Archived press release
Hampshire Vote Brings GM-Free Population to 14 Million

Hampshire County Council yesterday voted to go GM free, bringing the total UK population living in areas with a GM-free policy to 14 million. The authority joins a growing number of local councils around the country opposing GM crops and foods. Friends of the Earth welcomed the vote which comes as the Government prepares to announce its official policy on GM crops.

Although the Government is expected to approve the first GM crop - a GM maize - for commercial growing, many local councils do not share its enthusiasm for the technology. More than 40 local authorities have voted for GM free policies [1]. This includes opposing the growing of GM crops on council land and banning GM ingredients in their catering, like school meals. More than half, including Hampshire, will also apply to prevent GM crops being grown across their entire areas, using a new European law [2].

Hampshire is the largest local authority to add its voice to local opposition to GM crops. The resolution, passed at a full meeting of the council, stated that the council would request the UK Government to keep Hampshire GM-free because of the area's rich biological diversity.

Jenny Owens, a Havant resident who addressed the council meeting and called for a GM-free policy, said:

"This is a fantastic result. GM crops could spell disaster to Hampshire's organic and conventional farmers and could mean we have no choice but to eat and grow GM. If that happens who will pay? We simply do not know what effect GM crops would have on insects, birds and small mammals or what new weed killers would do to our aquifers and unique chalk streams".

Hampshire council's decision follows almost a year of lobbying by Friends of the Earth campaigners from across the county.

Friends of the Earth's GM-free Hampshire co-ordinator, Ray Cobbett, added:

"We are very pleased that the council took this initiative, made GM a cross-party issue and that the motion was supported unanimously. We are not anti-science, but we are deeply worried by decisions about our food chain where there is clear conflict among experts".

Friends of the Earth GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"Any green light the Government gives to GM crops in Britain will go down like a lead balloon with all those local areas wanting to stay GM free. GM crops threaten our local food, farming and environment and are deeply unpopular. Local councils up and down the country recognise this and are taking steps to protect their areas before it's too late. The Government should stop pushing forward with GM crops that will benefit no one except the biotech companies, and reject the commercial growing of these unpopular and unnecessary crops."

Friends of the Earth believes that no GM crops should be grown, including further trials, until new laws are in place to prevent contamination of organic and conventional crops, and to ensure that biotechnology companies are held liable if things go wrong [4].

Notes

[1] A (high resolution) map of GM free areas is available from the press office at Friends of the Earth. Those areas coloured green have passed the strongest policies to oppose GM crops and food. Local authorities that have passed GM-free resolutions are: County councils: Cornwall,* Cumbria,* Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Warwickshire*, Lancashire, Shropshire*, Oxfordshire*, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire*, Hampshire*, Unitary authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, Brighton and Hove City Council*, Bristol City Council*, South Gloucestershire*, York City Council*, London Borough of Southwark*, Newcastle, Dudley Metropolitan Borough council*, Gravesham borough council*, Districts: South Hams (Devon)*, South Somerset*, Penwith (SW), Ryedale*, East Riding of Yorkshire *, Chesterfield, Wokingham*, Wealden (E Sussex), Mid Devon*, Weymouth, West Lindsey, Bournemouth, Colchester* National Parks Authorities Lake District National Parks Authority*, North York Moors, Scotland: Highland Council, West Lothian* Town/Parish councils: Bridport (Dorset), Norton Radstock (within Bath & NE Somerset), Goole (East Yorkshire), Edenthorpe Parish Council.
(Those with an * have committed to using the new EU legislation - see below.)

[2] Councils can request legal protection for their areas from particular GM crops using Article 19 of the Deliberate Release Directive 2001/18/EC. For more explanation see briefing on GM-Free local areas:
www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/gmfree_local_areas.pdf (PDF format)

[3] Text of the resolution:

25 February 2004

  1. That the County Council updates its precautionary GM Policy to reflect recent changes in EU Law, the findings of the latest Government reports and crop trials and feedback from the County Council's GM Debate as follows:

    That the County Council will:

    • Not provide meals containing detectable genetically modified ingredients, in line with the latest EU legal standards.
    • Advise Hampshire food businesses on the requirements of the new EU Regulations on GM Food Labelling and enforce the new rules via Trading Standards inspections, traceability checks, sampling and analysis.
    • Not permit the growing of GM crops on County Council land and request the Government, as far as possible, to keep Hampshire free from GM crops by using Article 19 of EU Directive 2001/18/EC
    • Use its own scientific and food inspection protocols to identify non-GM alternatives to permitted GM ingredients and urge the UK Government to invest in further independent scientific research on the effects of GM.
    • Request that, because of Hampshire's unusually rich biological diversity, the government consults Hampshire County Council on any proposed trialling or commercial growing of any GM crops in the County before any consents are given.
    • Requests the UK Government to keep the UK GM-free until it has scientific evidence that there are no significant risks to human health or the environment.
    • Encourage District and Unitary Councils in Hampshire to adopt this or a similar policy with respect to their land and services.
  2. That officers prepare a non-technical guidance note on the precautionary GM policy for dissemination to interested parties. T. K. THORNBER, C.B.E.

[4] Friends of the Earth supports Conservative MP Gregory Barker who has brought forward a Bill to set such laws. The Bill will be debated in Parliament on 26th March 2004.


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust