ROYAL SOCIETY REPORT
1.GM tech past its sell by date – Soil Association
2.ROYAL SOCIETY REPORT REACTION – FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
3.RE-INVIGORATE NON-GM RESEARCH IN THE UK- GM Freeze
4.New report misses the point on ag biotech – GeneWatch UK
5.GM not the only answer – Food Ethics Council
6.GM technology will never deliver food security – GM Free Cymru
1.GM technology past its sell by date
Soil Association, 20 October 2009
The Soil Association strongly disagrees with the call from the Royal Society report 'Reaping the benefits: towards sustainable intensification of global agriculture' that GM crops are needed to prevent a catastrophic food crisis by 2050.
Emma Hockridge, Soil Association policy coordinator, said: "GM is past its sell by date. For over two decades huge claims have been made about the potential for GM, which have not come to fruition. Why is an organisation like the Royal Society banging the drum for a failing technology when exciting new developments such as Marker Assisted Selection, included in the report recommendations, are producing almost all of the successful innovations in crop breeding."
"Scientific evidence proves that low input systems, such as organic, can provide sustainable solutions to food security. The IAASTD report, produced by 400 international scientists and supported by 60 governments, including the UK, backed organic agriculture and similar 'agro-ecological' approaches as part of a 'radical change' in the way the world produces food.
"This report is trying to overturn the findings of IAASTD, which is strange, given the fact that the UK Government have actually signed up to it.
"In the US there have been two federal court cases which have banned new GM crops because they remove the right of farmers to grow non-GM crops. The stark reality is that if we have GM crops grown in this country it will eventually destroy the livelihoods of organic farmers."
Clio Turton, press office coordinator: 0117 914 2448
Jack Hunter, press and e-communications officer: 0117 314 5170
2.ROYAL SOCIETY REPORT – FRIENDS OF THE EARTH REACTION”¨
Friends of the Earth press release”¨Embargo: 00:01 hours, Wednesday 21 October 2009”¨”¨
Commenting on a new Royal Society report on science and food, published today, Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said: "Science has a key role to play in reducing hunger and poverty, but the report's focus on GM crops ignores mounting evidence that this technology is failing.”¨”¨
"GM crops are an extension of big-business factory farming that is already wiping out wildlife, destroying communities and making climate change worse.”¨”¨"
The UK Government has already invested millions of pounds in GM technology, with little benefit to farmers, consumers and the planet – meanwhile research into green farming methods have been starved of funds.”¨”¨"
Any attempt to combat the global food crisis must also address its root causes, such as industrial livestock production and a narrow focus on increasing yields – an analysis which is missing from the Royal Society report.”¨”¨"
A massive increase in investment is needed in agricultural science – but this should focus on supporting traditional farming methods and providing safe, planet-friendly food."”¨”¨A more detailed assessment of the Royal Society report can be obtained from Friends of the Earth campaigners.”¨”¨
”¨”¨Notes to Editor:”¨”¨
1. The most comprehensive and rigorous global study ever done on agricultural science and technology, published last year, gave clear recommendations about the kind of science which could contribute to reducing hunger and poverty. It advocated diverse agro-ecological farming which is already being practiced by small scale producers and warned that public policy goals had to radically shift to promoting these methods rather than risky and unproven genetic modification”¨of crops. The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report was conducted by over 400 scientists from more than 80 countries and sponsored by 5 UN agencies and the World Bank. 60 Governments including the UK signed up to its findings. http://www.agassessment.org/
”¨”¨2. Friends of the Earth believes the environment is for everyone. We want a healthy planet and a good quality of life for all those who live on it. We inspire people to act together for a thriving environment. For further information visit www.foe.co.uk”¨”¨
3.ROYAL SOCIETY AGRICULTURE REPORT - THE GRAND CHALLENGE IS TO RE-INVIGORATE NON-GM RESEARCH IN THE UK
Commenting on the Royal Society Report 'Reaping the Benefits', published today, Pete Riley Campaign Director of GM Freeze said: "The Royal Society Panel has identified many problems and challenges that need to be addressed if food is to be produced in a sustainable way in the future. The big question for the government and scientific community is how to restore the correct balance in agricultural research funding to give non-GM solutions a fair crack of the whip and ensure that these are taken up by farmers around the world.
