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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Something fishy in your chips? Proposed GM crop trials are fraught with risks and no real benefits in sight

Immediate release (21 Mar 2016)

Press contact: Liz O'Neill, liz[at]gmfreeze.org 07811 211 404

A coalition of farmers, scientists, campaigners and charities has come together to urge the Government to stop the planting of genetically modified (GM) potatoes and “fishy” oil seed plants in the UK this spring.

Objecting to open air GM trial applications from the Sainsbury’s Laboratory in Norwich (blight resistant potatoes) [1] and Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire (omega-3 fatty-acid camelina) [2] the coalition has submitted evidence to Defra demonstrating that the risks of the trials are not justified by any potential gains. Their concerns include:

  • Antibiotic resistance. Some of the potatoes in the proposed trial include an antibiotic resistance “marker” gene that could transfer to disease-causing bacteria.
  • Contamination and cross-breeding with wild relatives. Pollen and seed can escape from trials and, as any gardener can tell you, viable GM potatoes could survive in the ground for many years after harvest.
  • Unexpected effects of the genetic engineering process. DNA alterations can impact on how other genes are expressed and neither applicant has tested the potential environmental or food safety harms their GM plants could cause.

Liz O’Neill, Director of umbrella group GM Freeze which co-ordinated the objections, also questions the claimed benefits of the crops that the trials aim to create.

You know the chips are really down for GM when the best they can offer is a potato with a far more basic level of protection against blight than can be found in existing non-GM varieties. What’s more, those conventional varieties have already reached the market without the tax-payer-funded subsidies that have gone into these projects.

Evidence on the health impacts of omega-3s is very mixed and the idea that growing them on prime agricultural land will make the fish farming industry sustainable is more than a little fishy.

GM is one of the top three food safety concerns in the UK [3]. The public don’t want it and it is time that public funding went into projects that will solve real problems like food waste and poor understanding of how to choose a balanced diet.”

The opportunity to object to the Camelina trial closed on Saturday 19 March. Objections to the potato trial are being accepted until Tuesday 22 March.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Media enquiries to: Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze on liz[at]gmfreeze.org or 07811 211 404.

The Soil Association press office can also take media enquiries relating to these trials, via Natasha Collins Daniel ncollins-daniel[at]soilassociation.org, 0117 314 5149

[1]

Rothamsted Research’s application for an open air trial of GM “fish oil” camelina can be seen on the Defra website:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genetically-modified-organisms-rothamsted-research-16r801.

The objection to the camelina trial can be found athttp://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/consultation-responses/188/. It is signed by GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, GM Free Cymru, Soil Association, Organic Growers Alliance, Mums Say No to GMOs, GM Free Dorset, Beyond GM, Unicorn Grocery Ltd, Action Against Allergy, Sevenoaks Friends of the Earth, GM Watch, Organic Research Centre, EcoNexus, Find Your Feet, the Springhead Trust, White Home Farm, Whole Organic Plus, ACE Energy, Shepton Farms Ltd and South Gloucester Friends of the Earth.

[2]

The Sainsbury’s Laboratory’s application for an open air trial of GM blight-resistant potatoes can seen on the Defra website:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genetically-modified-organisms-sainsbury-laboratory-16r2901 .

The objection to the potato trial can be found athttp://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/consultation-responses/189/. It is signed by GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, GM Free Cymru, Soil Association, Organic Growers Alliance, Mums Say No to GMOs, GM Free Dorset, Beyond GM, Unicorn Grocery Ltd, Action Against Allergy, Sevenoaks Friends of the Earth, GM Watch, Organic Research Centre, Garden Organic, EcoNexus, Find Your Feet, the Springhead Trust, White Home Farm, Whole Organic Plus, ACE Energy, Shepton Farms Ltd and South Gloucester Friends of the Earth.

[3]

Food Standards Agency Biannual Public Attitudes Trackers, Wave 10, May 2015:https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/public-attitudes-tracker-may-15.pdf

GM Freeze is the UK’s umbrella campaign for a moratorium on GM in food and farming. We are working to help create a world in which everyone’s food is produced responsibly, fairly and sustainably.

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