GM Free Cymru

Government accused of "GM crop fixation" while food crisis deepens

Press Notice from GM Free Cymru 27th May 2008

The Government has been accused of maintaining a fixation on GM crops and foods while international food prices escalate and while the spectre of starvation is faced by millions of poor people worldwide.

In spite of frequent appeals from scientists and NGOs the UK Government continues to promote GM crop approvals within the EC, with Peter Mandelson taking an aggressive pro-corporate and pro-GM stance on the spurious grounds that "trade liberalisation" will assist the poor (1). Supposedly independent regulatory bodies like FSA and ACRE continue to maintain the pretence that GM crops and foods are harmless and healthy, and to peddle the "freedom of choice" argument in spite of the fact that no consumers actually seem to want to eat GM products. In other words, they slavishly follow the line laid down by DEFRA and the Government.

More to the point, the Government has pointedly refused to sign up to the recent IAASTD report which was very sceptical about the role of GM in contributing to future sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture in the poorer nations. Scientists, aid workers, civil servants, and farm representatives from around the world endorsed instead a pattern of agriculture which is sustainable, independent of high chemical and energy inputs, and responsive to local needs and aspirations. The Report was signed by 57 nations (2), and the only ones which have refused to sign are the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. In response to frequent prompting, the Government has still done no more than "welcome" the report, while pointedly refusing to "support" it. This is embarrassing, to say the least, for Professor Bob Watson, Chairman of IAASTD, who also acts as Chief Scientific Adviser to DEFDRA (3). Without much conviction, he has tried to convince the media that his statements about the limitations of GM technology have the "full support" of the Prime Minister. On the other hand Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, has confirmed in a letter to GM Free Cymru (4) that he will continue surreptitiously to use taxpayers' money to fund GM research, in spite of the wishes of the poorer nations for future research to be concentrated on conventional crop breeding and cultivation methods which will enhance food security, maintain biodiversity and facilitate the survival of rural communities.

Commenting on the Government's refusal to support the aspirations of the nations which have signed up to the IAASTD Report, GM Free Cymru spokesman Brian John said: "We find the Government's attitude to the IAASTD recommendations patronising and even arrogant. Clearly, the colonial "donor/client" mind-set within DFID is still present, with the Government apparently convinced that it knows better than the poorer nations themselves what is good for them (5). This Government is scared to death of the USA and the WTO, and far too close to despicable multinational corporations like Syngenta and Monsanto. It is high time that it started to listen to what British taxpayers and representatives of the developing nations are saying to them -- namely that the GM fixation has wasted millions of pounds thus far, has never delivered any benefits to the poor and hungry, and has no role to play in the delivery of future food security."

ENDS Contact: Dr Brian John Tel 01239-820470




(4) Rt Douglas Alexander MP Secretary of State for International Development DFID
22nd May 2008
Dear Mr Alexander
The IAASTD Report and the DFID fixation on GM crops (Text available on request)

OPEN LETTER from GM Free Cymru to: Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA 16th April 2008 Dear Prime Minister GM crops will not feed the world