"If balance is restored we still have time to catch up on the lost opportunities of the last three decades when GM crops have been the main focus but delivered very little whilst other approaches have been starved of cash”.
Calls to Pete Riley
Web site www.gmfreeze.org
4. GeneWatch UK warns that new report misses the point on agricultural biotechnology”¨
GeneWatch UK Press Release”¨Embargo: 00:00h Wednesday 21 October 2009 ”¨”¨
Responding to today’s Royal Society report on global agriculture (1), GeneWatch UK warned that future research priorities in food and agriculture should not be set by a narrow clique of scientists who have failed to deliver on past promises.”¨”¨GeneWatch welcomed the recognition in the report that key areas of research, such as soil science and farmland management, have been neglected, and that using genetic modification (GM) is a high risk strategy to seek to improve complex traits in plants, such as nitrogen-fixation and photosynthesis.
”¨”¨"The bottom line is that governments have made the wrong R&D investments, focusing research on unrealised biotech solutions, rather than on the needs of poorer farmers", said GeneWatch UK researcher Becky Price. "New investments must be wisely spent and not throw good money after bad".”¨”¨The use of transgenics is often described as a powerful tool. However to date, the only widely used traits developed by genetic modification are herbicide tolerance and Bt insect resistance. This is not because of consumer rejection, but because more advanced traits such as nitrogen fixation, drought tolerance and increased yields are technically difficult to achieve.”¨”¨"
Policy makers should not be over reliant on unproven technologies", said Becky Price. "It is easy for researchers to make exaggerated promises about what they will deliver and for research strategies not tied to commercial or scientific interests to be wrongly sidelined".”¨”¨
No GM crops with increased yields exist and the market for GM is for soya and maize for animal feed and biofuels (2). Reports of the benefits of Bt Cotton to aide poorer farmers have often over simplified the situation and been misleading (3).”¨”¨
Independent assessment and research on GM crops is often hampered by scientists having restricted access to seeds or by biotech companies preventing publication of damaging research (4). The promised next-generation GM crops are likely to bring new dangers and challenges. For example, it is unclear whether crops with altered nutrient content will bring health benefits and it may be that they cause harm. Further, increasing single nutrients in staple crops can never replace a more broadly balanced diet containing a range of foods (5).
”¨”¨GeneWatch UK also warned that placing too much emphasis on technological solutions to feeding the world could lead to continued failure to tackle the social and economic causes of many of our current problems. For example, there are about 1 billion malnourished and starving people in the world today, while about 1 billion more are overweight – this is mainly a problem of inequality and poverty, not food production.”¨”¨
The decision to focus investment on agricultural R&D almost exclusively on GM crops has led to a lack of investment in other areas. Decisions have been driven by the fact that GM seeds can be patented, creating commercial monopolies, rather than by the best research priorities to meet human needs. In 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) warned that:”¨”¨ In developing countries especially, instruments such as patents may drive up costs, restrict experimentation by the individual farmer or public researcher while also potentially undermining local practices that enhance food security and economic sustainability.”¨”¨
The IAASTD concluded that the main challenge is to increase the productivity of agriculture in a sustainable manner, which must address the needs of small-scale farms in diverse ecosystems, including increasing access to land and economic resources and empowering farmers to innovatively manage soils, water, biological resources, pests, disease vectors, genetic diversity, and conserve natural resources.
”¨”¨For further information contact:”¨
Becky Price 07949 396328”¨
Helen Wallace: Office: 01298-24300, Mobile: 07903 311584”¨”¨
Notes to editors:”¨”¨
1) Reaping the benefits: towards sustainable intensification of global agriculture Royal Society, 20th October 2009. GeneWatch UK’s submission is available on: ”¨http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/RoySoc_GW_fin.doc”¨”¨
2) The US company Monsanto is still the largest producer of GM seeds. It argues that production of grain for animal feed must increase by 50 million tonnes a year by 2017/18 to meet the expected increased demand for meat, and by 60 million tonnes a year to meet biofuels production targets (Edgerton MD (2009) Increasing crop productivity to meet global needs for food and fuel. Plant Physiology, 149, 7-13). The company is lobbying for continued and increased US Government subsidy for biofuel production. This is part of the problem not part of the solution.
