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New Government GM Policy – Westminster realising GM doesn’t deliver? Meanwhile Rothamsted Apply for UK GM Wheat trials in 2012

Immediate release (21 Jun 2011)

Calls to: Pete Riley 07903 341 065

The Coalition Government posted its first GM policy statement on the Defra website Friday, 17 June. [1]

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

This is a tepid response from the Coalition Government that falls miles short of a ringing endorsement of GM crops. There may be scope in the language used to back GM crops in the future, but the biotech industry have not been given a green light for now.

We welcome the prioritisation of human health and environmental protection, but the Government needs to demonstrate it really mean this by adopting a precautionary approach. This means blocking new GM crops at European level in every instance where there is scientific dispute or uncertainty.

The new policy does not indicate that the Coalition sees GM crops as a means to putting agriculture on a sustainable footing. Scotland and Wales have long had strong no-GM policies. We now want clear guidance from Number 10 giving agroecological and other non-GM approaches overdue research support by transferring money from the numerous publicly-funded GM projects that are not delivering.

We very much welcome the commitment to listen to the public’s views, and reiterate that the public want to know where GM is used in the food chain. [2] We are still waiting for the Government to make good on its labelling rhetoric by ending the use of unlabelled GM animal feed.

After 30 years of failure the biotech industry still can’t deliver on much-hyped crops, like drought tolerance. The preoccupation with manipulating a handful of genes to benefit biotech companies first and foremost is going nowhere. It’s time to move on from GM and concentrate instead on looking after the environment in which crops grow by improving soils and building more resilient farming systems overall.

By coincidence, Defra announced on 20 June that Rothamsted Research at Harpenden has applied to trial GM wheat in the UK 2012. [3] The GM wheat is said to repel aphids and attract aphid predators to the crop using genetic constructs, which include synthetic sections.

Monsanto stopped previous GM wheat development in the UK and elsewhere in 2004 due to lack of markets following rejection by consumers and farmers.

Canada’s National Research Council announced in April 2011 it has no intention of researching GM wheat, with the President of NFU Canada saying, “Wheat improvements can and must happen without the use of transgenics. GM wheat would spell disaster for Canada’s wheat growers.” Similarly in March the Premier of Australia’s largest wheat growing state rejected GM wheat saying, “We are not contemplating GM wheat and I did note Japanese consumers would not support GM wheat.”

Commenting on the new application for a UK GM wheat trial Pete Riley said:

This is strange choice of crop to genetically modify because GM wheat has been rejected right around the world, even in North America when the vast majority of GM crops are grown. This approach is designed to fit intensive monocultures of wheat where pests thrive at a time when many experts are calling for a complete rethink on agriculture toward approaches like mixed cropping. Why is the Coalition Government even considering pouring scarce public money into Rothamsted to produce a GM crop for which there is no market when other science budgets are being squeezed?

ENDs

Notes

[1] See “Government policy” at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/gm/

[2] See “GM is unwanted

[3] See http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/gm/regulation/registers/applications/11-r8-01.htm