1.Ministers and industry accused of exploiting world food crisis
2.'Scotland doesn't need GM'
3.Food crisis: Is GM the solution?
4.Political briefing: Green agenda poses thorny problems
5.Brown pushes EU to allow more modified animal feeds
+ readers' comments
NOTE: See the readers' comments at the end of The Independent article (item 4) which continue to be totally hostile to GM crops and the politicians promoting them.
EXTRACT: What is wrong with this country's government? Are they determined to destroy what is left of the planet with their foolish, counter-productive and painfully shortsighted plans to boost the use nuclear power and GM crops.
Labour started well but the last few years and the disastrous Brown administration are, and should be the death knell for the sheer incompetence and hubris of 'New Labour'. (item 4)
1. Ministers and industry accused of exploiting world food crisis to relaunch campaign for GM food
By Sean Poulter
Daily Mail, 20 June 2008
Ministers have been accused of exploiting the world food crisis to relaunch the campaign for GM food.
The industry says genetically modified crops with higher yields will help tackle starvation and rising food prices.
And although critics believe this is simply 'propaganda', yesterday Environment Minister Phil Woolas added his voice to the debate.
The Government said previously that commercial planting would only go ahead if it can be shown to be safe for humans and the environment
Mr Woolas, who appears to be lined up as the Government's GM cheerleader, said: 'There is a growing question of whether GM crops can help the developing world out of the current food price crisis.
'It is a question that we as a nation need to ask ourselves. The debate is already under way,' he told The Independent newspaper.
Mr Woolas has held talks with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, the GM industry's trade body.
Meanwhile, an unnamed minister told another newspaper: 'With the current problems, the first priority must be to increase food production. That means we must reopen the debate on GM.
'The green groups won't like it but we will have to take them on.'
However, campaigners said the GM industry had made claims of higher-yield crops for 20 years without delivering.
Clare Oxborrow, of Friends of the Earth, said attempts to push GM crops as the solution to world hunger were 'cynical'.
'The Government has been seriously misled if it thinks that GM crops are going to help tackle the food crisis. GM crops do not increase yields or tackle hunger and poverty.
'Instead of helping the GM industry to use the food crisis for financial gain, the Government should be encouraging a radical shift towards sustainable farming.'
Jan van Aken, of Greenpeace, said: 'I am appalled that the GM industry is abusing the misery of millions of hungry people around the world, using it as propaganda to sell a product by claiming it would reduce hunger. There is no science behind the industry's claim.'
Pressure on global food supplies have stemmed from increased demand in China and India for a more Western diet of meat and dairy, poor harvests in Australia and a switch by some farmers to growing biofuels.
But some studies suggest that GM farming is not the answer.
The respected International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development recently reported there is no increase in average yields from GM crops, although the ABC denies this.
Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, headed the study involving more than 60 countries. It concluded that industrialisation of farming, including GM, has failed to provide sufficient food.
GM or transgenics - moving genes between plant species - would not supply plentiful, cheap food, his team found. He said: 'Are transgenics the simple answer to hunger and poverty? I would argue: No.'
More research was needed to establish whether GM crops offer any benefits, he added.
But the ABC said higher yields have been produced by certain types of GM corn, modified to include a toxin that kills pests. There are concerns these toxins also harm beneficial insects.
ABC's chairman, Dr Julian Little, said that the organisation 'welcomes the Government's recognition that GM crops could be a valuable tool in responding to the increase in food and fuel prices'.
'GM crops are not a "silver bullet", but must be seen as part of the solution, by producing crops which are more productive, which make more efficient use of scarce resources.'
In Britain, polls have shown that 70 per cent are opposed to GM crops in the food chain. Trials have shown harm to wildlife - and there are fears the food could trigger allergies.
*Genetically modifying crops generally involves inserting genes to make them immune to certain weedkillers, so they survive but weeds die
*Some GM plants have been modified to include a toxin that kills the insects which eat them
*In 2002, research in France and the U.S. identified super-weeds. Genes resistant to weedkillers had been passed to wild plants
*In 2003, two out of three GM crop trials in the UK found a significant fall in insects and wild plants - threatening birds' food
*In 2005, Australian scientists abandoned a ten-year programme to create a GM pea after it triggered allergic reactions in rats
*No GM crops are under commercial cultivation in Britain. A trial is being carried out on a disease-resistant GM potato.
