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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Cabinet Office Food Report Lacks Balanced Analysis on GM

Immediate release (7 Jul 2008)

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065

GM Freeze criticised the Cabinet Office’s report [1] on food in the 21st century as “seriously lacking in- depth analysis on the need for GM crops and their impacts on people and the planet”, saying it “fails to show any understanding of the full implications for food and farming research and development of the recently published IAASTD report”.

The Strategy Unit report published today makes only one reference to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report [2], which was published in April and approved by the UK Government at the beginning of June. Today GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth and Practical Action published a briefing [3] on areas of UK policy on research, trade and development challenged by the IAASTD findings that therefore require urgent review. The IAASTD report was written by 400 scientists, including social scientists, agriculturalists and economists from all continents under the direction of Defra Chief Scientist, Professor Bob Watson.

The report listed 22 key findings [4] including:

  • The failure of previous agricultural revolutions to reach the poorest people.
  • The detrimental impacts of intensive farming systems around the world.
  • The need to strengthen agro-ecological science to enable farming to become truly multifunctional.
  • The need to focus on smaller farmers.
  • The need to utilize the traditional knowledge of farmers, especially women, in shaping and guiding research and development.
  • The need to reform international trade rules to protect small farmers from unfair competition.

GM Freeze is concerned that the Strategy Unit’s comments on GM crops focus mainly on the narrow interests of animal feed production industry and imports of GM crops from The Americas. The report’s sections on GM focus almost exclusively on the role of the EU’s GMO regulations in creating delays for GM feed crop approvals instead of, for instance, on the EU’s over reliance on imported soya and maize to feed its livestock and poultry.

In his forward to the Strategy Unit Report, Gordon Brown dismisses the idea becoming more self-sufficient in food as an option, saying:

GM Freeze point out that feed price inflation [5] is highest for imported GM soya meal used in animal feed than other feed crops. For instance the price of GM soya meal from Argentina rose 122.5% in the 12 months to May 2008, while non-GM feed wheat only rose 54%. GM soya meal has been approved for import into the EU since 1996.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

We are very disappointed by the report’s approach to GM crops, food and feed. Its focus on animal feed imports and regulations belies the need for a more systemic review of growing more feed protein nationally. It is seriously lacking in-depth analysis on the impacts of GM crops on people and the planet. We were expecting more. The report also fails to cite or show any understanding of the full implications of the recently published IAASTD report. It misses a real opportunity to reassess the UK’s priorities for agricultural research and development both here and abroad.

In the future, farmers in the UK and their colleagues overseas will have to play a key role in tackling climate change, protecting natural resources from degradation and conserving wildlife and habitats, as well as earning a sustainable living from producing good quality food that people will be able to trust. The Government should focus on supporting farmers that produce good local food and care for the environment instead of trying to prop up unsustainable, costly and unnecessary GM crops and the industries that will gain from their commercialization.

ENDs

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

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

Notes
[1] Food matters Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century is available at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/~/media/assets/www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/strategy/food/food_matters%20pdf.ashx.

[2] See www.agassessment.org/docs/Global_SDM_050508_FINAL.pdf.

[3] See GM Freeze report here.

[4] The 22 findings can be summarised thus:

  1. PRODUCTION INCREASES: Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (AKST) has contributed to substantial increases in agricultural production over time, contributing to food security.
  2. UNEVEN BENEFITS: People have benefited unevenly from these yield increases
  3. NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES: Emphasis on increasing yields and productivity has in some cases had negative consequences on environmental sustainability.
  4. ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: The environmental shortcomings of agricultural practice [is] increasing deforestation and overall degradation.
  5. INCREASED DEMAND EXPECTED: Global cereal demand is projected to increase by 75% between 2000 and 2050 and global meat demand is expected to double.
  6. MULTIFUNCTIONALITY OF AGRICULTURE: Agriculture operates within complex systems and is multifunctional in its nature.
  7. STRENGTHEN AGROECOLOGICAL SCIENCES: An increase and strengthening of AKST towards agroecological sciences will contribute to addressing environmental issues while maintaining and increasing productivity.
  8. REDIRECT AKST: Strengthening and redirecting the generation and delivery of AKST will contribute to addressing a range of persistent socioeconomic inequities,
  9. INVOLVE WOMEN: Greater and more effective involvement of women and use of their knowledge, skills and experience will advance progress towards sustainability and development goals and a strengthening and redirection of AKST to address gender issues will help achieve this.
  10. BUILD ON EXISITING KNOWLEDGE: [using] more innovative and integrated applications of existing knowledge, science and technology (formal, traditional and community-based).
  11. USE NEW AKST APPROPRIATELY: Some challenges will be resolved primarily by development and appropriate application of new and emerging AKST.
  12. RESEARCH FOCUS ON SMALL-SCALE: Targeting small-scale agricultural systems helps realize existing opportunities.
  13. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR POOR FARMERS: Significant pro-poor progress requires creating opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, which explicitly target resource poor farmers and rural labourers.
  14. DIFFICULT POLICY CHOICES: Decisions around small-scale farm sustainability pose difficult policy choices.
  15. PUBLIC POLICY AND REGULATION CRITICAL: Public policy, regulatory frameworks and international agreements are critical to implementing more sustainable agricultural practices.
  16. NEW INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS REQUIRED: Innovative institutional arrangements are essential to the successful design and adoption of ecologically and socially sustainable agricultural systems.
  17. NEGATIVE IMPACT OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Opening national agricultural markets to international competition can lead to long term negative effects on poverty alleviation, food security and the environment.
  18. EXPORT AGRICULTURE UNSUSTAINABLE: Intensive export oriented agriculture has adverse consequences such as exportation of soil nutrients and water, unsustainable soil or water management, or exploitative labour conditions, in some cases.
  19. CRUCIAL CHOICES: The choice of relevant approaches to adoption and implementation of agricultural innovation is crucial for achieving development and sustainability goals.
  20. MORE INVESTMENT IN MULTIFUNCTIONALITY: More and better-targeted AKST investments, explicitly taking into account the multifunctionality of agriculture.
  21. CODES OF CONDUCT NEEDED: Codes of conduct by universities and research institutes can help avoid conflicts of interest and maintain focus when private funding complements public sector funds.
  22. MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACHES REQUIRED: Diverse voices and perspectives and a multiplicity of scientifically well-founded options, through, for example, the inclusion of social scientists in policy and practice of AKST.

[5] Figures from www.mdcdatum.org.uk/FarmDataPrices/feedprices.html Average feed price inflations May 2007 to May 2008:

  • Argentine Soya meal (over 99% GM) 112.5%
  • Non GM feed barley 43%
  • Non GM Feed wheat 54%
  • Maize gluten (24% pf global crops are GM) 72%