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9-Misc: UK GM debate (3): Monsanto wrote report section - adviserquits panel



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                                  PARTI
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Dissenting adviser quits GM panel
SOURCE: The Observer, UK, by Robin McKie and Mark Townsend
        http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,9061,1002057,00.html
DATE:   Jul 20, 2003

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---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   "At that time, Leifert was seeking a share of a 14 million EU grant
    to research organic and sustainable farming in Britain. 'The final
    straw came when he was told that Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto had
    been commissioned to write the first draft of its consideration of
    GM safety issues,' said the source. In the House of Commons on
    Thursday, Joan Ruddock asked the new Environment Minister Elliot
    Morley if he was concerned that the food safety section had been
    written by a Monsanto employee. Morley did not reply."
---------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dissenting adviser quits GM panel

A key member of the government science review panel on genetically
modified crops has resigned - because he feared his academic funding
might be withdrawn if he continued to raise objections to GM foods.

Carlo Leifert, a world expert in organic food production, stepped down
from Tony Blair's GM science review panel amid allegations that he was
facing fierce pressure to toe a pro-biotech line.

The panel's keenly awaited report on GM crops is due to be published
tomorrow. A copy of its executive summary, seen by The Observer,
indicates that the panel could find no evidence that eating modified
foods poses a threat to health and concludes that GM crops are 'very
unlikely to invade our countryside or become problematic plants'.

However, the panel stops short of giving blanket approval to the growing
of GM crops in the UK, concluding that plans to grow modified plants
should be approached on a case-by-case basis.

The report was welcomed yesterday by the agro-biotech industry, but
condemned by green activists and politicians, including former
Environment Minister Michael Meacher. 'This is just a rehash of existing
reports and includes no data of systematic trials to test GM food safety.
This is Iraq Mark 2: there is no supporting evidence for action, the
public don't like it and the Government seems determined to over-rule all
opposition,' he said.

For several weeks, the panel's chairman, the government chief scientist
David King, and his committee members have been feverishly exchanging
emails and letters in a bid to present a unanimous report. Many panel
members doubted if King would succeed and concluded that there would have
to be a minority report over the GM health issue that would be attached
to the main document. 'It got very, very near the knuckle last week,'
said one member.

However, King appears to have adroitly avoided this problem - but at the
expense of Leifert, who resigned as the panel began preparing its report
last month. Sources told The Observer that he felt increasingly isolated
after raising repeated concerns about the safety and environmental
impacts of GM crops and began worrying he might lose grants if he kept
questioning the technology. However, there is no evidence to suggest any
panel member threatened him over this.

At that time, Leifert was seeking a share of a 14 million EU grant to
research organic and sustainable farming in Britain. 'The final straw
came when he was told that Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto had been
commissioned to write the first draft of its consideration of GM safety
issues,' said the source.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Joan Ruddock asked the new
Environment Minister Elliot Morley if he was concerned that the food
safety section had been written by a Monsanto employee. Morley did not reply.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace spokesman, said the episode was 'disgraceful'.

The leaking of the report threatens to cloud deliberations over the
future of GM crops in Britain. 'This report shows that GM foods appear to
be safe to eat and safe to grow,' said Paul Rylott, chairman of the
agricultural biotechnology council, which represents GM crop companies.
'We fully accept that each new crop must be regulated separately. We are
not asking for blanket approval, just common sense.' 


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

TITLE:  GM crops threaten wildlife, official scientific review decides
SOURCE: The Independent, UK, by Severin Carrell
        http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=425892
DATE:   Jul 20, 2003

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GM crops threaten wildlife, official scientific review decides

The widespread planting of GM crops in Britain could severely damage
wildlife such as birds and insects, an expert scientific review will warn
tomorrow.

An inquiry chaired by Professor Sir David King, the Prime Minister's
chief scientific adviser, will endorse fears that growing some types of
herbicide-resistant GM crops could have a significant impact on the
countryside.

Some GM crops being considered for Britain, such as sugar beet and
oilseed rape, are designed to survive the use of so-called "broad
spectrum" herbicides that wipe out other weeds and plants.

But that would threaten wildlife, such as skylarks which feed on the
"fat-hen" weed growing in sugar beet fields, creating the "green deserts"
feared by many naturalists. "This is perhaps the most serious potential
harm," the report says.

The warning will be one of the strongest conclusions from an exhaustive
"science review" being published by Professor King tomorrow, which will
also state that current GM foods are safe to eat.

Because of the perceived threat to wildlife, Professor King's committee
will write an up-date report after the results of trials into GM maize,
beet and oilseed rape come out in September.

The report also suggests that a new generation of weedkiller-resistant
superweeds could be created in the future unless the Government and
farming regulators are extremely careful about where and when different
GM crops are used.

But it says this risk - based on the fear that GM genes which are
resistant to different weedkillers could "stack up" in weeds - is only
likely to arise in five to 10 years and only if GM crops become
widespread in Britain.

At present, because few GM crops are likely to be planted in Britain due
to public hostility, the risk of creating superweeds is seen as low.

But the document, agreed late last week by a panel of 24 leading
scientists, biotech industry executives and naturalists, is likely to
disappoint many anti-GM campaigners and environmentalists. It is
understood to be more neutral and non-committal about the potential
problems than a critical report on the economic value of GM crops
released by the Prime Minister's Strategic Policy Unit earlier this month.

It will also say that GM crops should be planted in the UK, and licensed
on a case-by-case basis.

The Downing Street document, which suggested there was little short-term
economic or consumer advantage to planting GM crops, has led Tony Blair
to substantially rethink his pro-GM stance. He is now said to be more
cautious about supporting the commercial planting of GM crops in Britain.




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