many OECD members have put barriers in place to stop the consideration of social and environmental needs when trying to meet agricultural production goals.
The IAASTD calls for institutional, economic and legal frameworks that combine productivity with the protection and conservation of natural resources.
As a signatory to the IAASTD, the UK government must put its own house in order to have any credibility in its efforts to help feed the world.
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For more information please contact: Liz Barling on 01273 766 654 or Tom MacMillan on 07973 137185
Notes to editors:
1. The Food Ethics Council is the advisory body on food and farming that provides research, analysis and tools to help find ways through difficult and controversial issues, and builds tools to put ethics at the heart of decisions about food and farming.
3. The report of the International Agriculture Assessment was approved on 15th April 2008 by 47 governments in Johannesburg. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we do farming, to better address soaring food prices, hunger, social inequalities and environmental disasters. More information on IAASTD can be found here http://www.agassessment.org/.
4. The Food Ethics Council has produced 5 reports that explore issues of GM technology:
*Getting Personal in 2005 http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/115
*Just Knowledge in 2004 http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/47,
*Engineering Nutrition in 2003 http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/85
*Trips with Everything in 2002 http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/114
*Novel Foods in 1999 http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/53
The Food Ethics Council, 39 41 Surrey Street, Brighton BN1 9UQ United Kingdom
t: 01273 766 654 f: 01273 766 653
2.Extracts from Food Ethics magazine
GM foods: The wrong debate?
Higher food prices have given GM's champions fresh confidence to challenge European opposition to GM foods, and accuse us of holding the world back from tackling food insecurity.
British politicians seem on their way to being convinced of the force of this argument.
But calls for more debate over the technology are a depressing throwback to the height of the GM controversy in the late 1990s.
We should have learned from ten years of wrangling over GM, that to have meaningful debate about innovation we need to ask not "do we need GM", rather "what do we need?"
The Autumn 2008 edition of Food Ethics magazine lays the foundations this debate, taking stock of a decade of study and research around GM food, asks what lessons we've learnt, and invites contributors to explain what they’d do to solve some of the key problems GM foods are claimed to address.
Contributor quotes from the magazine
"There have been large numbers of animal studies”¦[that] are generally neither peer-reviewed by independent professional toxicologists nor published in scientific literature; moreover, they are often conducted by the very companies who are applying for permission to market the foods that they are testing." Dr. Peter Lund, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and member of the Government's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and processes.
"If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It's a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it's made, it can't be reversed.”
Roger Levett, consultant who specialises in sustainable policy management.
“Poor people only starve because we maintain a global economic order which allows rich nations and people to outbid poor ones for the fruit of the land.” Roger Levett
“Patented GM traits lock farmers into using particular pesticides and fertilisers, which (not coincidentally) are produced by the same firms. Intellectual property regimes concentrate innovative capacity in the labs of six global companies, reducing the scope for local experiment and invention. GM technology as it stands does not foster wider innovation in the rural economy.” Robert Doubleday, senior research associate, University of Cambridge.
“The immediate challenge for our generation is to transform industrial agriculture by shifting the world’s food systems away from reliance on fossil foods.” Miguel Altieri, associate professor, University of California, Berkley, with a world-wide reputation for his work on agroecology and sustainable agriculture.
"The majority of 200 million rice farmers in Asia farm less than two hectares and make up the bulk of rice produced in Asia. Small increases in yields on these small farms that produce most of the world's staple crops will have far more impact on food availability at local and regional levels than the doubtful increases predicted for distant and corporate controlled large monocultures managed with high-tech solutions." Miguel Altieri
"Researchers have suggested that the conversion of 10,000 small and medium sized farms to organic production would allow them to store so much carbon in the soil that it would be equivalent to taking 1,174,400 cars off the road." Miguel Altieri
"The IAASTD”¦recognises multiple knowledge bases, the complex contexts and practices of agriculture and the multiple needs of the farmer”¦it highlights collaboration as one of its core messages." James Smith, co-director of the Centre of African Studies and ESRC Innogen Centre, University of Edinburgh.
"Innovation involves using new ideas, new technologies and new ways of doing things in places or by people where they haven't been used before, and ultimately for innovation to flourish we must enable and support farmers to interact and learn as part of complex systems and networks." James Smith.