Disappointing Government Announcement on Genetic Modification

On 21 October the Government made a rushed announcement on genetic modification which left a lot to be desired. Speaking to the House of Lords European Affairs Committee, the Environment Minister Michael Meacher and Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said that a voluntary agreement with the biotechnology industry had been reached for a 'programme of managed development of herbicide tolerant GM crops'. The agreement means that important ecological research will take place on commercial sites run by biotechnology companies rather than at Government research sites. The Government have therefore lost regulatory and political control of the process. And having a voluntary agreement is questionable since these have been flouted in the past by industry.

The Government also announced an agreement with industry not to plant insect-resistant GM crops in the UK for 3 years. In fact, there would not have been any insect-resistant crops ready in that time anyway, so it is no major concession for the industry. It is not surprising that they were so pleased to make this announcement!

New Government Commitment

On the brighter side, Friends of the Earth (FOE) welcomes the commitment by the Government to broaden the remit of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, and to expand the scope of the EU Directive 90/220 to ensure that the scope and environmental risk assessment are well-defined and broad enough to cover indirect as well as direct effects of genetically modified organisms.

New Briefing Available in the new year - a Moratorium or not?

The FOE Food and Biotechnology Campaign will shortly publish a new briefing which demystifies the government's recent announcement on GE crops. Many people in the press and public thought the government effectively announced a moratorium but on closer examination this was far from the truth. The very cleverly worded statement in fact gave the go ahead for commercial growing!

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