GeneWatch PR: No good reason to pursue GM crop commercialisation in the UK now: GeneWatch UK response to Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Report on GM crops

For immediate release Friday 11th July 2003

The Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit report on GM crops published today (1) has revealed that there are no obvious economic benefits from the GM crops currently on offer. It argues that data from elsewhere on benefits is mixed and may not apply to the UK. The potential that GM crops and foods could bring unexpected harmful impacts to human health and the environment is another factor.

"Even the Prime Minister’s closest advisors haven’t been able to come up with a convincing economic case for GM crops in Britain. The only benefit seems to be making it easier for farmers to apply chemical herbicides, but consumers would pick up the bill for keeping GM crops separate by having to pay higher costs for non-GM foods," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch’s Director. "Making the barley barons’ lives a bit easier is not a good enough reason to risk irreversible harm to the environment and human health."

The Strategy Unit report also shows how the extent of regulations makes an impact on the profitability of the GM industry. If regulations are weak, profits will be higher but unanticipated harm may arise.

"It will be a test of Mr Blair’s integrity to see if he really is open-minded about GM crops and pro-environment and pro-health as he has said before. Will he allow the biotechnology industry’s interests to override environmental protection or people’s safety and right to choose?"

"The report points to possible benefits in the future, such as GM crops to produce drugs, but these are years away and raise all kinds of new safety questions – will drugs get into the food chain, for example?" said Dr Mayer. "The logical conclusion from the Strategy Unit’s study is to invest in other forms of production which will deliver the kinds of food and environment people want."

The report also concluded that the UK’s science base will be affected by any decision on GM crops and that the ‘image’ of our science and industry could be damaged if there is a negative reaction to GM crop commercialisation.

"The image of UK’s agricultural science base is in tatters as a result of BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease. Seeing GM as the future of science is outdated. We need a much more innovative approach which does not pretend you can predict and control plants and agriculture gene by gene," said Dr Mayer. "If UK science simply follows the GM route and does not carve out new paths suited to our needs, we will simply trail along behind the US, picking up their leftovers."

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For further information contact:

Dr Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office); 07930 308807 (mobile)

Notes to editors:

"Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and Benefits of GM crops". Strategy Unit, 11th July 2003. See:

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