GeneWatch PR: NGOs Agree Main Issues in GM Debate

Embargoed until 00.01 Monday 2nd June 2003

Eight key issues must be addressed in the Government’s ‘GM Nation?’ debate (1), which starts tomorrow (3rd June 2003), according to a joint statement published today by twelve national NGOs spanning the consumer, environmental, farming, aid and trade union agendas (2).

The statement is accompanied by a leaflet and website (, designed to ensure the public have easy access to key information on the debate. The issues include:

  • the inadequacy of GM food safety testing;
  • the likelihood of environmental contamination;
  • the removal of consumer choice;
  • the lack of laws covering environmental and economic liability;
  • the increasing concentration of power in the food chain;
  • the inability of GM food to stop world hunger despite claims that it will.

Clare Devereux, Director of the Five Year Freeze, said: "The questions that need to be raised during the public debate are no different from those raised in 1999 when the Five Year Freeze coalition was set up to voice the concerns of many organisations. After 4 years, the questions hanging over GM crops and food have simply not been answered."

"Much more research is needed into the long-term environmental and health impacts of exposure to GMOs. Genetic pollution is irreversible and potentially a major threat to biodiversity. Farmers must have the right to grow seeds that are 100% uncontaminated by GMOs and consumers must have the right to buy food that is 100% uncontaminated by GMOs," said Helen Carey, National Chairman, National Federation of Women's Institutes.

Kevan Bundell, Senior Policy Officer of Christian Aid, challenged the role of GM in feeding the world's population. "Claims that GM is needed to feed the world ignore the reality that the key cause of hunger across the world is poverty - not having the means to either buy or grow enough food. What's required is support to poor farmers and local markets, not an extension of intensive agriculture controlled by corporate interests."

Farmers' Union of Wales Deputy President, Gareth Vaughan, said the Union was concerned that the development of GM food was being permitted despite surveys indicating consumer opposition. "The FUW, one of the first organisations to successfully urge the National Assembly to establish a GM-free Wales, believes GM organisms should only be tested in a controlled and regulated environment."

"We demand that the Government consults the National Assembly on any proposed commercial releases of GM organisms in Wales," added Mr Vaughan.

Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, said: "This is a time for real choices to be made between the inevitability of widespread GM contamination or the continued steady expansion of healthy and profitable UK organic farming."

- ends -

For more information contact:

Carrie Stebbings (Co-ordinator, Five Year Freeze) 020 7837 0642

Clare Devereux (Director, Five Year Freeze) 07803 002825

Sue Mayer (Director, GeneWatch) 01298 871898 or 07930 308807

Note for Editors:

  1. ‘GM Nation?’ is a public debate on the use of GM food and crops in the UK. It was initially proposed by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission in its report 'Crops on Trial', published in September 2001.
    The debate is being organised by the Central Office of Information (COI) Tel: 0207 261 8528. It involves a series of 6 regional meetings, followed by more locally based meetings organised by, amongst others, County Councils. The debate will be launched on 3rd June 2003 and the first meeting will take place that day at the NEC Birmingham (3.00pm).
  2. The joint statement has been signed by Action Aid, Christian Aid, Five Year Freeze, Friends of the Earth, Farmers Union of Wales, GeneWatch UK, Greenpeace, Henry Doubleday Research Association, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, National Federation of Women's Institutes, Soil Association and UNISON.
    Click here for full text of Joint Statement.
  3. Further details about the public debate can be found on the official debate website: or via the GeneWatch UK website

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