GENET archive


6-Regulation: Somerset Council (UK) voted to become GE-free zone

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                                  PART I
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SOURCE: Friends of the Earth, UK, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 23, 2003

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Today Somerset became the latest council in the southwest to state its
opposition to GM crops and back policies to protect the county from GM
pollution. Friends of the Earth, which launched its GM-free Britain
campaign last year [1], welcomed the move.

The resolution, passed unanimously at the full council session this
morning, stated that the council does not believe that GM crops should be
grown commercially, has reconfirmed its GM-free policy for county farms
and suppliers and will apply to prevent specific GM crops from being
grown in the county once it has had the European legislation clarified
[2], if that is what the public in Somerset want [3].

There is widespread opposition to GM crops in Somerset. Taunton Friends
of the Earth has set up a database of over 20 000 acres which landowners
have pledged to keep GM-free. 1500 postcards have been sent to the county
council, central Government and to Europe voicing local feeling, as part
of a county-wide roadshow over the summer.

Tushie Garstang from Taunton Friends of the Earth said:

"We are very pleased with this unanimous vote today. Tthere is strong
local opposition to GM crops and foods in Somerset, and we are renowned
for our high quality local food. This vote clearly shows that the council
wants to protect this reputation and oppose GM crops. We will keep a
close eye on the council to make sure they follow through on what they
have promised today."

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner in the South West, Keith Hatch said:
"This is another positive move from a council in the Southwest, where
more and more local authorities are taking action to be GM-free. This is
also more evidence that people do not want their food, farming and
environment contaminated with GM pollution, and another reason why the
Government must refuse to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the
southwest and throughout the UK"

Pressure for a GM-free Southwest is growing with Cornwall, Devon, Dorset,
and South Gloucestershire councils all taking steps to go GM-free.

The Government is expected to decide later this year whether to allow GM
crops to be commercially grown in the UK. Commercialisation risks
widespread GM contamination of food, crops and the environment.


[2] Local Authorities can request legal protection of their areas from
particular GM crops using Article 19 of the Deliberate Release Directive
2001/19/EC. For more explanation see briefing on GM-Free local areas: (PDF)

[3] The council resolved:

That this council notes with dismay the lack of scientific evidence
offered to the public attending the OEGM Nation? debate that took place in
Taunton on 7 June 2003, organised by the national GM public debate
steering group.

This council believes the fullest independent scientific evidence should
be presented to the public to enable a proper debate to take place,
including the results of the field trials, which are due to be published
later this summer."

and declares that;

In the light of so little firm evidence of the effects of GM on either
the UK environment or of GM food on human health, it does not believe
that GM crops should be grown commercially. In this, it is fulfilling its
duty to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of
South Somerset communities under Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000.

Reiterates its policy in relation to county farms and in relation to
county suppliers as resolved at full council on the 26th of May 1999 and
by the Countryside and Heritage board on the 9th of June 1999.

To this end, the Council commits to;

requesting the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs to extend the period of public consultation to enable maximum
public participation in this debate, on a fully informed basis.

and to clarify urgently the meaning of Article 19 of Directive 2001/18/EC
and whether the council could exempt the geographical area of Somerset in
order to protect the environment and the integrity of Somerset as a GM-
free area, should that be the eventual wish of Somerset's public ( in
that event the council would further seek to safeguard Somerset's farmers
who wish to remain GM-free by raising an objection to each national
licensing of a GM crop by using a standard letter from the county
community protection officer)

agrees to revue its policy in the light of new evidence in 3 years time

Tushie Garstang Tel +44 1823 286311
Keith Hatch +44 1308 428 315
Clare Oxborrow Tel +44 20 7566 1716/ +44 7712 843 211 (m)

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Pledge to fight GM plans
SOURCE: The Western Mail, UK, by Steve Dube
DATE:   Jul 22, 2003

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Pledge to fight GM plans

WELSH farmers have pledged to fight any plans to introduce GM crops into

The Farmers Union of Wales fears GM crops could destroy this country's
reputation for quality produce.

Speaking on the day National Assembly minister for rural Wales Carwyn
Jones unveiled new measures to promote Welsh lamb, the FUW was
spearheading the anti-GM debate.

Its move came as a government report by the GM Science Review Panel said
that the risk to human health from GM crops was low.

Although it stopped short of giving blanket approval, the study said
there was no case for ruling out all genetically modified crops and their

But the FUW has repeatedly expressed concern over the Government's wish
to grow GM crops commercially in the UK and was one of the first
organisations to call on the National Assembly to declare Wales GM-free.

"We think growing these crops should be banned until such time as
scientific trials conducted in closed laboratory conditions have proved
beyond doubts that there is absolutely no risk of cross-pollination,"
said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"Welsh farmers are proud of their clean green methods of food production
and want to protect that image.

"Allowing large-scale production of GM crops in Wales would ruin that
image and throw away any commercial advantage that it brings."

Mr Vaughan said the union had expressed dismay at the European Union's
decision to make it illegal for member states or their regions to declare
their areas GM free.

Minister Mr Jones said, "My main concern is how do we protect the
interests of organic and conventional growers in terms of their
livelihoods and the environment and a lot of questions still need to be
asked about the environmental effects."

Welsh pressure group GM-free Cymru launched its own trawl for information
about the effects of the controversial food on humans.

It found there were only a handful of scientific studies in the public domain.

Newcastle University carried out the only known feeding of GM food to
humans under trial conditions.

Those taking part were given a single meal of a deep fried GM soya burger
and a GM soya milk shake.

It was found that measurable amounts of the modified gene survived in the
gut and transferred to gut bacteria. Other amounts were excreted,
suggesting that the modified gene could enter the sewage system and
ultimately the wider environment and, critically, drinking water.

"We can't understand why there have not been more studies," said Chris
Samra-Tibbetts, who acts as group co-ordinator. "We're not Luddites. We
don't want to turn back the clock and we recognise that science has
benefited the world enormously, but this has to be better trialled and
better tested.

"They keep saying there are all these studies that have been done, but
none of us can get hold of them."

Monique Warnock, campaign team leader at the Consumers' Association,
said, "The findings are not a clean bill of health for GM. While the
report says risks to human health of existing GM crops is low, it
highlights that risks remain for future products.

"With less than a third of consumers finding the idea of food produced
from a GM plant acceptable, the Government must ensure that consumer
opinion plays a key role in its decision.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  You say
SOURCE: The Western Mail, UK, by Patrick Fletcher
DATE:   Jul 22, 2003

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You say

MANY visitors to the Royal Welsh yesterday were deeply sceptical about
anything the Government produced on GM.

Rachel O'Donovan from Pontyclun, said, "I would not eat it because I
don't know what the long term effects would be on human health and the
environment."Rhiannon Jones, aged 25, from Carmarthen also turned her
back on GM food."I don't like the idea that they are meddling with things
they don't know about," she said.

Joan Richards from Cardiganshire was quite certain. "I want pure Welsh
food and I don't want any of that (GM food) in it," she said.

But John Hughes of Swansea was completely unconcerned.

"It has been used for years in other countries and I'm quite happy with
it," he said.

WELSH farming communities have turned their backs on GM food despite new
claims yesterday that it is safe to eat.

A government-backed investigation said yesterday that there was no
scientific case for banning GM crops and their products.

But the result of the worldwide trawl for scientific studies was
immediately attacked by Welsh farmers and environmental campaigners.

Visitors to the first day of the Royal Welsh Show also said they would
not eat GM food and regarded the government-backed report by the GM
Science Review Panel as another "dodgy dossier".

The report said the risk to human health from eating GM food was low and
there was no scientific case to outlaw them all.

But the public is deeply suspicious of the controversial crops and the
issue is set to take centre stage at the Royal Welsh today as Plaid Cymru
launches its own anti-GM campaign.

Speaking at the show today MP Simon Thomas, Euro-MP Jill Evans and AM
Jocelyn Davies will brand a government- sponsored national debate on GM
crops a "farce".

The official debate ended last week, but visitors to the Royal Welsh will
be encouraged to make their views known by Plaid Cymru and by the
Farmers' Union of Wales, which is running its own straw poll all week on
the issue.

More fuel will be added to the debate on Thursday when EU Farming
Commissioner Franz Fischler visits the show.

He has already warned that whether or not Europe wants GM crops it may be
impossible to ban them on the basis that it would be a restriction on
free trade and competition.

Chief among the critics of yesterday's study was Michael Meacher, who was
the Government's environment spokesman, and the GM pressure group GM Free

Mr Meacher attacked the Government's scientific review as a "public scandal".

He warned that GM food could have "very serious" consequences on health
and that the tests were not rigorous enough.

GM Free Cymru said that its own worldwide trawl had found just one
scientific study on humans that suggested the GM genes would go on living
in humans long after the food had been eaten.

Wales countryside minister Carwyn Jones said he always believed that the
main worries about GM food were its effects on the environment rather
than on human health.

"As countryside minister my concern has been the effects GM have on
conventional and organic growers," said Mr Jones.

"We have a policy in Wales of being as restrictive as possible but we
can't stop people buying them."

Ceredigion MP Mr Thomas said the official debate in Wales amounted to a
farce. There was just one public meeting in Swansea, received very little
publicity and was not promoted at all in Welsh.

Mr Thomas said, "Considering all that, the fact the Government got
something like 20,000 responses is remarkable and shows the strength of
feeling about this issue.

"We did argue, however, for the deadline to be extended and the
Government has said it is still taking opinions into account. It is
incredible it closed before the Royal Welsh Show, which is the most
obvious agricultural event in Wales to highlight the consultation."

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, who chaired
the panel, said, "GM is a subject of intense debate and attracts a wide
range of views from supporters who point to the potential benefits to
opponents with significant concerns.

"GM is not a homogenous technology on which scientists can make blanket
assurances on safety.

"We cannot know everything but if we are paralysed by uncertainty,
innovation and progress will be stifled."

Mr Meacher urged the Government to adopt the "precautionary principle"
and not rush into commercialisation of GM crops.

"They say that they have found no evidence that eating GM food causes a
health risk but what I think is a public scandal is that no one has
actually looked for the evidence, it is just assumed." 


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

phone:  +49-531-5168746
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