Britain will starve without GM crops - Royal Society
The biologist and social scientist, Dr Tom Wakeford has described the RS as "an organisation that actively promotes the interests of multinational biotech corporations, under the guise of independent science." And when part of the UK's offical Public Debate on GM crops was held at the Royal Society, Dr Les Levidow was among a number of scientists who complained about partisan chairing and bias: "Speakers engaged in selective citation or even misrepresentation of scientific findings, with a consistent bias towards ignoring or downplaying evidence of risk."
Dr Levidow complained that far from being an open debate on the science, "the event became an exercise in policing the scientific debate. 'Scientific' credentials or criteria were invoked to ignore inconvenient issues and findings, as if they lay outside science." He concluded, "If there is to be an open debate on scientific unknowns and difficult issues in risk research, then it will need to be organized elsewhere."
EXTRACT: Many experts and academics regard the argument that GM can solve the world's food crisis as deeply flawed.
Britain will starve without GM crops, says major report
By Robert Mendick and Patrick Sawer
The Sunday Telegraph, 18 October 2009
A new row over genetically modified foods being introduced into our shops has broken out after a Royal Society report recommended GM crops should be grown in Britain.
The study concluded that GM crops are needed to prevent a catastrophic food crisis by 2050.
But the report has sparked a backlash from opponents of GM foods who say they present a threat to the livelihood of small farmers.
They fear the Government will use the 100-page study, due to be published this week, to force the introduction of GM technology back on to the political agenda. Many in the Cabinet and Whitehall appear to be convinced that Britain can no longer resist its introduction into the UK market.
Previous plans to grow GM crops commercially in the UK had to be scrapped following a concerted campaign by environmental protesters and a backlash by consumers who refuse to eat so-called 'Frankenstein foods'.
However, the Royal Society report, which has taken more than a year to compile, is expected to say that Britain should no longer resist their introduction.
A source told The Sunday Telegraph: "The report will say the right GM crops should be used in the future to alleviate food shortages. This study is going to move the debate forward. The Government will have to take notice of this.
"The world is undergoing dramatic change and it won't be long before people are thinking 'where is my next meal coming from?' Where GM has been proved effective at either increasing yields or else resistant to diseases it should be used in the UK. GM crops need to be looked at one by one. They are not the only solution to world hunger but they are part of it."
The report entitled Reaping the Benefits: Towards a Sustainable Intensification of Global Agriculture, was commissioned in July 2008 in response to a UN report which predicted that world food production needs to double by 2050 to sustain a global population expected to reach nine billion.
The remit of the Royal Society working group made up of eight eminent scientists and chaired by Professor David Baulcombe, Professor of Botany at Cambridge University was to examine "biological approaches to enhance food-crop production".
The report looks at a series of options to increase crop yields in the UK and around the world by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent, and although GM the altering of the genetic make-up of a crop to produce better growing results is only one option it is likely to be the most controversial.
The fear of the effect of GM crops on surrounding harvests led to eco-activists destroying field test sites which was a major factor in forcing producers to withdraw proposals to grow GM in the UK at the beginning of the decade.
Only one GM crop, a type of maize engineered by the American agricultural biotech firm Monsanto, has even been approved for planting in the European Union. It is currently farmed commercially albeit on a relatively small scale in Spain. But outside the Europe Union GM crops are grown on as much as 125 million hectares of land, mainly in north and South America and the Indian subcontinent.
However nearly two-thirds of the 2.6m tonnes of soya imported into the UK last year was genetically modified and GM soya oil is widely used in the catering industry.
Environmental campaigners are suspicious that the Royal Society report is part of a renewed attempt to force GM crops on to the British public.
They point to an announcement slipped out last month by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Government body in charge of food safety, to hold a new round of public debates on the value of GM. When a similar exercise was carried out in 2003, the public failed to be persuaded of the need for GM.
A Cabinet meeting at the start of the year, which included Gordon Brown, the chief scientist Sir John Beddington and the then chair of the FSA, Dame Deirdre Hutton, is understood to have concluded that Britain's official stance of opposition to GM crops had to be altered.
Cabinet papers leaked at the time showed the government appeared to be ready to go ahead with GM crops despite what it recognised would be considerable public resistance.
It is understood the Royal Society report will present the Government with a perfect opportunity to begin the process of winning the public round to GM foods.
A DEFRA spokesman said: "We have not yet seen the report, but we look forward to its release and will read it with interest. Our top priority is to safeguard human health and the environment and always follow the science. We recognise that GM crops could offer a range of potential benefits over the longer term."
But environmentalists said last night that the Society's terms of reference were flawed and accused scientists of using the public's fears over climate change to try to influence the debate on GM.
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth's food campaigner, said: "There is no scientific evidence that GM produces huge yields. The public doesn't want it, small scale farmers don't want it and yet the Government keeps on pushing it. It's completely outrageous."
Many experts and academics regard the argument that GM can solve the world's food crisis as deeply flawed.
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, in London, said: "There is no technical fix to the huge issue of food security. If there were a 'people's GM', I wouldn't be against it. But the problem with GM is the way it has been introduced, primarily as a way of maintaining the sales of pesticide companies."