*GM firms hope the first commercial crops will be grown here within two years
2. 'Scotland doesn't need GM'
The Scotsman, 20 June 2008
FEARS over spiralling global food prices yesterday reignited the debate over GM foods, with Scottish and English ministers polarised on the issue.
Richard Lochhead, secretary for the environment at Holyrood, insisted genetically modified food had no part to play in the nation's diet just after his Westminster counterpart had said it needed to be looked at again.
After launching the national food policy, Mr Lochhead said: "One of the reasons why Scotland has such a fantastic international reputation for food and drink is because we have a fantastic, clean, green image of lochs and land. That would be distorted, I believe, by going down the GM route.
"I believe it's in the interests of Scottish food and drink to be GM-free."
However, UK environment minister Phil Woolas said there was "a growing question of whether GM crops can help the developing world out of the current food-price crisis".
Mr Woolas reportedly held talks this week with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, an umbrella group formed in 2000 to promote the role of biotechnology in agriculture.
His position angered green groups, who claimed the government was "seriously misled" if it thought GM crops were going to stop the food crisis.
Greenpeace accused the biotech industry of "abusing the misery of millions of hungry people" by trying to promote its products as a solution to rising food prices.
3. Food crisis: Is GM the solution?
SkyNews, 20 June 2008
The row over genetically modified crops has been reignited after the UK Government said they could help address the global food crisis.
Are GM crops the solution?
Green groups have accused the biotech industry of "abusing the misery of millions of hungry people" by trying to promote its products as a solution to rising food prices.
According to reports, Environment Minister Phil Woolas has held talks with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, an umbrella group formed in 2000 to promote the role of biotechnology in agriculture.
And he told The Independent: "There is a growing question of whether GM crops can help the developing world out of the current food price crisis.
"It is a question that we as a nation need to ask ourselves. The debate is already under way. "Many people concerned about poverty in the developing world and the environment are wrestling with this issue."
But Tricia O'Rourke, a spokeswoman for Oxfam, said: "The present food crisis needs more than a technology fix.
"Science and technology have a vital role to play but more focus is needed on sustainable farming technology that the 400 million smallholder farmers can use to improve their productivity."
Greenpeace agricultural campaigner Jan van Aken said there was no science behind the biotechnology industry's claims that genetically modified crops could ease the crisis. "I am appalled that the GM industry is abusing the misery of millions of hungry people around the world, using it as propaganda to sell a product by claiming it would reduce hunger."
Green groups are anti-GM
And Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "In the UK, the public have rejected GM food and extensive trials have showed that GM crops are more damaging for farmland wildlife than their conventional equivalents."
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was possible GM crops could offer "a range of benefits" over the longer term, and there was no scientific evidence suggesting GM food is unsafe.
A report earlier this year from Friends of the Earth claimed none of the GM crops introduced so far increased yield, enhanced nutrition, drought-tolerance or salt-tolerance and were contributing to rising levels of pesticide use.
Rather than tackling poverty in developing countries much of the GM crops grown - the vast majority of which are in the US and South America - is used for animal feed or for biofuels, the report suggested.
4. Political briefing: Green agenda poses thorny problems
The Guardian, June 20 2008
Growing demand for food, fuel and votes raises the price of not doing anything and puts the pressure on politicians to act, both globally and locally. In Britain this week Labour and the Tories have moved in opposing directions on the green agenda - not quite in the way their core supporters would expect.
Yesterday Phil Woolas, combative junior environment minister, renewed calls for fresh public debate on the risks and benefits of genetically modified crops, embraced in Asia and the Americas but not in Europe, as part of the response to food shortages.
Woolas, less sympathetic to green campaigners than his predecessors, is cautiously pro-GM. But safety is uppermost, Whitehall says, well aware that the scientific case - yields as well as wider concerns - is disputed and that "Frankenstein food" tabloid headlines can shout down rational debate. Green heavies call GM-sown fields "green concrete" where the natural world dies.[It was actually the environment correspondent of The Guardian's rival, The Indpendent, who used this term in a headline yesterday]
Yesterday's Guardian reported that the Gallagher review on the dash to biofuels will warn that it is inadvertently pushing up food prices. As with GM crops, so with biofuels - there are good ones and bad, says Whitehall.
