GENTECH archive


Genetic manipulation: emergency brit govmt, statement coming

BBC Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 11:45 GMT

GM crops under wide attack

The (brit.) government is making a statement on GM food at about 1530 GMT.

he commercial growing of genetically-modified (GM) crops should be banned
for five years, according to a new co-ordinated campaign by 29
wide-ranging groups.

Launching their campaign at the House of Commons, they claim that the
risks have not been properly assessed and that GM food products have been
rushed through to "feed the profits" of biotechnology companies.

The Government was also told to "display the utmost caution" over
authorising any commercial GM crops by one of its top environment

Sir Crispin Tickell, Convenor of the government's Panel on Sustainable
Development said the government must set out a strategy "which
incorporates both the medical and agricultural aspects of the GM organism

"It should allow customers the right of choice, so that things are
properly labelled and you know what you are buying."

Sir Crispin said no-one wanted the GM food problem to be added to the list
of health disasters which included the thalidomide tragedy and the BSE

The panel is an influential body, as all its members are appointed by the
prime minister. In its 1999 report, the panel says the steps taken so far
by the government are "no more than a first step".

The 29 groups involved in the moratorium call are a range of consumer,
development, health and environment organisations.

A spokeswoman for the Five Year Freeze campaign said: "There hasn't been
adequate risk assessment done on the implications of growing these crops.

"The biotechnology companies claim that GM crops will help solve poverty
and feed the world. But the problem with poverty is not that we don't
produce enough food - we produce more than enough - but are economic and

Meanwhile, the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, has been backed by
Downing Street amid continuing calls for his resignation over his links
with the biotechnology industry.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday morning: "to rule out GM
food altogether, to impose some ban would be extremely foolish".


The Five Year Freeze campaign includes Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth,
the Townswomen's Guild and the Iceland supermarket chain.

Development groups involved include ActionAid, Christian Aid, the Catholic
Institute for International Relations and the World Development Movement.

The coalition wants a five-year freeze on the growing of GM crops for any
commercial purpose, on the import of GM foods and farm crops and on the
patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops.

The Campaign co-ordinator of the Five Year Freeze Campaign, Sandra Bell,
said: "The government seems to be deaf to all but a few, carefully
selected, commercially-based opinions. This flies in the face of the
widespread public concern. Five years gives us all time to make informed

The campaign launch on Tuesday comes the day before one of the leading
companies involved in developing GM crops, Monsanto, appears in court
charged with failing to control the spread of pollen from a trial

The case, which Monsanto says it will not contest, is being heard in
Caistor Magistrates' Court in Lincolnshire.
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