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2-Plants: 'Little economic benefit' from GM in UK

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  'Little economic benefit' from GM
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   Jul 11, 2003

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'Little economic benefit' from GM

The commercial growing of genetically modified crops would bring little
short-term benefit to the British economy, a government report has said.

The first of three major reports into biotech plants says only a narrow
range of existing GM crops is suited to British conditions. The report
from the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit says the lack of demand for the GM
foods from shoppers is likely to limit the extent to which farmers grow
the controversial new varieties. But in a signal that Britain should not
turn its back on GM technology, it argues future GM crops could offer
wide ranging benefits to both farmers and consumers in the longer term.

Government decisions

Those potential plus points include GM crops more suited to the British
farming climate and direct health benefits, such as foods with added
nutrients. "However, the overall balance of future costs and benefits
will depend on public attitudes, and on the ability of the regulatory
system to manage uncertainties," it adds. GM crops are one area in which
GM technology has significant potential to contribute to the UK's future
economic prosperity Elliott Morley Environment Minister The government is
set to make a decision later this year on whether or not GM crops should
be commercially grown. It is seeking public opinion on the issue and has
launched a website allowing people to have their say in the GM debate,
which ends on 18 July. Meanwhile, the results of three-year farm-scale GM
crop trials are due in the autumn.


The study for Friday's report looked at the impacts of GM food and
farming on farmers, processors, retailers and consumers, including
organic farmers. It also considered the environmental impacts of GM
crops, and looked at the biotechnology industry. The report suggests the
signal sent out by the government's decision on GM could affect the UK's
ability to attract investment from science-based industries. Environment
group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has warned that allowing the large-scale
growth of GM crops, like oil seed rape, would almost certainly lead to
widespread contamination of organic plants. The report says the rules
imposed on growing GM crops will determine whether the cost of producing
and segregating them from organic plants would outweigh any financial
gain. "Future decisions on GM crops will involve trade-offs between costs
in one area and benefits in another," it says.

Different options

Another example of that trade-off is the fact that strict regulations can
reduce risks but also discourage development and farming of GM crops, it
argues. Environment Minister Elliott Morley said: "The report highlights
that GM crops are one area in which GM technology has significant
potential to contribute to the UK's future economic prosperity and
sustainability. "But it also points out that GM crops are just one
possible tool for achieving our goals - important advances in crop
production will also come from conventional and organic techniques." Mr
Morley told BBC Radio 4's World At One that an open mind should be kept
about GM crops. But there are "a lot of hurdles" before ministers could
even consider giving the go-ahead for commercial GM farming, he added.


Mr Morley's predecessor as environment minister, Michael Meacher, said
government should not approve GM crops in the face of the evidence. Mr
Meacher said: "There is absolutely nothing wrong in pursuing
biotechnology in terms of what may be future gains. "But that is totally
different from giving a positive decision about commercialising GM crops
now, when there is such powerful opposition within the country."

Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said the report
marked a huge shift in the government's position. "The government spin on
the report suggests it promises GM jam tomorrow," he said. "But in
reality it honestly and openly acknowledges that things are just as
likely to go wrong for GM in future as they are to go right."

Earlier, Tony Combes, of the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council, told
the BBC it had been "proved throughout the world" that GM crops gave
higher yields for lower costs. But Canada's National Farmers Union
president Stewart Wells said that in his experience, GM crops had failed
to live up to their promises of increased yields and reduced costs.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: Friends of the Earth UK, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 11 2003

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A key Government report on the economics of GM crops published today
concludes that the public's refusal to eat GM food means that there is
little economic value in the current generation of GM crops, and that
continuing public opposition would also affect their long-term future.

The report has been published by the Number 10 Strategy Unit. Given that
Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Ministers are known to support GM
technology, the report contains a surprising amount of detail which
undermines the case of the biotech lobby. It concludes that:
- any economic benefit to the UK is likely to be limited, at least in the
short-term - only a narrow range of existing GM crops are currently
suited to UK conditions, and weak consumer demand is likely to limit take-up;
- the overall balance of future costs and benefits will depend on public
attitudes, and on the ability of the regulatory system to manage
- any economic benefits from the commercial cultivation of current GM
crops are likely to be outweighed by other developments, at least in the
short-term. UK farmers do not operate in a fully competitive market, and
hence their future profitability is more likely to be determined by
national and EU policy decisions - for example, on the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) - rather than smaller-scale cost savings
arising from the use of current GM crops.

Non-GM farms using farm-saved seed may also face problems due to a
possible accumulation of GM presence in seeds over the years: this could
also have a serious effect on the farm-saved seed industry itself. If the
supply of farm-saved seed is reduced, this may increase the market power
that seed companies hold over farmer.