Gordon Brown's supporters say he is as concerned as anyone about these issues, some of which will be aired at today's EU Brussels summit. But green groups view the ex-chancellor's decade in office as basically pro-growth, anti-green. They see this weekend's trip to Saudi Arabia to urge it to increase oil production as typical.
Even George Bush is finally talking about curbing US oil demands, they murmur. Worse, David Cameron chose this week to make a smart green speech, ticking enough boxes about a future Tory government's goals to make some Greens contemplate voting blue. The Tory leader, who seems genuinely onside, dismissed claims that an economic downturn means shelving the reformers' agenda.
Cameron even came close to saying no to a third runway at Heathrow. He cites economic arguments as well as environmental ones, the idea that spoke-and-hub airports don't really work and that transit passengers don't pay their way. Brave stuff for a man 20% ahead in the polls, though easier to say in opposition. Business lobbyists were dismayed, but Nimby voters living below the flightpath (Cameron does himself) will be delighted.
Cynics counter that Cameron's speech was a last hurrah before his influential aide, Steve Hilton, moves to California, leaving the boss to be reprogrammed by ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson. But Hilton will be watching governor Schwarzenegger's climate change reforms at close hand and will return an even stronger evangelist.
Meanwhile, Britain has no GM crops in the ground, just one potato trial under way. Greenpeace accuses ministers of being manipulated by a cynical, greedy industry. Next week's Commons row is over contentious Labour reforms to planning law: for which read those nuclear power stations. They may be long overdue.
5. Brown pushes EU to allow more modified animal feeds
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor in Brussels
The Independent, 20 June 2008
Gordon Brown is calling on the European Union to relax its rules on importing genetically modified animal feed in a further sign of the Government's willingness to embrace the controversial technology. Mr Brown believes GM crops are vital to the attempt to cut spiralling food prices.
His proposal comes the day after The Independent revealed that the Environment minister, Phil Woolas, has held private talks with the biotechnology industry about relaxing Britain's policy on the use of GM crops.
The Prime Minister also signalled that he is happy to see a public debate over whether GM crops should be grown commercially in Britain to reduce global prices by boosting production. His spokesman said last night: "His view is that we must be guided by the scientific evidence."
Ministers who support GM crops believe there are no convincing arguments against them. They want to turn the tables on environmental groups who campaigned successfully against widespread GM production in Britain during the last government review in 2004. Although there is no ban, the ministers want the rules changed in light of the food crisis, as no GM crops are currently being grown commercially in this country.
At a two-day summit in Brussels which began last night, EU leaders were urged to "bite the bullet" and embrace GM products as a solution to rocketing food prices. The plea came from Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Several EU countries, led by France, are unconvinced that "Frankenstein foods" are safe.
At the meeting, Mr Brown suggested allowing more GM animal food into the EU. The move may raise safety fears because contaminated feed was blamed for the outbreak in Britain of BSE in the 1990s.
The Commission fears that Europe could run short of animal feed because of its strict licensing regime, which could further raise food prices. Europe is heavily dependent on imports as it does not have enough land to both farm animals and grow the feed they need. The other elements of the Brown plan are a global trade deal; further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; a review of the role to be played by biofuels; and a plan to use aid for poor nations for new technology farm products.
The Independent revealed yesterday that ministers believe Britain's cautious approach to GM should be relaxed because of current global food problems. But the Government's rethink provoked a furious backlash from opponents of GM crops.
Tricia O'Rourke, a spokeswoman for Oxfam, said: "The present food crisis needs more than a technology fix. More focus is needed on sustainable technology that 400 million smallholders can use to improve their productivity."
Caroline Lucas, a Green Party MEP, added: "There are no guarantees that GM crops are safe, sustainable or the solution to the problem of hunger. Over 70 per cent of citizens and several governments in the EU have expressed concerns over the negative effects that such crops may have on human health, biodiversity and the environment."
Friends of the Earth accused ministers of falling for "hype" by GM firms. Its GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "GM crops do not increase yields or tackle hunger and poverty."
In response, a Downing Street said: "As Phil Woolas has reiterated, it is... our position that safety is the top priority and that GM crops are to be considered on a case-by-case basis, based entirely on the science."
So, what benefits do GM crops bring us?
