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GE - Response from Lincolnshire farmer re GM farm tials



Hi there

I thought that I would share with you a response received from Mr Duguid, the
Lincolnshire farmer who is taking part in the farm-scale trials.  He has only
picked up on a few of the points that I originally raised.  I have pasted
in my
limited reply also.  As far as I am aware, GM material is expressed in nectar
as well as in pollen, but perhaps a beekeeper can help me out here. 

Incidentally, AgrEvo use glufosinate ammonium in their trials which contains
the same active ingredient as Monsanto's glyphosate (RoundUp) - it is an
organophosphate.

Jean


Norton Place
Bishop Norton
Lincoln LN8 2AX
Tel: 01673818240 Fax: 01673 818638

2nd September 1 999

Dear Mrs Saunders

Thank you for your letter regarding the G.M trials which are taking place
on my
farm (Home Farm, Spital in the Street, Glentham, Lincs). I am disappointed to
see that you view them with such concern and feel that it is probably because
the case in favour has been poorly presented by the media and the companies
involved in their development.

If I could attempt to answer some of your concerns by saying that I consider
myself to be a responsible  farmer who would certainly not do anything which I
felt could have a detrimental effect on the environment. I am also a beekeeper
and keep 5 hives myself for the production of honey for consumption by my
family and friends. I am sure you are aware that honey is produced from
nectar 
gathered by the bee from plants and I have never heard a suggestion that it
could be affected by the genes in the growing plant. Pollen is used by the
bees
to feed their emerging larvae and is no different to the consumption of  G.M
food by humans which most of  the world population has been doing,  possibly
unknowingly, for several years now. So I am confidant that there is no risk to
bees,   beekeepers or honey consumers.
I understand that the Soil Association exclude G.M. crops from gaining
organic
status and  acknowledge that at present they have no choice. However if you
wish to consume food which is less  likely to contain chemical residues, then
G.M. food is the right choice because the plants are modified to achieve the
necessary resistance to pests and diseases from their genes instead of from
the
use of increasingly powerful chemicals. It is said that we don't know what the
long term effects of' eating food from genetically  modified plants may be,
but
I would say that we also don't know what the long term effects of eating food
full of chemical residues may be;  I know which choice I would prefer  to
risk.

Regarding the trials. 1 have had one on my farm for over 4 months now and can
assure you that the monitoring of every aspect of wildlife both above and
below
ground has been carried out in a most professional and thorough manner by the
independent organisations appointed by the government.  On each trial we
have a
comparative crop growing alongside which is grown in the normal agricultural
manner and is subjected to the same rigorous tests. Nowhere in the world have
such stringent tests of this type been carried out before and 1 am fairly
confident that they will reveal a benefit to the wildlife from the
reduction in
the applications of chemicals on the G.M. sites.

I hope you can understand why 1 feel so strongly that these trials should be
allowed to proceed and that  they are not being carried out in an
irresponsible
manner but very much with potential benefits to the environment in mind.
  Yours sincerely
  
  R.M. Duguid
==================

3 September 1999

R M Duguid
Norton Place
Bishop Norton
Lincoln LN8 2AX

Dear Mr Duguid

Thank you for your letter dated 2 September in response to my letter of 16
August.  I appreciate that you have taken the trouble to reply to a number of
the points that I raised.  My concerns about GM foods/crops are nor based on
media reports.  I have researched much deeper into the subject and I do have a
medical background. 

I share your concern that we "don't know what the long term effects of eating
food full of chemical residues may be".  However common sense will tell us
that
any chemical designed to kill is not going to be good for our health.  This is
why it is essential to move toward whole-scale organic food production.  It
will be impossible to grow GM and organic crops in a small country like the UK
without causing cross-contamination. 

Herbicide or insect resistant crops will also be contaminated with pesticide
residues.  Indeed standards have been relaxed already to permit increased
levels of glyphosate residues on GM soya and this pesticide has been shown to
have harmful effects on humans.  At the end of my letter, I am attaching the
text of questions raised in the House of Lords on Glyphosate Residues in Food
that took place on 21st July 1999.  There are some very interesting points
made, many of which remain unanswered.

I do not doubt that you are a "responsible farmer" and living in a farming
area
as I do, I believe that farmers need far more assistance to reduce their
pesticide input.  However I also feel that you may be taking a cavalier
attitude to the unproven effects of GM crops on health and the environment
that
might take many years to come to light.  I respect your viewpoint but if you
are proven wrong it will be impossible to recall GM organisms released to the
environment.

Certainly I have used materials in dentistry that have now been banned which
were considered perfectly safe at the time.  

