GeneWatch PR: UK Government ignores science, Parliament and public concerns on GM crops. GeneWatch UK response to the Government's GM policy announcement

Tuesday 9th March 2004 - For immediate release

Today, the UK Government announced its intention in principle to proceed with GM crop growing in a move which manages to simultaneously ignore:

  • its own science review;
  • the PM's Strategy Unit assessment of the costs and benefits;
  • the House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee;
  • and the GM Nation? public debate.

"The Government has ignored the conclusions of the public debate, had no debate in parliament, and given the biotech industry the benefit of the doubt about scientific uncertainty." said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK's Director. "They've betrayed the public's trust, no wonder people are cynical about our political system".

"The Government is behaving very arrogantly with GM crops. They claim to be taking a scientific approach, but have closed their eyes to the limitations of our knowledge," said Dr Mayer. "The Science Review concluded that the public were not anti-science and that there are gaps in our knowledge about the issues worrying people. Clearly, the Government is more interested in the profits of the biotech industry than good science. Giving the go-ahead before any rules are in place to deal with contamination or if other things going wrong, shows how little regard the Government has for the public, non-GM farmers or the environment."

"Questions still hang over the GM maize and the FSE results" said Dr. Mayer. "The FSE's have been re-analysed to look at the non-GM trials that didn't used atrazine, but this was only four sites which is a very limited number. If this was a clinical test for a new drug we would go back and do the trials again, our farm wildlife is in such a precarious state we need to be very careful. And farm scale trials are only one part of the GM safety jigsaw."

Further Information:

Please contact Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office) or 07930 308807

Notes to editors:

  1. The Second Report of the Science Review Panel underlined the rational nature of the public's concerns: "Far from being 'anti-science', there was a strong theme in the Public Debate for further research to be done." And "[a]n important outcome of the Science Review is that many of the uncertainties and gaps in knowledge it addressed, for example in long-term impacts on health or the environment and the co-existence of GM crops with other crops, coincide with concerns expressed during the Public Debate." See: www.gmsciencedebate.org.uk
  2. One of the conclusions of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit review of the costs and benefits of GM crops was that: " But no procedures can be 100% effective, and there will always be the possibility - however small, or disputed - that some unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) adverse impacts to the environment or human health may occur, particularly in the longer-term. The potential irreversibility of some of these impacts also has to be taken into account when considering this possibility". (Field Work. Weighing up the costs and benefits of GM crops. p16)
  3. In its conclusions the Environmental Audit Committee stated: "We are concerned that the GMHT forage maize trials were based on an unsatisfactory, indeed invalid, comparison. It is vital that the Government permit no commercial planting of GMHT forage maize until that crop is thoroughly re-trialled against a non-GM equivalent grown without the use of atrazine." See: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmenvaud.htm
  4. The public debate conclusions included that: ". the general population would prefer caution: commercialisation of GM crop technology should not go ahead without further trials and tests, firm regulation, demonstrated benefits to society (not just for producers) and, above all, clear and trusted answers to unresolved questions about health and the environment" - GM Nation? The findings of the public debate.

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