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[genet-news] CONTAMINATION & COEXISTENCE: Welsh (UK) organic pioneer fears his farm is being jeopardised by neighbour’s GM crops

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SOURCE: Western Mail, UK



DATE:   14.04.2009

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GM crop advocate Jonathan Harrington claims to have grown genetically modified maize on his Powys farm and says he ? and 30 other farmers ? will do the same this year in defiance of Welsh Assembly Government policy. Here one of his neighbours, Dr Paul Benham, director of the Centre for Sustainable Food, at the Primrose Earth Awareness Trust, explains why it worries him

DURING the end of the 1960s, I received training in Agricultural Science at Wye College in Kent and essentially I learnt state-of-the-art agri-industry techniques.

Whilst working on large farms, which included ploughing and sowing a 1,800 acre field of wheat in the marginal lands of Australia, I realised that this type of food production comes at a considerable cost.

There are very large input costs in the form of cheap fossil fuel for diesel for production and distribution, producing artificial fertilisers and sprays, the embodied energy for building tractors and machinery and in the UK considerable subsidies.

There are also costs to the environment, since it is estimated that during the last six decades, 50% of the increase in CO2 emissions is attributable to the industrialisation of agriculture. In addition there are considerable losses of habitats, soil degradation and pollution, that result from these methods. There are also great concerns about deterioration in food quality.

I retrained in ecology and at Primrose Farm have been developing food production systems that work with nature and actually utilise the support of nature?s beneficial resources and renewable energy.

We produce annually £20,000 of produce from 1.5 acres including a 0.5 acre forest garden, which contains 100 varieties of fruit and nut trees. This is a minimal maintenance system, which mimics the natural woodland and largely looks after itself.

All produce is sold within 15 miles and since most production comes from the work of people and not machines, minimal fossil fuels are used in both production and distribution. The farm energy audit shows a figure of 0.04 tonnes/£1,000 produce sold and the various carbon sinks on the farm offset this. This is a model of highly efficient, low carbon farming with very high biodiversity that is an excellent demonstration of one of the most productive and resilient systems in the UK.

The integrity of our organic and sustainable system is now being jeopardised by the actions of Mr Jonathan Harrington, who is subversively growing GM crops within one mile of Primrose and says he plans to grow GM crops with 30 other farmers this year.

Our farm has held a Soil Association organic symbol for 23 years and the SA has made it absolutely clear that no GM contamination should occur. The Primrose Transition food production model is central to the education message of the adjacent Centre for Sustainable Food and thus its important education work is being threatened.

I therefore welcome the introduction of the Welsh Assembly?s recent legislation to hold GM farmers liable for transgenic contamination to neighbouring farms.

The quality of Primrose produce is exceptional and avidly sort by high-class hotels and restaurants and a very wide range of customers. It is vital that this trust and integrity is maintained.

Planting GM crops is nothing to do with creating global food security, since there is no real evidence to show greater yields from GM even than conventional mainstream crops.

It is another ?quick fix? approach by the agri-industry that has already created much of the present global environmental crisis. It is more about controlling global food and providing billions of dollars in profits to multi-national companies.

The Primrose and Cuban model and many sustainable polyculture systems show far greater food productivity. Elin Jones the Welsh Minister for rural affairs has visited and is very impressed with the food productivity from this piece of land.

Many scientists, like Defra?s Bob Watson and the 4,000 who collaborated to draft the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development report, are now saying that with the impending crises of climate change and peak oil it is essential to create more ecological systems in order to address future food security. The actions and attitudes of Mr Harrington, who is linked to the pro-GM company CropGen, rather mirror the ways that GM crops have been steamrolled into other countries such as Paraguay and India.

Enormous profits are at stake and there has been no proper experimentation to demonstrate the safety of GM crops to either consumers or the environment. Very dramatic attempts have been made to suppress scientific reports that have produced concerns about the safety of GM. So we, the human race, are the guinea pigs and the planet is becoming the laboratory and the future dangers are very real.

We are showing the film, The World According to Monsanto which is an incredibly well documented film that clearly exposes the self-interest of the GM companies where profits seem to be their sole motivation.

The next showing takes place on Tuesday, April 28, at Peterstone Court, Llanhamlach, Brecon. It is free and begins at 7.30pm, and is followed by a question and answer session.

We would be grateful for support towards having this film shown as widely as possible.

Dr Paul Benham BSc Agric Sci, MIBiol ecology, PhD in farm animal behaviour, is project director at the Centre for Sustainable Food, the Primrose Earth Awareness Trust, Felindre, near Hay-on-Wye

Monty Don claims GM stunt could damage trust in Welsh food

TV garden presenter Monty Don is another near neighbour of Jonathan Harrington, the man who claims to have planted a GM crop in secret on his 30-acre holding near Hay-on-Wye.

Mr Don, president of the Soil Association, has a 50-acre organic farm near Hay Bluff and has written to First Minister Rhodri Morgan praising the Welsh Assembly Government?s new proposals to limit contamination by GM material and make GM companies and growers legally liable for the impact of other farms.

And he asks whether there is any evidence for Mr Harrington?s claims that he and two other farmers grew GM maize last year and fed it to cattle.

?The real damage of a secret stunt like this is that if repeated it could damage trust in Welsh food and farming more generally,? says Mr Don.

He points out that Mr Harrington breached European law designed to safeguard conventional and organic crops from contamination.

I?ve no regrets, I?m waiting for the backlash

Jonathan Harrington, of Penylan, Tregoyd, works for CropGen, an organisation funded by GM companies to promote the technology across the world.

He has described organic farming as a religion with no rational justification.

And in January he also said: ?I?ve no qualms, no regrets at all. I am waiting for the backlash, and am very happy morally, ethically and legally, if need be, to defend my actions.?

He told an Institute of Welsh Affairs conference in Cardiff that he and up to 30 other farmers were preparing to defy both Welsh Assembly Government policy and EU rules on growing GM crops by planting a much larger acreage this year. This week he rejected an offer to comment on his neighbours? concerns.



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