GENET archive


7-Misc: UK Labour Party invests in GM

mailinglist genet-news
-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  New Labour invests in GM
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by Nicholas Watt
DATE:   July 5, 1999

----------------- archive: ------------------

New Labour invests in GM

Labour was forced on to the defensive yesterday after it emerged
that millions of pounds from the party's pension fund have been
invested in companies that produce genetically modified foods and
tobacco. A spokesman insisted that the party had no qualms about
such investments because managers of Labour's 30 million Pounds
fund pension are under an obligation to secure the best returns
from the market. But the disclosures came as an embarrassment to
ministers who are struggling to calm public fears over GM foods
and who are spending millions warning of the dangers of smoking.

Labour defended its investments yesterday after it emerged that
the City firm Phillips and Drew fund management has ploughed
substantial amounts of the party's pension fund into companies
which have been the focus of protests. They are GM food
conglomerates Novartis and AstraZeneca, and five of the world's
leading tobacco firms, including BAT, Imperial and Seita of
France. The investments were made possible two years ago when the
party relaxed its guidelines on how funds in the Labour party
superannuation society, which provides pensions for 600 party
workers, could be invested.

A party spokesman said yesterday that there was nothing wrong
with the investments. "In common with many funds, the trustees
have chosen to delegate management of the fund, in this case to
Phillips and Drew. "They have an enviable record in harrying
firms about unethical policies," he said. "But they are obliged
to get the best return for the fund. "You cannot place tight
restrictions on such investments." The spokesman added that the
government's position on GM food - to press ahead with research
because of the potential benefits - was well known. "The idea
that we should be embarrassed about investing in companies with a
stake in GM foods is ridiculous," he said.

However, the disclosure has come at an awkward moment for the
government. Only last week Stephen Timms, the pensions minister,
unveiled new rules which will force all occupational pension
schemes to state their position on social, environmental and
ethical investment. The government hopes to discourage investment
in firms that cause damage to the environment. Mr Timms said:
"Ordinary people want to know what is being done with the money
invested on their behalf." AstraZeneca leads the market in
producing GM tomatoes. Novartis produces GM maize.

-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email:

Genet News