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9-Misc: UK Minister of Environment had to resign

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Michael Meacher 
        Green enthusiast slowly marginalised
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by John Vidal and Nicholas Watt,3605,977242,00.html
DATE:   June 14, 2003

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Michael Meacher 
Green enthusiast slowly marginalised 

Michael Meacher, tipped to be sacked in every reshuffle since New Labour
came to power, finally lived up to expectations yesterday. His departure means
there is now only one minister left from the Callaghan era - Margaret Beckett,
his former boss at the environment department.

Mr Meacher had clung on for six years as the junior minister with the
highest profile because he had a remarkable technical grasp of complex
environmental issues, including global warming, nuclear power, waste, GM crops and

He steered the government through its GM foods crisis, fulfilled Labour's
pledge to allow a right to roam, and secured far greater protection for
Britain's wildlife areas and peat bogs.

He also played an important role in negotiations over the Kyoto treaty, the
first international agreement designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and
fight manmade climate change.

But he could prove a dangerous backbencher. He was the only person in the
administration who understood GM crops and consistently urged caution on their
introduction. The government will be tested to distraction later this year
when it must decide whether to allow them to be grown in Britain.

Elected MP for Oldham West in 1970, the Oxford classics graduate was marked
out as a high flyer. After four years in opposition, Mr Meacher was made a
junior industry minister when Harold Wilson returned to power in 1974. A stint
as health minister was followed by a move to the trade department during the
Callaghan government until the 1979 Tory election victory.

Labour MPs, including Mr Meacher himself, have been amazed the former
Bennite hung on for so long under Mr Blair. But the prime minister, who broke
Labour rules by excluding his elected shadow cabinet colleague from the cabinet in
1997, was happy to see a former leftwinger absorbed in the relative
backwater of environment.

Mr Meacher was a green enthusiast, backing organic foods, urging less
materialistic lifestyles and expressing horror at global warming. He earned respect
from green groups for trying to put the environment at the heart of the
government, and also from colleagues for remaining loyal to old Labour values.

However he was progressively marginalised, first when transport was split
from John Prescott's super-ministry, and later when he lost the confidence of
No 10 following his increasingly green public rhetoric. He is believed to have
grown exasperated at the government's refusal to take the environment

His fate was probably sealed last August when No 10 tried to remove him from
the UK delegation to the UN earth summit in Johannesburg. He was reinstated
only after environmentalists offered to pay his costs. 

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Test 'Frankenstein food' on humans to assess risks, urges Meacher
SOURCE: The Observer, UK, by Kamal Ahmed,6903,978046,00.html
DATE:   June 15, 2003

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Test 'Frankenstein food' on humans to assess risks, urges Meacher 

Trials on humans to test the health risks of GM crops should be carried out
over the next decade, according to the former Minister who had responsibility
for the issue. Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister who until his
resignation on Friday led the Government's policy on GM crops, said last night
that without the tests the public could never be sure that GM crops were safe.
His intervention into the fraught debate on the future of what some call
'Frankenstein foods' is one of the most important in the public debate on the
issue which was launched by the Government earlier this month. While in
government, Meacher was well known for his expertise on the crops. The Government is
set to make a decision in the autumn about whether to allow the commercial
planting of GM crops across Britain. Supporters say that the use of GM crops
will reduce the need for pesticides and will lead to greater yields to help feed
poorer countries. But Meacher revealed that as yet no 'human feeding trials'
have taken place, making it impossible to decide whether there was a risk to
human health or not. The Observer revealed earlier this month that the
British Medical Association is likely to launch a review of its assessment of the
dangers of GM crops to human health. The organisation is likely to soften its
stance on the risk to human health after Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's
head of science and ethics, said she had seen no evidence of a risk. Meacher
said: 'The health impact has had very little attention, but it is an amazing
fact - an arresting and sobering fact - that there have been no human feeding
trials.' Meacher, who quit the Government as part Tony Blair's reshuffle last
week, said that human trials similar to those used to test new drugs should
be introduced. 'If you really wanted to know the impact on human beings
shouldn't there be human tests?' he said. 'I am not against GM crops, I just
believe we should be cautious,' he said.


 Hartmut Meyer       
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