Skip to content
for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Brown and Woolas Short on GM Facts and History

Immediate release (19 Jun 2008)

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065

Prime Minster Gordon Brown’s and Environment Minister Phil Woolas’ calls for a re-think on GM crops in the UK to increase yields have been described by GM Freeze as “short on facts and history”.

The group point out that four crops were extensively tested in the UK during the late 1990s and early 2000s[1]. The Government’s scientific advisory committee[2] advised Ministers that three of the crops (herbicide tolerant winter and spring oilseed rape and sugar/fodder beet) would cause long-term harm to farmland wildlife because they reduced weed cover and with it food and cover for insects and birds. The Government listened to the advise and announced the GM crops would not be approved [3]. The fourth GM crop, GM fodder maize, was given the go-ahead by Ministers, but was withdrawn a month later by its developer, Bayer CropScience, for “commercial reasons”, which was widely accepted to mean that the GM variety did not perform as well as contemporary non-GM bred strains of maize. Yields were not measured as part of the trials.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) [4] published its 2500 page report based on peer reviewed publications concluded that the yield gains in GM crops “were highly variable” and in some places “yields declined” (see briefing for fuller explanation). Asked at a press conference if GM crops were the answer to world hunger, IAASTD Director Professor Bob Watson (now Chief Scientist at Defra) said, “The simple answer is, ‘No’.” [5]. The Government approved the IAASTD report on 9 June.

GM Freeze today publish new analysis examining claims that GM crops will increase yields [6] and that the causes of current food price rises. It concludes that they are due to with commodity crop speculators, rising oil prices, poor crops in some areas due to climate change and diversion of food crops into biofuels. Other new GM Freeze analysis published this week showed that conventionally bred crops still dominate world agriculture covering over 97% of agricultural land and 92% of arable land. [7].

Pete Riley of GM Freeze commented:

Mr Brown and Mr Woolas seem to be dangerously obsessed with technical fixes for world hunger, which the IAASTD report has shown to be based on flawed analysis. Comments on GM crops in the UK and yield are short on facts and history. They should stop listening to industry propaganda that is shamelessly trying to exploit the current food price rises – there is no evidence that GM crops have increased average yields. The reasons we have no GM crops in the UK are either that the Labour Government did not approve them or the industry withdrew approved crops on a voluntary basis.

World hunger and food shortage are complex issues largely social and economic in nature. There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, it’s just that the economic system put in place by politicians has failed to ensure that that food reaches the people who need it most whilst other sectors of the population are becoming obese. The IAASTD process concluded that ‘business as usual is not the answer’ to world hunger. Unfortunately the Prime Minister and his Minister have not been listening so far.


Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065.

Please note GM Freeze’s new land line number 0845 217 8992.

[1] From 1999 to 2003 Defra funded the Farm Scale Evaluations of herbicide tolerant spring and winter oilseed rape, sugar and fodder beet and fodder maize to test their impact on farmland wildlife.

[2] See and

[3] See

[4] See

[5] See

[6] See GM Freeze report on GM Feeding the World here.

[7] See GM Freeze report on accuracy in GM land area coverage here.