Dr Brian John, spokesman for GM-Free Cymru, has reacted to the government’s latest drive for GM crops following a meeting – largely unnoticed by the media – of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF with their industry body, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), Science Minister David Willetts, Lord Taylor, academics from UK universities, research institutes and representatives of the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The summary of the meeting which was written by the ABC and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows plans to:
- spend more taxpayers’ money on R&D for GM crops and on “education”
- promote GM crops in developing countries
- remove regulatory and political barriers
Earlier this month it was widely reported that Owen Paterson, the Cabinet minister in charge of food and farming, said that genetically modified food should be grown and sold widely in Britain and consumer opposition to the technology is a “complete nonsense”.
GM-Free Cymru catalogues Paterson’s errors and – speaking for the group – Dr John says:
“What we have here is a classic example of a Government minister taking an aggressive stance on something which he knows absolutely nothing about.
“We challenge him, on the basis of hard evidence, on every single point which he makes. GM crops and foods are not wanted and not needed, and they harm both the environment and human health. Mr Paterson should seek better advice in future, or choose his friends more carefully.”
GM Education reports that discussions covered:
- how a pro-GM agenda could be promoted in the UK ;
- the encouragement of UK scientists to call for weaker regulation of GM crops in Europe;
- and developing a more pro-GM approach to science in school curriculum.
MP George Freeman, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture is a supporter of GM technology and caused an outcry when he wrongly described M&S broccoli as having been genetically modified. GeneWatch has found details of GM industry funding for Freeman’s group in the Register of All-Party Groups:National Farmers Union Crop Protection Association National Institute of Agricultural Botany British Society of Plant Breeders Agricultural Biotechnology Council, Agricultural Industries Confederation Maltsters Association of Great Britain National Association of British and Irish Millers Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board .
It is provided via Front Foot Communications Ltd who act as the group’s secretariat. Funders include the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (representing the biggest GM crop companies BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer (DuPont), Monsanto and Syngenta); the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Crop Protection Association, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation – see page 508.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture should be free of vested interest – honest and impartial.