”¨”¨3) Glover, D. (2009) Undying Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology’s Pro-poor Narrative, Ten Years on. STEPS centre www.steps-centre.org”¨”¨
4) Waltz, E. (2009) Under wraps. Nature Biotechnology 27 (10) 880-882”¨”¨5) For example, antioxidants (including the beta-carotene engineered into GM 'Golden Rice') may be beneficial to some people but harmful to others, and some may increase risk of cancer. See example: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19125631.500-the-antioxidant-myth-a-medical-fairy-tale.html . ”¨The experimental GM 'purple tomato', claimed to reduce cancer risk, is engineered to contain increased levels of anthocyanins, a poorly tested antioxidant.
”¨”¨6) IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) was launched as an intergovernmental process, involving hundreds of experts from around the world, under the co-sponsorship of the FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, the World Bank and WHO. Full report at: www.agassessment.org”¨
5.Royal Society report on science and agriculture: GM not the only answer
Food Ethics Council , Embargoed to 00:01 Wednesday 21st October 2009
The Food Ethics Council gives a cautious welcome to the Royal Society's report 'Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of agriculture'.”¨ ”¨As well as providing a useful snapshot of the science, it recognises that technology - including GM – is no magic bullet in the fight against hunger. ”¨ ”¨We are encouraged by the Royal Society's understanding that social and economic policies must also be in place to ensure food security.”¨ ”¨However, the report assumes that feeding people is about growing food, not how it's distributed and consumed. It fails to face up to the fact that a billion people already people go hungry, while many more are buying - and throwing away - more food than they need.”¨
”¨[Tristram Stuart, author of Waste estimates that avoidable waste of cereal-based foods in the UK and USA would be enough to lift 224 million people out of hunger.]”¨ ”¨
Dr. Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, says:”¨ ”¨"The Royal Society recognises that consumers and farmers should have a say in the way governments rise to this challenge. But they get ahead of themselves by demanding GBP2 billion more for science. ”¨ ”¨
"That's exactly the kind of decision that should be up for wider debate. The money might be better spent tackling the social and economic problems that affect whether growing more food makes a jot of difference to food security.”¨ ”¨
"Instead of asking 'how can science and technology help secure global food supplies', we need to ask 'what can be done - by scientists but also by others - to help the world's hungry?'”¨ ”¨
"The fact is that our scientific institutions, regulatory bodies, innovation policies and intellectual property regimes are in no fit state to speak for marginal farmers and the world's hungry people." ”¨
”¨The Food Ethics Council recommends that before we can find effective solutions to solving global problems of food insecurity, we urgently need institutional changes. ”¨ ”¨
As a signatory to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) the UK government should already be on the case.”¨ ”¨IAASTD found that the incentives for science to address the issues that matter are weak; and that many OECD members don’t consider social and environmental needs when trying to meet agricultural production goals. It calls for institutional, economic and legal frameworks that combine productivity with the protection and conservation of natural resources. ”¨
”¨So we urge the Royal Society to take IAASTD's recommendations to heart in its debates about GM and other technologies, by putting sustainability and social justice at the heart of the way it does research into agriculture.”¨
The Food Ethics Council works towards a food system that is fair and healthy for people and the environment.
Our independent advice to business, government and civil society helps find a way through controversial issues and supports better choices in food and farming.
Our magazine GM foods: the wrong debate? takes stock of what we can learn from all the wrangling that has already happened over GM foods. Contributors look at how the science, risk management, public trust and even democracy have changed. We call for a different debate over GM not do we need it, but what do we need?
The Royal Society report Reaping the Benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture will be available from the Royal Society from 0001 Wednesday 21st October 2009.
6.GM technology will never deliver food security
Press Notice from GM Free Cymru, 20 October 2009
GM Free Cymru has issued a strong condemnation of the Royal Society for arguing that GM crops are needed to prevent a catastrophic food crisis by 2050 (1). The eight authors of the Report say that where GM has been proved effective at either increasing yields or else proving to be resistant to diseases, it should be used in the UK; and that GM crops and foods must be used to avoid "catastrophic food crises" by the year 2050.
