Guardian menu on genetically manipul;ated foods
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- Subject: Guardian menu on genetically manipul;ated foods
- From: MichaelP <papadop@PEAK.ORG>
- Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 23:30:15 -0800 (PST)
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There's an embarrasment of riches in today's Guardian pieces.
Someone else may very well post them to this list within the next few
hours, which is when I'll get around to choosing which ones I think the
But in addition to the item below, the Guardian publishes links as
a) Dr Puzstai's report in full
b) The Audit Committee was established by the Director of the
Rowett Research Institute in August 1998 to examine this report
c) UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions - ACRE
(This is the delayed brit government report about the effect of GM agricu
lture on wildlife)
The next big thing
By George Monbiot
Guardian (London)Friday February 19, 1999
Like a family in the midst of a massive domestic row, the participants in
the great genetic war are already have trouble recalling how it began.
Dr Pusztai's potatoes have been all but forgotten, while the underlying
tensions, ever present, but seldom acknowledged, have burst out into the
open. At last, Blair's sordid affair with the corporate seductress and the
terrible mess she has made in the garden are being discussed.
The row is threatening to split the Labour household apart. Jack
Cunningham has been roaring up and down the stairs telling everyone else
to shut up. Michael Meacher, having hidden in the potting shed, has run
back indoors with the news that he's seen something nasty in the vegetable
While Dr Cunningham continues to insist that the new plants carry no
conceivable risks, Mr Meacher has hinted at the need to delay the
introduction of commercial planting of GM crops in Britain. His department
told journalists that there will probably be no approvals for full-scale
cultivation before 2001. The neighbours are beginning to weigh in on his
The Government's chief scientist, Sir Robert May, has expressed grave
concerns about the damage the new crops might do to wildlife -
herbicide-resistant crops allow farmers to eliminate almost all other
species from their fields. The environment department has been forced to
publish a delayed report in which these warnings are echoed. On Wednesday,
the biotechnology company Monsanto was fined for failing to isolate one of
its test crops from the wider environment.
And Middle England has begun to realise that when Mr Blair is faced with a
conflict between its needs and those of his other constituency, big
business, he sides with the corporations.
If Tony Blair begins, at last, to listen to Mr Meacher's anxieties, he
will rapidly find that he runs into a new problem: that whether or not it
wants to act, the Government might be unable to do so. Both Tory and
Labour governments have been so determined to facilitate 'free trade' that
they have progressively signed away their right to intervene.
If the Government seeks to prevent corporations from forcing us to grow
and eat their crops, the corporations will appeal, first to the European
Union, then to the World Trade Organisation. And they will win, because
the governments of the First World have already determined that, in cases
like this, private profit outweighs public protection.
Food scares happen in Britain because people feel they have no control
over what they eat. Our decisions are made for us by invisible and
unaccountable corporations. We are just about to discover precisely how
powerless we are.
In just under three months, the media will stumble across another issue
which it has managed to ignore for years. This one is even scarier.
Monsanto has developed an injectable growth hormone which increases the
production of cow's milk. Some scientists argue that it also increases the
levels of something called Insulin Growth Factor 1. IGF-1 can cross the
digestive tract intact from milk to the bloodstream of consumers. People
with elevated IGF-1 levels are at greater risk from breast and prostate
The EU banned milk and beef from cattle treated with this hormone. On
behalf of Monsanto, the US government appealed to the World Trade
Organisation. The WTO has given Europe until May 13 to start importing
hormone-treated beef and milk. Blair will wriggle, Cunningham will roar,
but, short of provoking a trade war, they can do nothing whatever to
The European elections will be fought, four weeks later, in the midst of
this crisis. The Greens could win even more votes than they did in 1989
and this time they will carry seats. Labour's backbench guerillas will
launch a frontal attack. And Tony Blair, lost as he always is when the
politics of presentation yield to the politics of substance, will wonder
how on earth so vigorous a vine grew from a humble potato.
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