Tag Archives: Organic Research Centre

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.






Rising antibiotic resistance in E.coli on UK supermarket meat

9 Sep

tracy-and-pigLast December this site reported that Tracy Worcester is drawing attention to the subject of antibiotic resistance, which is growing – developing not in humans, but in bacteria that can then infect humans. Surgical and cancer chemotherapy patients rely on antibiotics to protect them from potentially life-threatening illnesses and declining efficacy could turn routine procedures into life-threatening ones.

The Organic Research Centre now reports that a new study carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). It tested for the presence of E. coli which are resistant to the key antibiotics for treating E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in people. The highly resistant ESBL E. coli was found on meat from all of the supermarkets.


The research found rising levels of resistance in chicken meat, with 24% of samples testing positive for ESBL E. coli, a type of E. coli resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli. Modern cephalosporins are widely used for treating life-threatening E.coli blood poisoning in humans.

51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections. In addition, 19% of the E. coli were resistant to gentamicin, a very important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.

The findings provide further evidence that the overuse of antibiotics used to mass medicate livestock on British farms is likely to be undermining the treatment of E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in humans. Some of the antibiotics tested are used in far greater quantities in livestock farming than in human medicine.

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I’m concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system. These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

E-coli is by far the most common cause of urinary-tract infections and of dangerous blood poisoning, and can also cause meningitis. These infections must be treated with antibiotics. Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust said: “This study highlights a worrying trend towards rising resistance in E.coli on UK retail meat. E.coli in people is the greatest cause of deaths from sepsis, and poor antimicrobial stewardship in intensive farming is undoubtedly contributing to this trend. It’s of paramount importance that we act decisively to reduce this immediate threat to human life.”

Two recommendations:

 Other proposals:

Tracy points out that we have the choice to buy meat with the high welfare labels RSPCA Assured, Outdoor Bred, Free Range or Organic – eat less meat as Anna advocates – or go meat-free. See the World Health Organisation on the health issues here.

Buy organic/local?

Organic farming is perceived as providing a better quality of life for farmed animals and an earlier article reports that a new financial report on organic farming in England and Wales for 2014/15, undertaken by the Organic Research Centre for the Welsh Government, shows organic farm profits increasing, with organic dairy farming outperforming conventional dairy farming in England and Wales. In particular, the organic dairy industry is now generating higher profits than conventional farms despite producing lower yields.

Animal welfare has been a key motivator to consumers who are increasingly choosing organic products with quality assurance standards, because they want to know the origins of their food, and are willing to pay more for products which are ‘friendly’ to wildlife and the environment.


Professor Nic Lampkin from the Organic Research Centre in Newbury, was one of the co-authors of the report and the Cambridge study was commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, of which the Organic Research Centre is a member.




A medic’s random reflections on pesticides – and news of a government monitoring plan

27 Jul

Searching Dr Mansfield’s archive for his views on the relative merits of pasteurised and unpasteurised milk I got sidetracked by a reference to the word ‘pesticides’ and searched on this word, receiving an unexpected bonus – information which I hope will be new to some readers, as it was to me.

Far more could be learnt from the book he wrote with Dr Jean Munro, ‘Chemical Children’.

Responding to one of Dr Mansfield’s essays, Mark Measures sent him a copy of a letter sent to the Sunday Times: 

There is a plethora of other information showing higher levels of vitamins and lower levels of pesticides. And it should be pointed out that no one knows the true risks from pesticides as no one has tested the safety of the use of multiple chemicals on food crops – the so-called cocktail effect.

The controlled trial of organic compared to conventional food on a human group over one generation may not yet have been done, but all the indicators are there. With increasing incidence of “environmental-related” diseases something needs to be done and eating organic food is one of a number of commonsense approaches.

Mark is the Director of the Institute of Organic Training & Advice, Craven Arms, Shropshire. It has just merged with the Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm.

Extracted from Dr Mansfield’s Rethink Health Bulletins, 2007-10

I suspect obesity is a result of other factors that predispose to cancer, such as consuming pesticide residues that are dispersed in fat. Natural therapy cancer clinics have insisted for decades that diet is crucial to evading cancer, and that food should be organically grown. This won’t stop me having organic sausages, bacon or a kipper for breakfast occasionally. It confirms much of what we already knew, but brings that knowledge in from the fringe to centre-stage.

Nobody yet knows what underlies the brain-wasting diseases. Meanwhile, there are two candidates worth serious attention. One is poisoning with accumulative toxins such as pesticides, mercury, lead, aluminium and arsenic. The other is mediocre food, failing to maintain the brain in good repair into advanced old age.

Quite a few modern chemicals are much harder to deal with. Those designed to kill insects are the most difficult. Many do not bio-degrade, so you consume them along with the food that was sprayed. They dissolve in fat rather than water, so that they can penetrate the skin of the insect. This makes them hard to handle in your body, and a good few are deposited in your fat cells so that they can at least be out of harm’s way. We know this because human milk, and fat samples from accident victims, were until 2000 analysed by the MAFF Working Party on Pesticide Residues. These residues have been declining over the years as their dangers have been recognised, but the range of values varied widely between individuals, some of whom were sufficiently contaminated to raise concerns. (These analyses seem to have been dropped by the Pesticide Residues Committee who superseded it.) I followed this link and found this information:

Proposals for 2012 UK Monitoring Plan for Pesticide Residues in Food and Drink: http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/guidance/industries/pesticides/advisory-groups/PRiF/PRC-results-and-reports/proposals-for-2012-uk-monitoring-plan-for-pesticide-residues-in-food-and-drink

One to watch!