There’s so much at stake in this UK election that we’re not going to stay on the sidelines!
With just two days to go until one of the most critical elections in UK history, we’ve decided to do what we’ve never done before and answer the question: “Who would GMWatch vote for?”
The reason for biting the bullet this time around is simple. Since becoming Prime Minister in late July, Boris Johnson has repeatedly pledged to “liberate” GMOs (see below).
Opening Britain’s doors to GMOs also seems to be key to allowing Johnson to do the kind of quick trade deal he wants with the United States. Recall that Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in June aimed at forcing countries like the UK to open their doors wide to GM crops from the US.
A Trump trade deal is certain to undermine current UK food standards, pesticide regulation, and environmental policy more generally – all things we know our supporters care deeply about. It could even mean an end to the labelling of any GM ingredients in the foods we buy.
So our advice, unless you want to open the floodgates to unregulated GMOs (and more!), is to vote in a way that will not allow Boris Johnson to stay in No 10.
The best way to ensure he doesn’t, given the UK's outmoded first-past-the-post voting system, is by tactical voting. And tactical voting isn’t difficult – here’s why.
Tactical voting made easy
There are two reasons that tactical voting is easy.
First, there’s plenty of other parties to choose from when it comes to the GM issue because none of the main opposition parties has given any indication of wanting to liberate GMOs – in fact, quite the opposite (see below).
Second, in almost all constituencies it is incredibly easy to decide which opposition party to vote for. It is the one best placed to get Boris Johnson’s Tories out! And that is either the current MP, if that’s not a Tory, or the party that came second at the last election, if the Tories currently hold the seat.
How do we know that? Danny Dorling, the Oxford professor of social geography and an expert on demographics and social and political science, has analysed how seats change hands at all UK elections since 1945. And what he found is that almost never does the party that came third in the previous election come first in the subsequent one. That’s why you should vote for the non-Tory that came second in a seat the Tories currently hold.
There is even a website that tells you who to vote for to keep Boris out, depending on where you are: https://tactical.vote/
There are other tactical voting websites but one or two of these have tried to feed in opinion poll data or other factors that Dorling’s analysis suggests are unreliable. Dorling says that looking at over 70 years of election stats shows that failing to vote for the second placed candidate in the last election – if the first placed one supports the party in power – is the best way to ensure no change!
So to effect change: hold your nose if necessary and vote for the party best placed to stop Boris Johnson.
What has Boris Johnson said about GMOs?
Boris Johnson set the ball rolling outside 10 Downing Street in his very first speech as Prime Minister, when he set out the mission of his new Government, by declaring that he wanted to “liberate” the UK’s bioscience sector from what he called “anti genetic modification rules” post-Brexit.
He also pledged to “liberate” GMOs from the EU’s “anti genetic modification rules” when setting out his Government’s priorities to Parliament.
And in the first speech he delivered outside London, he even went so far as to talk of the UK coming to lead “the world in producing genetically modified crop(s)”.
What have the opposition parties said about GMOs?
None of the mainland opposition parties currently represented in Westminster has given any indication of wanting to “liberate” GMOs – quite the opposite:
• Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has explicitly said that his party “will not be promoting GM crops.”
• The SNP (Scottish National Party) remains fiercely opposed to the cultivation of GM crops in the open environment on which, as the governing party in Scotland, it has a moratorium.
• Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) has campaigned strongly against the introduction of GM crops and wants to maintain the current ban on growing them in Wales.
• The Green Party unequivocally supports a moratorium on GM crops, as well as on the import of GM foods. It also wants to ban the ‘most harmful’ pesticides, including glyphosate.
• The LibDems do not support a moratorium but they are committed to staying in the European Union and hence to abiding by the rules on GMOs that Boris Johnson wants to “liberate” us from.
The only mainland parties likely to support Boris Johnson’s position on GMOs are UKIP and the Brexit Party. So don’t vote for them!
We don’t know enough about Northern Irish political parties to say anything beyond the fact that the SDLP support the current moratorium on growing GM crops in Northern Ireland, as do Sinn Fein. And, like these, the Alliance Party opposes Brexit and supports abiding by the EU rules on GMOs that Boris Johnson wants to remove.
What if I support Brexit even though I don’t want to “liberate” GMOs?
The European Union is very far from perfect. But as George Monbiot has said, the EU may be a noxious sewer but compared with the UK it is a crystal clear spring.
Given the UK’s shameful history on food and farming issues (think BSE, foot and mouth, the championing until very recently of bee-killing neonicotinoids) and Boris Johnson’s apparent eagerness to adopt US standards on GMOs and pesticides, which are far worse than those of the EU, then in GMWatch’s view we are far better off within the EU than outside of it.
But if you support Brexit and cannot bring yourself to vote for a Remain party, then we would advise voting Labour because they will negotiate a better withdrawal agreement with the EU than Johnson’s – one that won’t open the UK up to GM deregulation. Labour will then give the final decision on EU membership to the public in a second referendum.
What if I’m a Remainer, can I vote Labour?
If you are a passionate Remainer, then you should still be willing to vote Labour if that is the best option tactically. That's because the worst that could happen if Labour gets a majority is that they would offer the British people the choice between staying in the EU and a renegotiated Brexit deal where the UK was in the EU customs union and the single market and so aligned with EU protections on the environment, food standards, GMOs, and pesticides.
And if you don’t vote Labour in a constituency where they are best placed to keep the Tories out, then you will be doing nothing to stop a Tory government and a hard-deal, or even no-deal, Brexit without any possibility of a second referendum.