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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Defra Airbrush Gardeners and Beekeepers in GM Contamination Proposals

Immediate release (29 Sep 2006)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065 or Carrie Stebbings 0207 837 0642

Gardeners and beekeepers will not be told if GM crops are to be grown near by their land or hives if Defra’s proposals for growing GM crops in England are accepted.

In a consultation paper issued in the summer [1], Defra proposed that land owners within certain distances will be legally required to be informed if a GM crop is to be grown.

However, “Defra’s proposals are not intended to cover the situation where: GM crops may cross-pollinate plants grown in allotments or domestic gardens intended for private consumption”. (paragraph 39.V)

And

“Defra does not propose any specific action in relation to the coexistence of GM crops and commercial honey production” (paragraph 107).

Defra has decided to exclude an estimated 500,000 allotment holders and vegetable gardeners from the list of land owners who will legally be required to be informed if a GM crop is planned near by because their produce is for private consumption and will not be placed on the market. Many gardeners grow sweet corn which could cross pollinate with GM maize. Many give away surplus produce or sell it. In the future vegetable crops could also be genetically modified and gardeners will need to know what’s being grown near by.

The decision to exclude the 15,000 to 20,000 hobby and commercial beekeepers in England from those who will be required to be informed about GM growing sites is based on the fact that GM pollen will never exceed 0.9% by weight in a jar of honey and that the presence of GM pollen is considered to be “adventitious and unavoidable”. The most recent poll found 63% of regular honey buyers wanted it to be GM free [2]. The value of pollination provided by beekeepers is up to £200 million per year and honey £10-30 million per annum. [3]

GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth have published a guide to responding to the Defra consultation. [4]

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Defra’s attempt to airbrush gardeners and beekeepers is an insult. Many people grow their own veg. to keep control over what they and their families eat especially to avoid GM. Many sell or give away surplus produce. GM contamination threatens that right and now Ministers want to keep gardeners in the dark about GM crop sites. Honey is a pure product and the presence of GM pollen would seriously undermine its image and sales. Bees travel miles to collect nectar and pollen and at the same time pollinate important crops – Defra’s proposals to ignore the views of beekeepers about where GM crops are grown is incredibly short sighted and betrays a lack of knowledge amongst Ministers about the importance of honey bees to the countryside.

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065 or Carrie Stebbings 0207 837 0642.

ENDs

Notes
1. See www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/gmnongm-coexist/consultdoc.pdf
2. See www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/20020920000136.html
3. See www.defra.gov.uk/hort/Bees/index.htm
4. See www.stopgmcontamination.org