Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Europe
Brussels – “The recent UK Government announcement that it is stepping up its promotion of GM cultivation raises serious questions about whether or not the GM industry is calling the shots in Whitehall agriculture policy development.
“Downing Street was quick to support Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s call for GM crops to be grown and sold widely in the UK. A Freedom of Information request by GeneWatch UK and GM Freeze recently revealed UK Ministers and other officials attended a biotech industry meeting in June that resolved to use more taxpayer money to promote GM crops and to press harder to remove any residual “barriers”. This push has been expected, and industry’s influence on the highest levels of the UK Government helps explain why an administration adamant its policy will be science-based is instead promoting a policy that goes out of its way to avoid incorporating even the UK’s own scientific evidence on GM. See our blog for more detail.
“If you take a step back for a wider look it’s not a pretty picture. The last UK Secretary of State for Food and Rural Affairs owned a GM lobbying company until public pressure forced her to shut it down. Her replacement, Owen Paterson, has a brother-in-law who is a keen and vocal GM advocate and writes for the newspaper Paterson used to “break” this story. However, he is better known for the bank he ran, Northern Rock, which collapsed and had to be bailed out by taxpayers. This is not our idea of a good pool of advisors for developing food policy based on scientific evidence.
“Defra says public and environmental safety are the Government’s priority, and that its decisions on GM would be science based. The UK Government already has its own studies showing GM does cause harm, and in the decade since the Farm Scale Trials concluded the evidence base has grown around the world. Based on Defra’s own reassurance GM crops should not be considered.
“Rather than backing more reliable technologies, the Government is attempting to ignore its own evidence showing that public concern is high and that GM raises serious health and environmental concerns. The facts are clear: GM is an unpredictable, unnecessary technology that is unwanted by anyone other than those with a financial stake in their success.”
Contact: Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor +44 (0) 7962 437 128 (mobile)