GENET archive


2-Plants: 'GM will never be grown in Britain'

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  'GM will never be grown in Britain'
SOURCE: The Independent on Sunday, UK, by Geoffrey Lean
DATE:   Apr 4, 2004

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'GM will never be grown in Britain'

Ministers are prepared for GM crops never to be grown commercially in 
Britain after the strain approved for cultivation was withdrawn last week 
by the company that developed it.

They are determined not to compromise on strict conditions for growing the 
crops, which were behind the decision by Bayer CropScience not to proceed 
with the GM maize given a tentative go-ahead by the Government last month. 
Unless the controls are relaxed, Bayer says it will abandon the technology 
in Britain.

Environmentalists and politicians hailed Bayer's decision as the death of 
GM in Britain. They said that even if biotech companies did try to get new 
modified crops approved it would be "extremely difficult" to get 
government or public approval.

Bayer's decision marks victory for a five-year campaign by The Independent 
on Sunday, and a defeat for Tony Blair.

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

TITLE:  'IoS' hastens end of GM crops in Britain
SOURCE: The Independent on Sunday, UK, by Geoffrey Lean
DATE:   Apr 4, 2004

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'IoS' hastens end of GM crops in Britain
After five years of lobbying by the public and this newspaper, the 
Government caves in

Wednesday should have been a triumphant day for Tony Blair. That evening 
the latest revolt by Labour MPs - on tuition fees - fizzled out like all 
those before it.

But, almost unnoticed, this was also the day on which the Prime Minister 
suffered his greatest ever defeat. It was inflicted not by Parliament, but 
by the public, with the assistance of a five-year campaign in The 
Independent on Sunday.

For the decision by Bayer CropScience to "discontinue" its efforts to grow 
a modified maize in this country marks the end of Mr Blair's personal 
drive to make Britain the "European hub" for GM technology.

The Government admitted that no genetically modified crops would now be 
grown in Britain for "the foreseeable future", and both campaigners and 
ministers believe that might mean never. Peter Melchett, the policy 
director of the Soil Association, said bluntly: "This is the end of GM in 

Many can rightly lay claim to major credit for this, the first outright 
defeat for one of the Prime Minister's passionately promoted causes - 
notably pressure groups, critical politicians and, above all, the public.

But the former Environment minister, Michael Meacher, who has himself 
played one of the most crucial roles in the drama, said yesterday that the 
IoS had been "the most effective anti-GM campaigner" of all.

Five years ago, when we began our campaign, it appeared to be a lost 
cause. Sixty per cent of processed foods on supermarket shelves contained 
GM soya. Widespread cultivation of GM crops throughout the countryside was 
assumed to be only a year away. More than 50 different ones were awaiting 

The giant biotech companies seemed unstoppable; Monsanto was poised to 
make a merger that would have turned it into the world's largest 
corporation. The Government put all its weight behind the technology, and 
Mr Blair privately dismissed public concern as "a flash in the pan".

We started our campaign in February 1999 by calling for a pause in the 
rush to a GM future. We demanded a three-year moratorium in cultivating GM 
crops, while research was carried out. ("We urge a freeze rather than a 
ban, because we are happy to listen to the arguments in favour of GM," we 
wrote.) And we insisted that "all products containing GM food should be 
clearly labelled".

Both ambitions were realised. In November 1999 the Government - led by 
Michael Meacher - concluded year-long negotiations with the biotech 
industry, establishing a three-year voluntary moratorium while official 
trials were carried out. And it was soon officially accepted that GM foods 
would have to be labelled.

During the pause the scientific evidence piled up, overwhelmingly 
reinforcing the doubts we expressed at the beginning of the campaign. As 
it came in, we converted our campaign into outright opposition.

Study after study showed that genes from GM crops spread to neighbouring 
organic and conventional produce; only last month we reported that more 
than two-thirds of non-GM crops in the United States were so contaminated.

Concern at the lack of testing of GM foods for their effects on health 
continued to mount, and was reflected in our pages. It was here, in 
February 2000, that Mr Blair - who had previously let it be known that he 
was happy to eat GM foods - first admitted that they had "potential for 
harm" to health.

An exclusive award-winning report in October that year revealed that trial 
GM crops were being grown at secret sites around Britain, contrary to 
government assurances, and helped to secure agreement that the location of 
all modified crops growing anywhere in Europe would have to be made 
public. And last autumn we revealed that an apparent clearance for GM 
maize through the Government's official trials was invalid because a 
pesticide central to this conclusion was about to be banned.

Throughout this period, the campaign against GM was being vigorously 
fought by pressure groups - notably Friends of the Earth, the Soil 
Association and the relatively small Genewatch - and public opposition to 
the technology was rising.

Now 84 per cent of the public say they will not eat GM foods, and 
ministers accept that there is no market for them. Supermarkets have 
fallen over each other to take them off their shelves: none now stocks 

Last year Monsanto announced that it was closing down its cereal seed 
business in Britain and Europe. The Government still pressed on, 
tentatively approving Bayer's GM maize only last month, while imposing 
strict conditions on its cultivation. But with Bayer's withdrawal, none of 
the 50 crops originally queuing for approval will now be grown.

Last night Lord Melchett said that the IoS's campaign had made "all the 
difference". The Conservative MP Peter Ainsworth, chairman of the House of 
Commons Environment Audit Committee, which produced a critical report on 
GM last month, praised our "persistently incisive coverage".

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(at)
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