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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Defra GM Consultation Farce

Immediate release (9 Nov 2007)

GM Freeze described the Ministerial Statement on the Coexistence of GM and non-GM crops made by Defra minister Phil Woolas today as a farce.

In his statement [1] the Minister said:

We are grateful to everyone who responded and have considered the various comments made very carefully. It is clear that before our coexistence plans can be finalised we should await various developments that could have an important bearing on how we move forward.

The reason listed in the statement included:

  • Waiting for outstanding research results
  • Commissioning new research
  • Waiting for an agreement of thresholds for GM presence in seeds

The statement acknowledged the importance of seed thresholds in making policy on coexistence, saying:

These will dictate what level of GM material might be in the seeds sown by non-GM farmers. This in turn bears directly on what coexistence measures need to achieve, in terms of minimising the potential for further GM transfer into non-GM crops. We should await clarification of what seed thresholds are to be adopted.

Over 11,600 people and organisations responded to Defra coexistence consultation paper in 2006. The summary of the responses which Defra published today [2] took a year to produce and shows widespread opposition to what Defra was proposing.

Beekeepers were particularly concerned that Defra’s proposals failed to deal with the potential impact of GM pollen in honey.

A legal opinion submitted by GM Freeze as part of the consultation response set out seven key areas where Defra proposals were not compliant with EU law. [3]

Commenting on Phil Woolas’s Statement, Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

We made the point in our submission to the consultation that Defra’s evidence base for their proposals was weak and that key policies like seed threshold were needed before decisions could be made about “coexistence”. The Minister now apparently agrees with us.

So why did Defra go ahead with the consultation in the absence of these vital bits of the jigsaw? The legal opinion GM Freeze submitted over a year ago raised serious questions about the legality of what Defra was proposing on seven counts. Instead of answering these points, the Minister has apparently decided to shelve the issue for the time being. The Government’s policy on GM crops is a farce and has been since 1997.


[1] Phil Woolas’s statement at

[2] The summary of Coexistence Consultation responses at

[3] GM Freeze, Friends of the earth and The Soil association legal opinion summary and full opinion available here.