Commenting on this Report, GM Free Cymru said that it was part of a coordinated attempt by the Government and the GM industry to force GM crops and foods on a British public which has said, over and again, that it wants nothing to do with them. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Dr Brian John said: "This is a cynical and opportunistic campaign, involving the Food Standards Agency, the UK Government, Prof John Beddington and the organizations promoting GM, using the threat of climate change and food shortages to make claims for GM that are clearly fanciful. For more than twenty years the GM industry has made wild promises of "wonder crops" that will increase yields, prove resistant to droughts and saline growing conditions, and bring benefits to small farmers. And what has it delivered, after the wastage of many million pounds of taxpayers's money? Nothing. Not a single food product that is safer, more nutritious, tastier, cheaper, or easier to process than conventional or non-GM counterparts. The great GM enterprise has headed up a blind alley, and that is where it is stuck."
GM Free Cymru also pointed out (2) that there are no yield increases with any crop, anywhere in the world, that are associated with an introduced GM trait. The only traits introduced thus far have been directed at herbicide resistance and toxicity for certain target (and non-target) insects. Where there have been apparent yield increases, they have been a direct result of selective non-GM breeding and the use of the most productive varietal lines. The organization says that the suggestion that GM lines are "high yielding" is a confidence trick perpetrated by the GM industry – one which should never fool any serious scientist.
Dr John also highlighted the Royal Society's appalling record in using corrupt and fraudulent science in the course of its long-standing pro-GM campaign (3). hH said: "The Royal Society pretends that it is an august scientific organization with a reputation for objectivity and sound science. Some of the science it supports may be just that, but in the GM field the Society has been involved in the vilification of scientists whose experiments have shown up the deficiences and the dangers of GM, and it has displayed a massive bias in favour of the GM industry. Quite frankly, any Report conducted or commissioned by the Society deserves to be closely scrutinized and taken with a hefty pinch of salt."
Dr Brian John
(1) In the report entitled ‘Reaping the benefits: towards sustainable intensification of global agriculture’ the authors, led by Chairman Sir David Baulcombe, of the University of Cambridge, outline the steps which governments need to adopt to ensure that in coming decades farmers in the developed and the developing world are fully equipped to feed their growing communities.
Professor Baulcombe is reported as saying: “If we are to take full advantage of the benefits which science can offer to food production, then we must act now, by identifying valuable science technologies, investing in research, and by laying the regulatory framework to bring these technologies to market.” In contrast, the IAASTD report, produced by 400 international scientists and supported by 60 governments, including the UK, backed organic agriculture and similar 'agro-ecological' approaches as part of a 'radical change' in the way the world produces food.
(2) A lecture given by Prof Ann Clark which shows that there are NO yield increases associated with the GM traits introduced into GM crops – yield increases, where they occur, are down to conventionally bred characteristics which are deliberately incorporated into the same "GM packages." The non-GM isolines (which would boost yield anyway) are then deliberately not released onto the market – which is something Monsanto and the other GM corporations can decide on quite cynically because they control the seed trade. This point is deliberately ignored and misrepresented by the biotech industry. The spokesmen still pretend that they insert "yield enhancing" genes, which they patently do not.
(3) In 2001 the Royal Society made this fraudulent citation: "the only way to clarify Dr Pusztai's claims would be to refine his experimental design and carry out further studies to test clearly defined hypotheses focused on the specific effects reported by him. Such studies, on the results of feeding GM sweet peppers and GM tomatoes to rats, and GM soya to mice and rats, have now been completed and no adverse effects have been found (Gasson & Burke, 2001)". That was a deliberate and carefully constructed deceit. Gasson and Burke did not refine or repeat the Pusztai experiments. Dr Pusztai has repeatedly pointed out that neither the Gasson-Burke paper, nor the papers they cite, may be used to support the contention of "no adverse effects".
The Royal Society was also heavily criticized in 2003 for attempting to "rig" the GM science debate at that time, and for seeking to misrepresent the findings of the Government's FSE programme of GM field trials. The Society made no proper arrangements for public involvement in its GM discussion process, and actively discouraged the participation of "outsiders" in meetings. It was also accused of orchestrating a press campaign to "flag up" a series of very dubious conclusions about the supposed environmental benefits of a GM crop management system developed at Brooms Barn Research Station, in spite of the demonstrable inadequacies of the brief scientific paper on which these conclusions were based. It also attempted to "sabotage" the publication of the Report on the Health Impacts of GM Crops published by the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee, by issuing its own press release on the Brooms Barn study on the same day.