SnowBall archive


GE - GMOS and Land values

GM Farmers have Grounds for Concern 
Experts warn of fall in land values similar to effect of contamination or

Environment Correspondent Scotsman 11th march 1999 

GENETICALLY modified crops could reduce the value of agricultural land across 
Britain and leave tenant farmers open to legal action, the Government has
In a warning which has sent tremors through the already crisis-hit farming
the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has said GM crops could
have the same effect on land values as contamination or the outbreak of
The RICS has sent a report to the Office of Science and Technology and
other Government departments calling for the setting up of a land register
which potential buyers and banks could find out if and when GM crops had been 
grown on a particular holding. 
Environmentalists have backed the RICS and warned of disastrous consequences 
for British agriculture if the Government presses ahead with commercial scale
crop trials. 
Ministers up to the level of Dr Jack Cunningham in the cabinet office are
be taking the report very seriously. The RICS is one of the largest
professional bod- 
ies in the world and its 74,000 members manage most of the land in the United
The RICS document, a copy of which has been passed to The Scotsman, states:
growing of GM crops on let land could conceivably be deemed a breach of terms
the tenancy agreement under the requirements to farm in accordance with the 
rules of good husbandry. 
This may affect the value of the landlord's ... interest and tenants could
claims for 
Peter Faulkner, the president of the RICS's rural practice division, said:
and purchasers want to know where GM crops have been grown. In the event 
there turns out to be a problem with GM crops, banks may come back to our
bers and say the collateral has gone down and no mention was made before the 
sale that these crops were there." 
Mr Faulkner said the presence of GM crops was as relevant to purchasing a 
piece of land as any past contamination, location close to slag heaps or a
history of crop disease. 
"These are conditions which effect the market ... we do not get into the whole
crop debate, but our customers dictate the market and we must work with it," 
he said. 
"Having said that, the issue of transgenic crops - those engineered in a way
nature simply could not replicate - could offer an even bigger challenge to

industry because nobody knows what the effect will be. 
"I think a lot of farmers will take a very conservative and cautious view of
these types 
of crops." 
The RICS report said a register was necessary to ensure GM crops do not
lead to

more financial hardship for the farming industry. "The BSE crisis has shown
the lack of adequate records hampered the industry's attempt to win back
confidence," it says. 
Henry Murdoch, chairman of the environment and land use committee of the 
National Farmers Union Scotland, said a drop in land values as a result of
GM crops is the last thing the struggling industry needed. 
"Perceptions are far more real than real values ... we have got to look
at the 
science involved," he said. 
"Land values could drop {and} it would be a sad day if that happened
because it

would be because of scare mongering. 
"I think anybody who was asked to grow GM crops today would say no because it 
would be commercial suicide ... until the perception is better. We are still 
recovering from the BSE crisis and we need a few years of stability to regain
sumer confidence in the product." 
Kevin Dunion, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: "This is a
ening new angle to the whole GM debate. Not only is our countryside facing
spectre of genetic pollution, but it could also prove to be the death knell
our entire 
farming industry. 
"FoE Scotland fully supports the RICS in its call for a freely available land
Paul Tyler MP, Liberal 
Democrat spokesman on GM foods, said: "The threat to land values is just
one of

the many unanswered questions the RICS has raised. 
"Simply having your neighbour growing GM crops could have an effect on land 
values because of cross pollination - and the latest studies show that this
affect crops up to half and mile away. 
"It all goes to support our view that we should be proceeding very slowly with
and certainly should not allow ourselves to be stampeded by huge American 
food technology companies." 

Page 1 of 2 

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors raises spectre of land blight and
financial ruin for farmers 

Friends of the Earth today supported calls by the Royal Institute of Chartered
Surveyors (RICS) for a freely available, land register for genetically
(GM) crops. In a report in today's Scotsman [1] the RICS state that growing GM
crops could threaten land values and put farm tenants at risk of legal

As part of the RICS's submission [3] to the Government's 'Review of the
Framework for Overseeing Developments in Biotechnology' the organisation
that growing GM crops could breach tenancy agreements, affect land values, put
tenant farmers at risk, negatively impact on sites of scientific interest and
called upon the Government to introduce what would effectively be a
'GM-contaminated' land register for prospective purchasers. The National
Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) responded by saying "anybody who was asked to
grow GM crops would say no beacuse it would be commercial suicide." 

Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland Kevin Dunion, said: 

"This is a frightening new dimension to the whole GM debate. The push to fill
our countryside with GM crops means danger for wildlife from genetic pollution
and could be a final death blow to our already beleaguered agricultural

"Legitimate concerns by chartered surveyors as to the effect on land values of
growing genetically engineered crops and questioning whether a landlord can
prevent tenant farmers from doing so, exposes that the narrow base of scrutiny
allowed by Government . Which standing advisory committee of the Government
permitting GMO releases has the scope and expertise to judge the effect on
values for the farm concerned and neighbouring property? 

"Calls for a Register of Land on which GM crops are grown will be fiercely
resisted by the biotech industry. But we need to learn from experience.
Contaminated land registers have been very difficult to compile because of
record keeping on what, and where, pollutants were discharged in the past ;
and  lack of records meant that the restrictions on cattle lasted longer than
it need have in the aftermath of the BSE crisis." 


[1] Scotsman ''GM Farmers Have Grounds for Concern - Experts warn of fall in
land values similar to effect of contamination or disease" by Christopher
Cairns 11th March 1998 
Page 2 of 2 

[2] The RICS are the major professional body representing chartered surveyors
with over 100,000 members worldwide. 
RICS Parliamentary Officer, William Tew, can be contacted on 0171 222 7000. 
RICS Scotland can be contacted on 0131 225 7078. 

[3] Details from RICS submission (February 1999): 

"The increasing development of biotechnology and particular Genetically
Modified Crops will have implications for how our countryside is
managed....other areas of the countryside could also be affected by cross
pollination...these may include: Conservation Areas, Sites of Special
Scientific Interest, Traditional agricultural interests who wish to remain
from Genetically Modified Organisms 

"The current debate surrounding GMOs and also the concerns for land management
raise the possible need for a register of land which has been used to grow
This is an issue that the Government will need to address. 

"The growing of GM crops on let land could conceivably be deemed a breach of
terms of the tenancy agreement under the requirements to farm in accordance
the rules of good husbandry. This may affect the value of the landlord's
reversionary interest and tenants could face claims for dilapidations. 

"The RICS would welcome the introduction of a stakeholders forum that covers
environmental and land management issues. 

"Other claims for environmental damage could occur. Would English Nature
consider that the growing of a GM crop adjoining a SSSI which has the
to cross pollinate with a native plant be classed as potentially damaging

The full implications of the long term effects of genetically modified
crops on
human, plant and animal health have not yet been clearly established. It is
possible that difficulties with this technology may not manifest themselves
a considerable amount of time. The RICS therefore considers that it is
that any commercial cultivation of these crops is traceable by a thorough
recording system. This could take the form of a public register...the
information on this register should be publicly and readily available, free of

[4] FoE Scotland is campaigning for: 

 a five year freeze on the commercial use of GM crops. 
 a full public debate on the need for genetically engineered food 
 a commitment to sustainable methods of farming and food production 

FoE Scotland is working with 30 consumer, development, health and environment
organisations for a Five Year Freeze on GE crops and food. The Five Year
Campaign was born out of escalating concerns over the environmental, social,
economic and health impacts that GM crops and food may inflict on Britain and
throughout the world. The campaign is calling for a five year freeze on the
growing of GM crops for any commercial purpose, the import of GM foods and
crops; the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops.