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9-Misc: Recent highlights on UK fight on GE food and crops



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

TITLE:  Independent Science Panel for a GM Free Sustainable World
SOURCE: The Institute of Science in Society, UK, Press Release
        http://www.i-sis.org.uk
DATE:   May 10, 2003

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Independent Science Panel for a GM Free Sustainable World

In a surprising move, dozens of prominent scientists have joined forces
to form an Independent Science Panel (ISP) on GM, to counteract what they
see to be a concerted campaign by the government and the scientific
establishment in the UK to promote GM under the guise of 'sound' science.

"This amounts to open scientific rebellion, possibly unprecedented in
history," says Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in
Society, who initiated the move, and confessed to having been taken
aback, and delighted, by the positive response of the scientists contacted.

Many of the scientists have been feeling frustrated at the lack of open
public debate on a whole range of scientific and other issues. The
'discussion meetings' organised by the government are invariably stacked
with pro-GM scientists hyping the potential benefits of GM, and giving
the public bland assurances that "there is no evidence of harm".

It will all change now.

At a special launching conference on May 10 in London, the ISP will
release their report, The Case for A GM Free Sustainable World, the
strongest, most complete dossier of evidence ever put together to support
their call for a ban on GM crops and widespread adoption of organic
sustainable agriculture. This is timed to kick off the GM national debate
in the UK and to input into the World Trade Organisation Ministerial
Meeting in Sacramento, California in June 2003. The report has already
attracted considerable international attention.

"We'll give them a case to answer," says Brian John, geomorphologist and
environment scientist, who has been working closely with the GM Free
Cymru campaign. "Those of us who have looked into the science of GM crops
and foods from a community or consumer perspective have been appalled at
the apparent abandonment of the precautionary principle and at the
control exerted over the scientific agenda by the biotechnology
multinationals."

The Report will be sent to the president of the Philippines together with
a letter in support of one of the ISP members, Roberto Verzola,
Secretary-General of the Philippine Greens, who has initiated a hunger
strike to protest his government's approval of Monsanto's Bt maize.

The Panel includes Britain's best-loved botanist, broadcaster, writer and
tireless campaigner for mother earth, David Bellamy OBE, who will lead
the launch of the ISP.

Other speakers include Stanley Ewen, Consultant Histopathologist, at
Grampian University Hospitals Trust; Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor
of Chemical Medicine, University of Sunderland; Vyvyan Howard,
toxipathologist, University of Liverpool; Arpad Pusztai, formerly senior
scientist at Rowett Institute, Scotland, and Gundula Azeez, Policy
Manager, Soil Association.

The conference will be chaired by Edward Goldsmith, founding editor of
The Ecologist, and the world's foremost environmentalist and critic of
globalisation.

For further details contact
Sam Burcher: sam@i-sis.org.uk
tel: 44-(0)20- 7383-3376, or
ching@i-sis.org.uk
tel: 44-(0)20-8643-0681, or
m.w.ho@i-sis.org.uk
tel: 44 (0)20-7272-5636.


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

TITLE:  Food Spin Agency caught out again
SOURCE: GENEWATCH UK, PRESS RELEASE
DATE:   May 9, 2003

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Food Spin Agency caught out again

FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY HIDES UNANIMOUS FINDINGS OF CITIZENS' JURY THAT GM
CROPS SHOULD NOT BE GROWN IN THE UK NOW - GENEWATCH UK CHALLENGES THE FSA
TO COME CLEAN

Today, GeneWatch UK has written to Dr John Bell, Chief Executive of the
Food Standards Agency (1), asking why it has failed to reveal the
unanimous finding of its Citizens Jury that (2): "More time is needed to
understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops before
farmers start to grow them in the UK - growing GM crops in the UK would
be irreversible and might eventually reduce choice"

This part of the Jury's verdict, only revealed in a report circulated to
witnesses yesterday, was excluded from the FSA's Press Release on 7th
April announcing the results and headlined "FSA Citizens' Jury says GM
food should be available to buy in the UK". Dr John Bell, in a debate
with Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director, on the BBC programme 'You and
Yours' on 8th April also failed to refer to this finding (4).

"I have written to Dr John Bell to ask why the FSA was so selective in
its representation of the verdict of its Citizens' Jury. The imminent
decision on the commercial growing of GM crops in the country is of great
importance and the views of the public should be represented fully", said
Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director. "The FSA seems to be more interested
in spin than full presentation of the facts".

"I gave evidence to the Citizens' Jury in good faith and am disturbed
that the findings are being distorted. This selective presentation of the
verdict undermines all the hard work and effort the Jury put into its
deliberations. The Jury was unanimous that GM crops should not be grown
in the UK at present and split on whether GM foods should be available to
buy in the shops. Why did the FSA headline only the majority and not all
the unanimous findings? " said Dr Mayer.

For more information contact Sue Mayer on +44-1298 871898 (office) or
+44-7930 308807 (mobile).

Notes to editors

1. The text of the letter to Dr John Bell is attached below.
2. FSA Citizens' Jury. Should GM Food be Available to Buy in the UK?
Final Report. Opinion Leader Research. April 2003. Dr Sue Mayer,
GeneWatch's Director, gave evidence to the Jury on 4th April.
3. http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/
citizensjury_result?view=GM%20Microsite
4. The comments made by Dr John Bell on 'You and Yours' on Tuesday 8th
April in relation to the jury verdict were: "Yes well the jury decided by
a majority of nine to six that GM food should be available to buy in the
UK." And: "They did say that there should be effective labelling and
monitoring of foods and for instance they suggested that perhaps a, a GM
food logo should be attached to food so that people could make that
choice. They also said that they were confident in the safety measures
and while some anti GM concerns they considered were perfectly valid they
thought there did have to be a choice for people. If they wanted to buy
they should be able to."

TEXT OF LETTER TO DR JOHN BELL

9 May, 2003

Dr John Bell
Chief Executive
Food Standards Agency
Aviation House 125 Kingsway
London WC2B 6NH

BY FAX AND MAIL

Dear Dr Bell,

Re: Food Standards Agency's Citizens' Jury: Should GM foods be available
to buy in the UK?

I am writing to raise my concerns with you over the way in which the FSA
has presented the findings of it's Citizens' Jury. It appears that the
FSA has concealed some important issues of direct relevance to the
current public debate on whether GM crops should be grown commercially in
the UK. I was astonished to read yesterday, when I finally received a
complete version of the findings of the Citizens' Jury, that there was
unanimous agreement that: - More time is needed to understand the long-
term environmental implications of GM crops before farmers start to grow
them in the UK - Growing GM crops in the UK would be irreversible and
might eventually reduce choice

Neither in the FSA's press release of the 7th April announcing the
findings, or during our discussion on the radio programme 'You and Yours'
on 8th April was this mentioned by yourself. Rather the press release
said among other things:

"A number of jurors expressed concerns about the long-term safety of
GMOs, ethical concerns, and the environmental impact of growing GM crops
in the UK."

On 'You and Yours' you presented the findings as:

"Yes well the jury decided by a majority of nine to six that GM food
should be available to buy in the UK."

And:

"They did say that there should be effective labelling and monitoring of
foods and for instance they suggested that perhaps a, a GM food logo
should be attached to food so that people could make that choice. They
also said that they were confident in the safety measures and while some
anti GM concerns they considered were perfectly valid they thought there
did have to be a choice for people. If they wanted to buy they should be
able to." Even this morning, the full report and text of the Citizens'
Jury verdict is not available on your web site.

I wonder why the FSA chose not to reveal this particular dimension of the
findings of their Citizens' Jury? It raises the suspicion that the FSA
was more interested in 'spinning' the results to fit its own prejudices
rather than representing them fully. Given the political importance of,
and public interest in, the imminent decision on the commercial growing
of GM crops in the country, the unanimous verdict that more time is
needed before commercial growing, should have been included at the very
front of your presentation.

Having given time in all good faith to the Citizens' Jury by acting as a
witness, you will understand how disturbed I feel that I may have
unwittingly been party to a process which has not been presented
honestly. Obviously, I wish to see this past failure corrected.
Therefore, what steps will you be taking to ensure the full findings of
the Citizens' Jury are represented and conveyed to the media, Government,
public debate steering board and the public? As the new Chief Executive
of the FSA, will you make an assurance that the organisation will always
present its research findings in full alongside press releases, not just
selected portions?

We will, of course, be making the contents of this letter available to
the press.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sue Mayer Director

GeneWatch UK
The Mill House
Manchester Road
Tideswell Buxton
Derbyshire SK17 8LN
Ph: +44-1298 871898
Fax: +44-1298 872531


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

TITLE:  Where is the evidence that GM foods are inherently unsafe, asks
        Royal Society
SOURCE: The Royal Society, UK, Press Release
        http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news/
DATE:   May 8, 2003

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Where is the evidence that GM foods are inherently unsafe, asks Royal Society

Claims that foodstuffs containing ingredients from genetically modified
plants are inherently less safe than their non-GM conventional
counterparts remain unproven, according to a Royal Society policy
statement published today (8 May 2003).

In two submissions to the Government-sponsored GM Science Review, the
Royal Society points out that the potential for GM ingredients to reduce
the nutritional quality of foods or to cause allergic reactions is in
principle no different to that for non-GM ingredients. Furthermore, there
is no credible evidence that human health can be damaged by eating DNA
sequences created by the genetic modification of foodstuff ingredients.

Professor Patrick Bateson, Vice-President and Biological Secretary of the
Royal Society, said: "We conducted a major review of the evidence about
GM plants and human health last year, and we have not seen any evidence
since then that changes our original conclusions. If credible evidence
does exist that GM foods are more harmful to people than non-GM foods, we
should like to know why it has not been made public."

He added: "The public have been told for several years that GM foods are
inherently unsafe to eat. Most people would like to know what evidence
exists to back up such claims. We have examined the results of published
research, and have found nothing to indicate that GM foods are inherently
unsafe. If anybody does have convincing evidence, get it out in the open
so that it can be evaluated.

"The public have a right to decide whether they want to buy GM foods, and
are entitled to have access to sensible and informed advice, based on
sound science. It is disappointing to find a group like Greenpeace
stating on its website that "the risks are enormous and the consequences
potentially catastrophic", without offering any solid reasons to support
such a claim."

Professor Bateson said: "Undoubtedly some important questions need to be
answered about the potential impact, good or bad, of GM crops on the
environment. But these should be addressed without a smokescreen of
unfounded claims about their threat to human health."

"A recent opinion poll showed that the majority of the public are opposed
to GM foods. Many consumers have been made anxious by unsubstantiated
claims about the safety of GM foods. The developers of GM products also
have not successfully demonstrated to consumers what benefits they offer
compared to conventional foods."

The Society's submissions also draw attention to some areas of food
regulation that should be addressed to ensure that all foods, including
those containing GM ingredients, are assessed properly. Professor Bateson
said: "The public expect regulations to keep abreast of new developments
in the way food is made, and to be just as effective for both GM and non-
GM foods. We understand that the Food Standards Agency has taken on board
the recommendations we made in our report last year and is taking action
to address the issues we highlighted."

Reference :

The Royal Society has submitted evidence to the GM Science Review:
Genetically modified plants for food use and human health The regulatory
process and human health

For further information contact:
Bob Ward or Rebecca Wynn, Press and Public Relations, The Royal Society,
London.
Tel: +44-20 7451 2516/2514 or +44-7811-320346
Email: press@royalsoc.ac.uk