Friends of the Earth's Director, Tony Juniper, said:

"Although this report was written by staff working for a pro-GM Prime
Minister, they have been forced to conclude that there is little economic
justification for granting commercial approval to GM crops in the short
term. If public opposition continues, the long-term prospect for these
crops is equally bleak. The Government should help UK farmers and food
manufacturers meet the considerable world-wide demand for GM-free food by
keeping Britain's fields free from GM crops.

"The priority for the future should be a programme of investment in
sustainable agriculture that benefits consumers, farmers and the
environment. To achieve this, the Government will need to end its
obsession with crop biotech. Perhaps this report is a first step."

Friends of the Earth has argued that GM crops are a threat to organic and
conventional (non-GM) crops and honey. Opinion polls in the UK and across
Europe, consistently show considerable opposition to GM food - and little
support for it [3]. Most food manufacturers and supermarkets now seek
non-GM ingredients, providing a strong case for the UK to remain GM-free
to help meet this demand. Last week's vote by MEPs to tighten GM
labelling laws is likely to increase demand for GM-free ingredients still
further [4].

The Government is expected to decide whether or not to allow GM crops to
be commercially grown in the UK later this year. Notes

[1] The cost benefit study is one of three strands to the Government's GM
public debate, these are:
- The public GM debate "GM Nation?" which is due to end on the 18 July
Further details are available on the "GM Nation?" web site -
- The Strategy Unit study into the overall costs and benefits of GM
crops, including their effect on conventional and organic farming interests.
- A review of the scientific issues concerning GM. The review, which is
led by Professor David King (the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser),
is due to be published later this month.

More info:

[3] In April 2003, a MORI poll showed that 56 per cent opposed GM food,
compared to one in seven (14 per cent) who support it.

[4] MEPs voted to tighten EU GM labelling regulations last week (2 July).
The current Directive requires food containing an ingredient with at
least one per cent of GM DNA to be labelled. The new proposals would
strengthen this legislation by: increasing its scope to include
derivatives from GM crops (such as oils which don't contain DNA). This
would be done through a comprehensive 'traceability regime' which would
ensure that food ingredients can be tracked so that is known whether or
not they come from GM crops; extending the Directive to include animal
feed. This would allow food manufacturers to ensure that animal products
have not been fed on a GM diet; and reducing the GM labelling threshold
from 1 per cent to 0.9 per cent. Friends of the Earth campaigned for much
stricter levels. Supermarkets and food manufacturers can detect GM
material at 0.1 per cent and currently operate to this threshold. The new
labelling rules must be approved by the Council of EU Agricultural
Ministers (which is almost certain), and could be operational in the
autumn of 2003.

Contact details:

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.

Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Economics of GM Crops - Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report
        Benefits of GM crops 'not proven'
SOURCE: UK Food Group, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 11, 2003

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Ref: Economics of GM Crops - Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report
Benefits of GM crops 'not proven'

The UK Food Group welcomes the acknowledgement in the new report from the
Prime Minister's Strategy Unit that the claims made by the biotech
industry and other proponents of GM crops are 'not proven' in practice.

In relation to developing countries, the UK Food Group supports the
report's recognition that it is more important to "... focus on the
objectives [of agriculture], and to consider GM crops as one possible
solution - rather than to consider GM crops in isolation" [1] and on
shaping development assistance more closely to agricultural practices and
to developing country needs.

The report, importantly, also recognises that issues such as reform of
agricultural subsidies will have a far greater economic impact on
agriculture than GM crops. [2]

We are, however, disappointed that the study has not been more rigorous
in considering the development issues raised by the possible introduction
of GM crops in developing countries. It is the UK Food Group's view [3]
that GM crops are irrelevant for the eradication of hunger: rather, our
priority is on mainstreaming support for sustainable agriculture
approaches that will meet the needs of the majority - poor smallholder
farmers in developing countries.

The report does, however, acknowledge the need for more examination of
this significant area [4], and we call on the Government to set up an
independent review of these issues to fill in the gaps identified by this


Notes for editors:

[1] Strategy Unit's Report "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and
Benefits of GM crops" paragraph 5.1.8

[2] Strategy Unit's Report "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and
Benefits of GM crops" Executive Summary, paragraph 36 'Wider developments
in agriculture ...'

[3] See UK Food Group's Briefing "GM Crops and Developing Countries"

[4] Strategy Unit's Report "Field Work: Weighing up the Costs and
Benefits of GM crops" paragraphs 5.1.6 - 5.1.8

[5] The UK Food Group believes that such an independent review should
include input and analysis by a panel comprising a wide range of
expertise in social, economic, environmental and development issues, and
should involve smallholder farmers and consumers from developing
countries. (We note that the Strategy Unit failed to appoint an
independent Expert Group to advise on this important area, despite
appointing three Expert Groups to advise on other areas of the study.)

Patrick Mulvany: 07949 575711
Kevan Bundell: 01489 784681 & 020 7523 2007
Richard Tapper: 0208 549 1988 (to 13 July)
UK Food Group, PO Box 100, London, SE1 7RT, UK. email:


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
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email:  genetnl(at)