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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

NFU and Government GM Comments Ignore Market and Consumers

Immediate release (12 Jun 2013)

Calls to: Pete Riley 07903 341 065; Peter Lundgren 07751 112 303

UK Government and NFU comments following the results of an informal online poll of farmers conducted by Farmers Weekly disregard market forces in potential markets for UK farmers, GM Freeze said today. [1]

The results of an online straw poll of farmers claim that 61% of respondents said they “would like to grow GM crops”. However 26% of respondents said they “would not cultivate [GM] under any circumstances”, and even among those who said they would like to grow GM crops nearly a quarter (24%) said they see “no advantage in growing GM crops” – begging the question as to why they want to grow them. Only 15% of farmers said they would eat GM, and investment in GM was ranked last among farmers’ priorities for Government attention.

UK Government Ministers and the NFU are calling for EU rules on GM crop approvals to be “relaxed”, claiming this is needed to permit farmers to get access to GM crops. Yet most EU retailers maintain a ban on GM ingredients in food products, and many companies in Germany, Austria and France are gaining a profitable market for meat and dairy products produced and labelled ”without GM” (EU regulations require GM ingredients to be labelled in food and animal feed, but this does not apply to meat, milk, eggs and fish produced using GM feed). EU polls consistently show public opposition to GM crops in key markets for UK farmers, such as Germany and France. [2] Furthermore it remains unclear how Welsh and Scottish rejection of GM is incorporated in Whitehall’s pro-GM push.

After over 30 years of GM crop research and development, only herbicide tolerant and insect resistant Bt crops have any significant market share. Both types of GM crop have hit major problems because of the development of herbicide resistant weeds and Bt resistant insects. [3] Despite claims that GM crops would have helped farmers cope with recent cold and wet condition there are no crops being specifically developed for such conditions.

The poll clearly shows that a substantial number of people, including farmers, do not want GM crops and would not eat them given the choice. This means the right to grow non-GM crops free of contamination needs to be protected, and losses from contamination need to be covered by a thorough liability scheme placed on GM companies.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Europe’s precautionary approach to GM food and crops means we have the opportunity to learn lessons from GM use in the Americas. Mounting weed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and insect resistance to Bt means the GM dream of simpler more efficient farming is now shown to be a myth as farmers are faced with rising costs and more complex crop management than before GM crops arrived.

The only GM crops in the approvals pipeline are herbicide tolerant, an approach the UK banned because these crops were shown by the Government’s own research to harm farmland wildlife. We do not understand the basis for the Government and NFU push to reverse this position.

Lincolnshire farmer and GM Freeze Board member Pete Lundgren added:

Farmers need to be told more about the downsides of using GM crops. The NFU’s irrational support for GM is holding back UK farmers’ ability to address the real problems we face in ensuring future food security. New plant breeding techniques are progressing faster and more successfully than GM. The discussion around this poll disregards basic market forces in potential markets for UK farmers in the EU. What’s worse, there are no GM crops even close to approval that UK farmers could sensibly grow.

The NFU should concentrate on the real issues farmers face, including corporate control of markets and degraded soils, not rapidly fading GM technology. It would be good if the NFU and Ministers could explain how GM crops could help farmers cope with poor weather. Last year it was flooding and the previous year it was drought – so how would Roundup Ready or Bt GM have helped?

The presence of GM crops on UK farms would require all farmers, and the wider food chain, to take action to prevent contamination of non-GM crops. This will mean additional work and costs. So far the biotech industry has shown no interest in shouldering liability for any economic harm cause by their GM crops, and insurance companies have so far declined to cover this type of loss. Farmers know enough to steer clear until these wider issues are dealt with, and even this poll shows they wouldn’t eat GM themselves. The big question is – if farmers who want to grow GM won’t eat it, where does the UK Government think the market is for this stuff?




[1] Farmers Weekly, 12 June 2013. “Survey results: What farmers really think about GM

[2] EC Directorate General Research, October 2010. Eurobarometer Biotechnology Report (report ref 341, available at

[3] GM Freeze, 19 October 2911. Weed Resistance in RR Crops – An update


GM Freeze, 10 November 2011. Insect resistance to Bt toxins in GM Insect Resistant Crops