Environmentalists accuse Government of 'breathtaking naivety'
2.Rooker accuses 'messianic' anti-GM lobby of ignorance
NOTE: Labour Minister, Lord Rooker, would be making a very sound point (see EXTRACTS) if he were challenging pro-GM hyperbole - the kind we get from people like Blair's former Chief Scientist, David King. Sadly, Rooker's own fervour and sound bites typify the problem.
EXTRACTS: "What I do not accept are the arguments and the slogans where there isn't any validity. They are on a messianic mission, it is like a religion, but there is no science base to it." - Lord Rooker (item 2)
"There is no evidence that GM crops increase yields, reduce pesticide use or bring any public benefits to society. And there is a growing body of evidence there could be health risks." - Patrick Holden (item 1)
1.GM crops: Environmentalists accuse Government of 'breathtaking naivety'
By Louise Gray, Environmental Correspondent
Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2008
Environmentalists have accused the Government of "breathtaking naivety" for suggesting genetically modified crops could be the answer to the current food crisis.
Ian Pearson, the science minister, told a newspaper that the Government did not handle the public debate very well when GM foods first burst onto the scene in the late 1990s.
Activists disrupted scientific trials and consumer fears prompted supermarkets to pull products from their shelves.
However he said the public would accept GM this time around if there is a chance the technology could help feed people in developing countries.
"I don't think the GM debate in 2000 was handled very well," he said. "I think that the public want to see benefits for GM technology for the consumer, not just for the fertiliser company or the farmer.
"If GM can demonstrably provide benefits for people living in sub-Saharan Africa. . . then I think the public will want to support those as products and want to see them commercialised.
"If consumers see benefits from GM then I think a significant majority of them will want to choose GM. That's what we have to do. We have to show that there are benefits to the consumer of adopting GM technologies," he said.
However Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said consumers will remain unconvinced.
"I think there is a breath-taking naivety about the belief that GM can be a silver bullet to solve all the problems agriculture is currently facing," he said.
"All the energy the Government and the proponents of GM are currently investing in a renaissance of the debate about the benefits of GM is a distraction from the real issues.
"There is no evidence that GM crops increase yields, reduce pesticide use or bring any public benefits to society. And there is a growing body of evidence there could be health risks.
"There is also the genie out of the bottle argument that once these organisms are released you cannot recall them and the choice issue because the fact remains that the vast majority of consumers in Europe do not want to purchase GM foods if they can help it."
Prince Charles has warned of an "environmental disaster" if GM crops are allowed to take over world agriculture.
Friends of the Earth accused the Government of using the food crisis as an excuse to align themselves with GM.
However the food biotechnology industry welcomed Mr Pearson's comments and said GM foods could make a "significant contribution" to the rising food and fuel crisis.
2.Rooker accuses 'messianic' anti-GM lobby of ignorance
By Alistair Driver
Farmers Guardian, 22 September 2008
FOOD and Farming Minister Jeff Rooker has launched a scathing attack on opponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, who he said were on a 'messianic mission' to halt the technology.
Speaking at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting, he accused the anti-GM lobby of 'ignorance' and warned that opposition to the technology was jeopardising the UK's scientific base.
Responding to a question about whether the time was now right to reignite the debate on GM crops, the outspoken peer expressed frustration at what he described as the 'anti science climate' in evidence across the EU.
"We have to take on and challenge those who pontificate. It isn't just GM issues, it's the same with nanotechnology where simply because it's a new science there's an automatic barrier.
"We are taking a long-term view on this because we don't want to snuff out an industry before it has started."
He pointed out that 10 years ago GM tomato paste was outselling ordinary tomato paste two to one. "Then we got the 'Frankenstein foods', which is a brilliant sound bite and you can't counteract a sound bite that is ignorant and not based on science," he said.
He attacked protestors who seek to disrupt trials of GM. "We accept GM medicines for ourselves and our loved ones but it is a different issue with food.
"If the ignorance prevails where you don't allow an experiment to take place because of the fear of what you might find and if we just put up with it and say they are entitled to go and trash the fields and the magistrates will let them off, then frankly we are being taken for a ride."
He stressed that there was no evidence that anyone's health had ever been damaged by GM crops.
He also warned that the UK would 'lose its biotechnology scientific base if scientists were 'not able to progress in areas where we will see a positive advantage'.
He acknowledged that the first step was to find GM products that benefited consumers rather than just producers, as has been the case up to this point.
But even if that was achieved - and he suggested GM food that helped people with food allergies the answer - opponents of GM technology would have to be defeated for it to be given a chance.
He said he was not in favour of blanket approval of GM crops but wanted a rational debate.
"What I do not accept are the arguments and the slogans where there isn't any validity. They are on a messianic mission, it is like a religion, but there is no science base to it."