GM Free Cymru

Time to re-examine the GM rule book? Crute crunched by Irish critique

(1) Comment by GM-free Ireland on Professor Ian Crute's commentary in The Times (Nov 3),

"Why Europe should rewrite the rule book",

Most readers of The Times will not accept Professor Crute's hypothetical GM soybean with fish genes, and will not be fooled by his attempts to misinform them:

*Contrary to what the Professor implies, European farmers and consumers recognise that agricultural biotechnology has useful applications such as Marker Assisted Selection, which does not involve genetic modification.

*The vast majority of Europeans oppose the release of GM crops, fish and livestock for many reasons including (a) that no health studies prove their safety; (b) that it is scientifically impossible to predict their long-term metabolic, health and environmental impacts – on the modified organisms, on the livestock and humans who consume them, and on the surrounding ecosystems from which, in most cases, they can never be recalled; and (c) that GM crop patents enable Monsanto et al. to consolidate their near-monopoly on the world's agricultural seeds, thus reducing biodiversity at an evolutionary moment of climate change when this is most needed to ensure a sustainable food supply for future generations.

*The Professor's description of the EU's legally-required health and environmental risk assessments of GMOs as "onerous regulatory hurdles" reveals his hubris, scientific ignorance, and utter disregard for human health and the environment.

*His attempt to convince us that the means by which GMOs are produced should not be scrutinised is outrageous, given the scientific evidence that most GM crops have scrambled genomes and genetic instability as a direct consequence of the way they are modified.

*His claim that "there may indeed be potential benefits" of GM crops linked to "cheap food or even food security" is not supported by the scientific evidence, including the United Nations' authoritative International Assessment of Agriculture, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report published earlier this year.

*His statement that GM crops are being grown "over substantial areas" with "great benefit" in other parts of the world is extremely misleading. On less than 5% of the world's arable land where they are grown, GM crops have already caused massive contamination of conventional crops and the food chain in 57 countries, increased the release of toxic chemicals, and caused billion-dollar economic losses to farmers and food producers around the world, including Spain (the only remaining EU member state where they are still commercially grown on any significant scale).

Instead of "rewriting the rule book" as Professor Crute desires, the EU's regulatory process for GMOs urgently needs to be strengthened with real assessments of the health, agronomic, ecological, social, economic, legal, political and food security dangers of GM food and farming.

Shame on the UK Government (and on its Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) for abusing public funds to finance Professor Crute's propaganda!


(2) Why Europe should rewrite the rule book Professor Ian Crute: Commentary

From The Times November 3, 2008

A genetically modified soya bean that contains health-giving fish oils is the sort of advance that might find favour with consumers and even convince sceptical Europeans that biotechnology has something going for it.

Before we can say for certain that it is beneficial, though, the results of this study will need to be scrutinised and independently replicated. The novel food products prepared from it will also, quite properly, be subject to a set of onerous regulatory hurdles before they appear on our supermarket shelves. The key issue, which has been lost in the furore over GM, is that it is the new characteristic of the crop, rather than the means by which this is produced, that should be placed under scrutiny with regard to impact on the environment or human wellbeing.

When the UK conducted enormous field experiments on herbicide- tolerant GM crops a few years ago, the focus was on the impact the modified crops had on weed control and biodiversity. It was never a test of GM technology per se, and every new crop must be assessed on its merits.

There are signs in Europe that we are beginning to realise that we can no longer take cheap food, or even food security, for granted, and that there may indeed be real potential benefits to be derived from the adoption of GM technology. So perhaps now is the time for us to catch up with the rest of the world where these crops are, with great benefit, being grown over substantial areas, and to reexamine critically the regulatory framework that we have erected. It sometimes seems to have been designed and operated to exclude and discourage just the sort of innovation we are going to need to address environmental and health issues.

The gains for humanity from scientific plant breeding have been immense – not least the ability to feed 6 billion people from about the same amount of land as was cultivated 50 years ago when there were half as many inhabitants on the planet. ===============

The author is director of Rothamsted Research, a publicly funded agricultural science institute