Sunday 13th May
GeneWatch UK today
welcomed the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee's report on
sustainable food which recommends government action to tackle the UK's unhealthy
and environmentally damaging food system (1). The report cites GeneWatch's
evidence that GM crops pose significant downsides for farmers and questions
whether such crops should be licensed for commercial use. It also highlights
the need to diversify the research funding system so that better farmland, soil
and water management are no longer ignored in favour of research on GM crops
which can be patented.
"American farmers are increasingly expressing regret at planting GM crops which are now causing major problems. If farmers in Britain or other countries adopt the same system there is a danger that they will be trapped in debt, due to seed price hikes and the emergence of resistant weeds and pests. Loss of GM-free markets and the costs of segregation would also be costly for those farmers who do not want to plant GM" said Dr Wallace. "It is time the Government reviewed the whole research funding system so money is no longer wasted on expensive, patented GM seeds, instead of research into sustainable food that farmers and the public so urgently need."
GeneWatch UK also welcomed this week's decision by the European Parliament to confirm that conventionally-bred plants, seeds and animals are not patentable (2).
"For decades, important research that cannot be patented has been neglected in favour of GM crops that can. This allows monopoly control over the food chain by a small number of commercial companies" said Dr Wallace. "Recently, the European Patent Office has begun to grant patents on non-GM plants, seeds and animals. We welcome MEPs' decision to call a halt to this illegal practice."
GeneWatch's evidence to the Committee highlighted a number of concerns about GM crops, including:
(1) Increasing monopoly control over the food chain by a small number of commercial companies, due to the patenting of GM seeds;
(2) The spread of herbicide-tolerant superweeds in the US and South America, which pose serious difficulties and costs for farmers;
(3) The emergence of pests resistant to GM pest-resistant crops, and increases in other types of pests, in India and China;
(4) Impacts on non-GM farmers of incidents in which experimental or commercially-grown GM crops contaminate their crops and lead to lost markets at significant expense;
(5) Costs of segregating non-GM and GM crops, foods and seeds, which fall on conventional and organic farmers.
GeneWatch also highlighted how a series of damaging decisions about research priorities in food and farming were made in the 1980s and have become entrenched in the research funding system. This has led to the development of GM seeds, which can be patented, being prioritised over other types of research, including modern conventional breeding and improved farmland, soil and water management.
In addition, GeneWatch provided evidence from a European study of Local Food Systems, which highlights the potential for the production and sale of more sustainable, healthy food by networks of local businesses (3).
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300(office): 07903-311584(mobile).
Notes for Editors:
(1) House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. Sustainable Food. http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news/report-on-sustainable-food/
(2) European Parliament Votes Against Patents on Plants and Animals - Resolution calls for stop to patents on conventional breeding. http://no-patents-on-seeds.org/en/information/news/european-parliament-votes-against-patents-plants-and-animals
(3) Local Food systems in Europe - Case studies from five countries and what they imply for policy and practice. On: http://www.faanweb.eu/