UK Government Pressed on Pro-GM Position

11 March 2014 — Sustainable Pulse

Food & Water Europe today asked the UK Government to change its vocal but ill-founded pro-GM position in light of the evidence that GM and non-GM farming are incompatible.

Owen Paterson

EU Food Policy Analyst Eve Mitchell said, “The UK Government keeps saying it will base its GM policy on evidence and that it will listen to public views, so we’re asking how it is addressing the evidence that doesn’t suit its pro-GM agenda.”

Food & Water Europe is particularly keen to hear how UK Government support for GM cultivation protects the rights of farmers and consumers who want to avoid GMOs.

A new survey of farmers conducted by Washington DC-based Food & Water Watch and the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing across 17 U.S. states reveals that since GM cultivation was introduced in 1996, GM contamination has unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours and financial insecurity, while those growing GM crops are not required to mitigate the risk of contamination. Survey results show GM and non-GM coexistence is a practical impossibility in the small fields of the EU and UK. Even in the huge agricultural holdings farmed in the U.S.:

  •  52 percent of survey respondents have had shipments rejected due to GM contamination at a median cost of US$4,500 due to this load rejection — one farmer reported a US$367,000 loss in one year. Five out of six responding farmers are concerned about GMO contamination impacting their farm, with 60 percent saying they are extremely concerned.
  • Over two-thirds of respondents do not think good stewardship alone is enough to protect organic and non-GMO farmers from contamination.
  • Nearly half of respondents are sceptical that GM and non-GM crop production can coexist.
  • In addition, Food & Water Europe asked the UK Government to explain how it will develop the necessary coexistence legislation needed to introduce GM crops to England when the Scottish and Welsh Governments remain steadfastly opposed to GM cultivation and the Scots even oppose coexistence regulation because they find it incompatible with their moratorium on all GM crops. These are serious policy problems given the clear risk that English GM farming will contaminate Welsh and Scottish farms across national borders.

Given the incompatibility of GM and non-GM farming, the organisation is asking the UK Government if it will now support full liability being placed firmly on GM patent holders for all economic and environmental damage caused by their products, including biotech companies paying into a compensation fund and new measures to ensure that those wishing to bring GM products to market bear the costs of the necessary segregation, rather than the other way around as is now the case.

Mitchell concluded, “UK Government support for GM crops is ill-founded, the practicalities have not been thought through, and the underlying problems are not going to go away. While the UK Government continues to act as a cheerleader for GM crops, we can’t see how it will be able to protect farmers and consumers who want to exercise their right to avoid GMOs or how it will ensure it isn’t non-GM farmers who pay the price for the inevitable contamination GM crops will cause. We’re appealing to the UK Government to do the right thing, listen to the lessons learned elsewhere and withdraw from its misplaced support for GM crops before it is too late.”

UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is one of the most prominent global GMO supporters, he even went as far as labeling all GMO Free campaigners as ‘wicked‘ in 2013.

The UK Government also confirmed in November that it will support Monsanto in a European court case brought by European civil society groups. In a written Parliamentary Answer, Earl Howe stated that the Government will intervene in the European Court of Justice to support the biotechnology giant, which wishes to import a GMO soy variety called Intacta into the EU for food and feed uses.

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