1.Friends of the Earth's reaction to Paterson
2.Soil Association reaction to Paterson
3.Open letter to Scottish Environment Minister

Commenting on reports today that Environment Secretary Owen Patterson is in favour of genetically modified (GM) food and crops being more widely grown and sold in the UK, Friends of the Earth’s Senior Food and Farming Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

“Owen Paterson’s claims that we need GM crops simply don’t stack up – the industrial farming system, which GM aggravates, has been instrumental in causing the global food crisis we currently face.

“The Government should focus on funding cheaper, simpler and safer agricultural solutions which can deliver real benefits for consumers, farmers and the environment, rather than gambling on GM. 

“A fresh approach to agriculture is urgently needed to serve up sustainable diets globally, including reduced meat-consumption in wealthy nations and an end to food crops being used for biofuels.”

Notes to editors
1.Friends of the Earth's new briefing on GM crops and Food Security is available to read here:
2.For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit
2.Soil Association on Paterson

Commenting on Defra Secretary of State, Owen Paterson's recent interview with the Daily Telegraph regarding GM crops, the Soil Association said:

"Owen Patterson is wrong to claim that GM crops are good for the environment.  The UK Government's own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife. US Government figures show that overall pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there, because as scientists opposed to GM predicted, superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. 

"The recent British Science Association survey showed that public concern has not changed, and the number of people saying that GM food 'should be encouraged' dropped from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012. Owen Patterson says that people are eating meat from animals fed of GM feed without realising it. That is because the British Government has consistently opposed moves to label to give consumers accurate information, and he should put that right by immediately introducing compulsory labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM feed."  Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association

Further comment:

Owen Paterson is wrong to state that: "There are real benefits, and what you've got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant, he said. That in turn reduces farmers' fuel use". 

The UK Government's own farm scale evaluation of GM crops showed that overall they were worse for wildlife. A number of  studies have highlighted other problems associated with growing GM crops, including a recent report by Professor Charles Benbrook showing that the use of increased levels of more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects in the US is due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies sparking a rise of "superweeds" and hard-to-kill insects. This is one example of why GM crops don’t offer a real solution. Not only have these GM technologies failed to deliver on their fundamental promises, they have made the problem they were designed to solve even worse and locked farmers further into depending on costly inputs from a handful of powerful chemical companies.

Most of the British public do not want GM. The recent British Science Association survey cited by Owen Paterson shows that public concern over GM food has not lessened – it shows that attitudes have not changed significantly.  The share saying they agree that GM food "should be encouraged" has actually dropped from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012.

The Environment Secretary also said that "consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced". In fact only one brand of catering scale cooking oil and very occasional soya products containing GM are sold in the UK. The significant issue is that British consumers are eating some meat and milk produced using GM animal feed (organically reared animals are never fed GM crops). The fact is that the Government has deliberately kept people in the dark by opposing labeling of meat and milk fed on GM. Owen Paterson can stop the public unwittingly eating this food by introducing clear labeling.

The Soil Association supports practical innovation that addresses real needs, is genuinely sustainable and puts farmers in control of their livelihoods.  Where GM crops have been planted they are doing the opposite, locking farmers into buying herbicides and costly seed, while breeding resistant weeds and insects. They are the product of a narrow, top-down approach to R&D driven less by the needs of farmers, consumers or the environment, than by seed and chemical companies. Just three corporations – Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer – are responsible for virtually all commercially released GM crops in the world. Meeting the challenge of providing better nutrition for more people sustainably calls for joined-up research that  takes an ecological approach, responds to people's real needs and respects farmers' know-how.

For press enquiries contact the Soil Association press office:
Natasha Collins-Daniel, Press Office Manager – 0117 914 2448 / 07827 925380
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3.Open letter to Scottish Environment Minister

In view of the UK Food Minister's pronouncements on GM today ('Food minister Owen Paterson backs GM crops') we publish this open letter to the new Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse and to James Withers, Scotland's Food and Drink CEO urging them to re-articulate the Scottish Government's opposition to GM foods.

While the UK government may have decided to ignore overwhelming public opinion over many years on this issue, it's worth reminding the media, the politicians and the people that agriculture and food here in Scotland is a devolved matter and that the Scottish Government has quite a different policy on GM: 

"The Scottish Government is opposed to the cultivation of GM crops. The cultivation of GM crops could damage Scotland's rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. It would damage Scotland's image as a land of food and drink."

This policy must be defended, promoted. and articulated.

Scotland has a different policy on GM.    (

It states that:

"The Scottish Government is opposed to the cultivation of GM crops. The cultivation of GM crops could damage Scotland's rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. It would damage Scotland's image as a land of food and drink."

This policy should be defended, promoted, and articulated.

GM is a failed technology, in fact genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of "superweeds" see 'A Global Citizens Report on GMO's' (2011) 
GM is no answer to food security, the Scottish Government needs to embrace the principles of food sovereignty as outlined in the Nyleni Declaration. 

The UK Government's pronouncement on GM risk further capture of the food culture to corporate control at just the time when we need to be encouraging smaller producers and community food initiatives. 
The idea that GM is an answer to climate change has been widely debunked. Last year Friends of the Earth Europe published a report 'Who Benefits from GM Crops', which examined the evidence for these claims, and exposed that genetically modified (GM) crops could actually increase carbon emissions while failing to feed the world. GM crops are responsible for huge increases in the use of pesticides in the US and South America, intensifying fossil fuel use. The cultivation of GM soy to feed factory farmed animals is also contributing to widespread deforestation in South America, causing massive climate emissions. The report exposes that globally GM crops remain confined to less than 3% of agricultural land and more than 99% are grown for animal feed and agrofuels, rather than food. There is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other beneficial traits long promised by biotech companies. Read the full report [here].

We stand by the network of European countries opposed to GM, see GMO Free Europe [here].

Despite being presented as a coming giant that is inevitable in fact GM crops are grown by a tiny 2.7% of small or medium scale farmers worldwide, at the most, and less than 1% of farmers globally (see details [here]). 

The recent British Science Association survey showed that public concern has not changed, and the number of people saying that GM food "should be encouraged" dropped from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012. (see Soil Association comment [here]). 

See recent report on trace levels of Roundup. Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto's Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. That's the conclusion of a shocking new study that looked at the long-term effects of consuming Monsanto's genetically modified corn. Learn more [here].

We the undersigned believe that GM has no role in a Scottish Food Policy (Recipe for Success) that is committed to:

"our reputation as a land of high quality food and drink ensuring we make healthy and sustainable choices making our public sector an exemplar for sustainable food procurement." 

Laura Stewart, Director, Soil Association, Scotland
Jo Hunt, farmer
Mike Small, Fife Diet
Rob Gibson MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
Alison Johnstone MSP
Anthony Jackson, Munlochy GM Vigil
Clem Sandison, Glasgow Local Food Network
Eva Schonveld, Transition Scotland
Liz Murray, World Development Movement
Joanna Blythman, restaurant critic, author
Donald Reid, food writer
Wendy Gudmundsson
Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland
Jane Gray, Let’s Live Local
Pete Ritchie, Chair, Nourish Scotland
Slow Food Edinburgh 
WWF Scotland