Tag Archives: GM Freeze

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.






Germany, France and Austria use ‘without biotech’ labels – shall we?

6 Jun

scottish farmer logoFSA research published in January 2013 found support for GM-free labels, including on meat, milk and eggs from GM-fed animals, which are currently excluded from the GM labelling regulations:

  • a slight preference for labelling indicating the presence of GM, rather than labelling indicating the absence of GM.
  • once made aware of of the use of GM animal feed by farmers, participants typically considered that products from animals fed GM feed should be labelled, consistent with previous FSA research.

The Scottish Farmer reports that the Food Standards Agency is now preparing to debate whether foods derived from genetically modified ingredients should be labelled as such.

Germany, France and Austria already operate ‘without biotech’ labels on animal products.

In an open letter to FSA board members, GM Freeze urged the agency to back moves to harmonise GM-free labelling across the EU, which would put labels on foods containing GM ingredients and, crucially, on foods from animals reared on GM feed.

GM Freeze spokesman Pete Riley said: “Consumers have been demanding comprehensive labelling of GM use in food production for many years, but the FSA has always failed to support it, despite the fine words in their vision statement about ensuring consumers have ‘informed choices’.

We hope that the FSA will recommend harmonisation with the good practice prevailing in Germany, France and Austria – and support its extension to all EU countries.


Though GM potato found no buyers, BASF chooses to blame lack of political support for this failure

5 Feb

Dr N. sends the good news that though BASF’s genetically modified potato project gained approval at EU level in 2010, it has been a commercial failure. German chemical firm BASF has announced it is now halting the development of all its GM potato varieties in Europe. The company is also dropping research into GM “nutritionally enhanced corn” in the US.

amflora potatoThe Amflora potato did not appeal to European consumers and farmers, according to BASF’s Jennifer Moore-Braun, and were only being grown on a two-hectare site in Germany.

BASF, which had been seeking EU approval for three other GM varieties, is to move its biotech headquarters to America, and has now decided to ‘walk away from Europe’ altogether, according to the BBC’s environment correspondent, Matt McGrath.

Lack of political support – really?

BASF seems unwilling to acknowledge that there is no market for the products. “No-one from the political side supported (Amflora). There were no signals from the European Commission that any change was likely,” Ms Moore-Braun told BBC News.

tonio borg 3 eu health commissionerMcGrath adds that the BASF move comes at a time when several recent reports indicate that the new EU health commissioner, Tonio Borg, might seek a freeze on the approval of new GM crops until at least 2014.

At present, any crop approved at EU level can be grown anywhere in the Union unless countries have specific scientific reasons for blocking it. Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland – have used this provision to stop the technology.

However, as Pete Riley from GM Freeze reminds us, the EU Commission continues to be under pressure from the US and the World Trade Organisation to lift the ban on the technology.



 More cheeringly, in an informative press release, he adds: “Conventional plant breeders can now get on with developing conventional potatoes for industrial uses or with blight resistance, for which there is a clear market, as they have for many years”.