In theory, GM technology might bring countless benefits to us all, from crops that can be grown in droughts to crops that might have much bigger yields. Most of the world would welcome both. However and this is at the heart of the controversy neither of these modifications is on offer at the moment. The vast majority of GM crops currently on the market are engineered only in one of two, quite similar ways: to be tolerant of ultra-powerful weedkillers, or to be resistant to insect pests.
Who benefits from the modifications?
Principally farmers, especially large-scale agribusiness farmers in countries such as the US or Argentina, because the genetic engineering simplifies and cheapens the business of applying pesticides and herbicides to crops. Using the ultra-powerful "broad-spectrum" herbicides which crops such as maize and soya can be engineered to tolerate, a single pesticide dressing which kills everything except the crop can replace several such treatments with conventional pesticides, thus saving time, labour and money.
But doesn't this also produce bigger yields, which would be vital at a time of global food shortages?
Unfortunately not. In fact, GM crops can even produce smaller yields. There is plenty of evidence, for example an April 2006 report from the United States Department of Agriculture stating that "currently available GM crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide- tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars".
So why on earth are the GM companies concentrating simply on herbicide-tolerance and insect-resistance?
Take Monsanto, the world leader in GM products, busy marketing its herbicide-tolerant maize and soya. The ultra-powerful weedkiller its crops can live with, glyphosate (trade name Roundup) is made by... Monsanto, of course! And what sort of company is Monsanto, even if it presents itself as an agribusiness firm? Yes, you've guessed it it's a weedkiller company. Monsanto gave us Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the US to destroy jungles during the Vietnam War. Producing herbicide-tolerant crops is a fantastic way for it to sell vast amounts of its core products.
So why aren't drought-resistant crops, say, on the market yet?
Probably because of the culture in which GM crops have been developed not so much in universities or national government laboratories, but, like pharmaceuticals, in the research departments of big companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and BSAF. The dominant aim of these companies is to maximise profits rather than to pull the world out of poverty and hunger. However, in the developing countries, governments and universities are now working on drought-resistant crop strains.
But can GM crops actually cause harm to people and to the environment?
There is no doubt that the "broad-spectrum" weedkillers used with herbicide-tolerant crops would have a devastating effect on farmland wildlife if widely grown in Britain. The GM companies will tell you that the dosage of these pesticides will be less. That is true. What they don't tell you, however, is that the impact will be greater. As for effects on people, there does not appear to be a body of convincing evidence showing any GM crops or foods so far cause harm to humans.
Are there any GM foods on the shelves in Britain?
There is a very small amount of soya oil, labelled as GM. The tomato paste that was the first GM product more than a decade ago was withdrawn when sales collapsed after people discovered its GM origin. A significant amount of GM soya and maize is now brought into Britain as animal feed from the US and South America, and items such as milk and processed chicken which have been produced with this feed will be on the shelves but will not be labelled GM.
More proof of how dangerously shallow and ill-advised the man is and another nail in the coffin of Labour.
The public's mistrust and disbelief of the arguments that keep getting repeated in favour of GM crops was made quite clear. He has no respect for democracy or the people of this country.
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Posted by Mike | 20.06.08, 08:57 GMT
What is wrong with this country's government? Are they determined to destroy what is left of the planet with their foolish, counter-productive and painfully shortsighted plans to boost the use nuclear power and GM crops.
Labour started well but the last few years and the disastrous Brown administration are, and should be the death knell for the sheer incompetence and hubris of 'New Labour'.
Complain about this comment
Posted by Rachel Hemingway | 20.06.08, 09:49 GMT
This is such an utterly dishonest article it beggars belief. There is no attempt at balance whatsoever.
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Posted by Chris | 20.06.08, 09:43 GMT
No one wants GM foods on their table or anywhere in the food chain. So why do these unaccountable expense account junkies still insist on forcing it down our throats?
I suggest one of two things are possible.
1 They know better than everyone else, i.e. us the voters and consumers, INDEPENDENT scientists and researchers all over the world, etc., etc.. or
2 They have some other interest which is not being revealed.
Let's hope that GM food is indeed a nail in their coffin, and not ours.
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Posted by Simon | 20.06.08, 09:42 GMT
Shame shame shame...have you no conscience trying to peddle potentially damaging GM to us Mr B. We are not brainless American who will swallow anything!
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Posted by Jeff Mead | 20.06.08, 09:39 GMT