DEFRA on GM technology

7 Nov

Shortly after a controversy reported in the Farmers Guardian, on 1st  November 2012, a new entry about GM technology was placed on the DEFRA website.

It is pleasing to see a commitment to clear GM labelling and we hope that this will be retained. However the undertaking that “we will implement pragmatic and proportionate measures to segregate these from conventional and organic crops” appears to be promising the impossible.

And what is meant by this: “the Government believes that regulation of this technology must be proportionate”?


  • The Government will only agree to the planting of GM crops, the release of other types of GM organism, or the marketing of GM food or feed products, if a robust risk assessment indicates that it is safe for people and the environment.  GM product applications should be assessed for safety on a case-by-case basis, taking full account of the scientific evidence.
  • The Government will ensure consumers are able to exercise choice through clear GM labelling rules and the provision of suitable information, and will listen to public views about the development and use of the technology.
  • The Government supports farmers having access to developments in new technology and being able to choose whether or not to adopt them.  If and when GM crops are grown in England commercially, we will implement pragmatic and proportionate measures to segregate these from conventional and organic crops, so that choice can be exercised and economic interests appropriately protected.
  • The Government recognises that GM technology could deliver benefits providing it is used safely and responsibly, in particular as one of a range of tools to address the longer term challenges of global food security, climate change, and the need for more sustainable agricultural production.  (Here we would recommend Dr Michael Antoniou’s GM Myths and Truths to our DEFRA reader.
  • Developing countries should have fair access to such technology and make their own informed decisions regarding its use.
  • To encourage innovation, fair market access for safe products and economic growth, the Government believes that regulation of this technology must be proportionate.

David Burrows reports that the  Government has reacted angrily to claims it is brokering ‘secret deals’ with biotechnology companies to push genetically modified (GM) foods.

The claims were founded on information in a document, obtained through Freedom of Information, which is linked to a meeting back in June between various biotechnology companies, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), Science Minister David Willetts and the then Defra Minister Lord Taylor.

A summary of notes highlighted the need for, among other things, ‘increased investment in biotech’ and the ‘start of a public debate about the role of biotech’.


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