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UK Warned: Devolved rejection of GM means UK must vote “No” on new maize

Immediate release (13 Nov 2013)

Calls to: Helena Paul 0207 431 4357

GM Freeze today wrote to David Cameron and Nick Clegg urging them to ensure the UK votes against the EU application for cultivation authorisation for DuPont Pioneer’s genetically modified (GM) 1507 maize at the upcoming meeting of EU Environment Ministers on 13 December.

GM Freeze pointed out that since both the Scottish and Welsh Governments reject GM crops the overarching UK administration has no mandate to support the application. [1] The group also highlighted expected harms to the environment, some of which have not been properly assessed.

Campaigns Director Helena Paul said:

The UK administration in Whitehall consistently supports GM applications at EU level, completely disregarding the clear rejection of GM crops by both the Welsh and Scottish Governments and their devolved powers over agriculture. There is no UK mandate for a ‘Yes’ vote on this crop, and the Coalition needs to accept that.

GM Freeze reminded the Government that in addition to recent scientific studies showing that the EU’s non-GM agriculture is producing more food more reliably than the US pro-GM approach, [2] Pioneer1507 has its own problems, including:

  • The GM crop expresses a Bt toxin that is widely acknowledged (including by EFSA in its 2011 revision of its opinion on cultivating Pioneer1507 [3]) to harm non-target insects like butterflies.
  • The crop has a marker gene that makes it tolerant of the herbicide glufosinate (sold under the brand names Basta, Libety and Ignite), which features on the Pesticide Action Network Highly Hazardous Pesticides List and has health impacts including brain and neural damage to developing embryos. [4] The impacts on the environment of blanket spraying of the crop have not been assessed.
  • There has been no assessment of the impact of the crop on pollinators.
  • There has been no risk assessment of the pollen in foodstuffs such as honey.

In the US herbicide tolerant GM crops and reliance on blanket spraying of chemicals have led to the emergence of superweeds with resistance to the weedkillers used. This causes serious problems for farmers and damages habitats for birds and butterflies, such as the Monarch butterfly. [5] Pests are also evolving resistance to GM pest resistant crops that express the Bt toxin.

The European Commission’s assertion that it was bound by a court ruling to process this cultivation application, which has been outstanding for years, does not mean the EU is obliged to approve the crop.

Paul added:

UK citizens don’t want to see GM crops growing in our countryside, nor do we want the problems they bring, like the superweeds and superbugs destroying another harvest in the US as we speak. It’s time for the UK to stop chasing GM fantasies and vote against the authorisation of this crop.




[1] Letter text available upon request

[2] Heinemann, et al, 14 June 2013. “Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest”, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability

[3] GM Freeze, 13 December 2011. “EFSA Admits Bt Maize Threat to Butterflies, Gives Green Light Regardless

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

[5] GM Freeze, 25 June 2013. “Monarch Butterflies: If GM doesn’t get them, Roundup will