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Paterson Sings from GM Industry’s Hymn Sheet

Immediate release (20 Jun 2013)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze said today that Owen Paterson’s support for GM crops is based on poor and partial information, that proposed policy changes will have to be agreed by the EU and could make UK food exports to EU markets more difficult.

In his speech today [1] Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson claimed that GM crops are beneficial to wildlife because they reduce pesticide use and the higher yields GM offers mean they will use less land to produce the food we need.

Scientific papers on GM cultivation in the US clearly show that GM crops have increased pesticides usage. [2] GM herbicide tolerant crops, designed specifically to be used with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate), are failing because weeds have developed resistance to the weedkiller. As a result herbicide use has increased hugely, and to prevent things getting worse farmers will now have to spray mixtures of other herbicides in addition to Roundup or hand pull weeds. [3]

In addition to the development of superweeds, Bt maize in the US Midwest is plagued by insect pests resistant to the GM toxin produced by the plants. [4]

Here in the UK Government-backed research showed that farmland wildlife is harmed by GM herbicide tolerant beet and oilseed rape, and the crops were banned in 2004. [5] In the US research has shown that GM maize and soya crops are contributing to the decline of Monarch butterfly populations. [6]

Mr Paterson’s claims that GM crops are needed to feed the world because they yield more has no factual basis. Research has showed that GM crops in fact have a “yield drag”, not increase, of up to 5%. [7] Long-term research by the USDA has shown that GM soya and maize rotations produce lower yields, use more fossil fuels, fertilisers and pesticides and are more polluting to water than longer four-year rotations using a more diverse range of crops. [8] Furthermore Mr Paterson failed to mention that non-GM stess tolerant maize is already available to African farmers. [9]

Based on this scientific evidence it is difficult to understand Mr Paterson’s assertions that GM crop do less harm on less land.

Mr Paterson’s also claims that Golden Rice is being held back from farmers is not true. The rice has not been assessed as safe by any country. Indeed there are doubts that it will significantly increase the availability pro-Vitamin A in diets of undernourished people. [10] Other research has shown that providing people with a balanced diet is the way forward, and “Golden Rice” distracts us from this objective. Conventional plant breeding has already increased pro-vitamin A content of several crops in Africa including sweet potatoes. [11]

The following actions were agreed by UK Government representatives and the biotech industry at a roundtable meeting held on 26 June 2012 [12]:


  • Improvements in the regulatory framework
  • A clear strategy for biotech
  • Incentives for investment
  • A clear position to take to Europe
  • Working with industry
  • Developing a clear strategy that fits with other initiatives and projects across government

Research institutes, researchers and academia:

  • Better cooperation
    A clear response to anti-GM groups
    Better on the ground presence in Africa, perhaps by working with universities

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

It is very clear that Ministers are singing from industry’s hymn sheet, which they agreed last year. This is not the way to develop a coherent food and farming policy for the UK. If the UK unilaterally goes for GM crops there a real risk that the threat of contamination will close off many markets in the EU to our farmers. We cannot jeopardise our economy in this way.

Ministers need to escape from the influence of GM lobbyists and get out to talk with scientists involved in developing real solutions, including non-GM high tech plant breeding, to ensure we can continue to produce sufficient food without trashing the planet.

GM is an extension of a discredited system of farming based on reliance on non-renewable resources that is adding to climate change, destroying wild life, damaging soil and polluting water and air. Ministers are in great danger of taking us down a blind alley by pushing a technology that has not delivered on any promises after 30 years of public investment.



[1] Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP speech to Rothamsted Research. Rothamsted is the centre conducting the UK open air GM wheat trials.

[2] Benbrook C, 28 Septembr 2012. “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years”. Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24

[3] GM Freeze and PAN UK, 2 August 2012. GM Herbicide Tolerant Crops – Less Equals More

[4] Gassmann AJ, Petzold-Maxwell JL, Keweshan RS, Dunbar MW, 2011. “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm”. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22629. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022629

[5] Statement by Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, 9 March 2004. Hansard Columns 1379-1382

[6] Pleasants JN and Oberhauser KS, 2012. “Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicideuse: effect on the monarch butterfly population”. Insect Conservation and Diversity doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.

[7] GM Freeze, 10 January 2013. Wheat and Oilseed Rape Yields – Factors with the greatest impact and why GM will not make a difference


GM Freeze, 31 May 2011. Plant Breeding and Crop Yields – Can we rely on GM to increase yield?

[8] The All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, October 2012. Briefing paper 2: Marsden Farm Research Provides Evidence of the Benefits of Longer Rotations in Arable Systems and Shows Current GM Rotations Do Not Guarantee the Best Performance

[9] Prasanna BM, October 2010. “Molecular marker-assisted breeding for stress tolerance and nutritional quality improvement in maize“. Presentation at 2nd National Workshop on Marker-Assisted Selection for Crop Improvement hosted by

[10] GM Freeze, 14 May 2009. GM Nutritionally Enhanced and Altered Crops

[11] GM Freeze, undated. “Unecessary – Non-GM works: Non-GM success stories

[12] GM Freeze, 25 October 2012. “Monsanto Meets Ministers to Push Return of GM Crops to Britain