Yours sincerely


Mrs J Saunders
Retired dental surgeon

Enc



Glyphosate Residues in Food - House of Lords 21st July 1999

Glyphosate Residues in Food     2.47 p.m.  The Countess of Mar asked Her
Majesty's Government:  When and upon what basis the decision was made to
increase the maximum
residue level of glyphosate in food by 200 times; whether the increase also
applies to glufosinate ammonium; and whether it is their practice to advise
food manufacturers and retailers when such changes are made. 

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord
Donoughue): My Lords, currently there are 152 statutory maximum residue levels
(MRLs) for glyphosate in various foods. Only the one for soya has increased. 

This decision was taken by the European Union following a full risk assessment
which indicated that residues at the new level do not represent an
unacceptable
risk to consumers. The new MRL of 20 mg/kg was implemented into United Kingdom
legislation on 30th April 1997 following, I am advised, the usual consultation
arrangements at that time. The MRL does not apply to
glufosinate ammonium. 

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that full
reply. Is he aware of Italian work which shows that glyphosate is genotoxic
and
that it has particular affinity for liver and kidneys? In view of the fact
that
soya is widely used in our foods, and that we have a problem with genetically
modified soya in that it cannot easily be separated from soya that has not
been
genetically modified, should we not express particular caution with this
product? Is the noble Lord also aware that it seems to be the commercial, as
opposed to the technical, formulation which is causing the problems?
Further to
Written Questions that I have asked about other products, is it not very
important that we know what the so-called inert ingredients and surfactants
are
in these products? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I bow to the noble Countess's greater knowledge of
this subject. I must confess that as of 24 hours ago my knowledge was not very
profound. 

This matter was subject to a full scientific scrutiny before the approvals
were
given in Europe and brought into legislation by the previous administration.
The increase in the level is considered to be well within safety levels;
indeed, it could be increased a further ten times without risk. If the noble
Countess is concerned about any further technical aspects, I shall certainly
write to her. 

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the Minister say why it was fixed
previously at such a low level? Surely there was some negligence there. 

Lord Donoughue: No, my Lords. The previous level--which I think was 0.01--was
effectively a zero level. It operated before the matter had been considered
and
when it was not a practical question. It then became an issue of trade. The
low
level prevented the import of soya treated in this way from, say, the United
States. When that issue was raised, the level was increased by 200 to make
it a
more relevant level. The previous level was effectively a zero level. 

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, can the noble Lord identify the name of the
committee at the European level; whether it was a regulatory, advisory or
management committee; and the name of the person who represented the United
Kingdom on that committee? Can he say whether the results of the committee's
deliberations were, in addition to the Government, made
available to Parliament as a whole? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I cannot reveal the name because the matter was
conducted under the previous administration and all such information is kept
secret. The matter was scrutinised by the appropriate and relevant European
committee, which has approved already some 11,000 maximum residual levels and
continues to do so. Again, if there is anything of relevance in what my noble
friend has asked, I will write to him. 

Viscount Addison: My Lords, is the Minister aware that cattle across the
country are fed high volumes of soya? Does that have any effect on humans? 
Has any work been carried out to check the levels taken in by cattle and
whether that in any way can be passed on to humans? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I do not know about work into cattle feed. Currently
soya is being monitored by the relevant working party on residual levels in
pesticides. Three kinds of soya are being investigated this year. I am not
aware that animal feed is being investigated. 

Lord Stallard: My Lords, before we leave the Question, can the Minister
tell me
what is glyphosate? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I sympathise with my noble friend. I asked the same
question at 10.15 this morning. Glyphosate is a total weedkiller which is used
by a number of companies. In this case it is marketed by one particular
company. It also acts as a desiccating agent. It is a total
weedkiller and therefore is of relevance to the issue of genetically crops
issues in that seeds which are resistant to it are being developed. 

Baroness Byford: My Lords, my understanding is that the level was raised
because of the introduction of GM crops and the fact that such crops are able
to be sprayed at a later stage rather than at seed stage. Can the Minister
comment on that and on the Question of the noble Countess about the
implications for human health? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I do not agree. The increased level was not
introduced for genetically modified foods but for non-genetically modified
soya. It was introduced at a later stage for genetically modified food. As I
said, that happened under the previous administration. 

Lord Marsh: My Lords, are the Government's advisers in agreement with the
advisers to the Commission on this specific issue? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, yes. As far as I understand it, our advisers are in
agreement with them. 

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, was the Minister informed in his briefing that
glyphosate is one of the most common causes of complaint to the UK Health and
Safety Executive's pesticide incidents appraisal panel? In those
circumstances,
is not it a matter of great concern, in respect of soya or any other product,
that the levels of glyphosate--or Roundup, I think was the word the Minister
was trying to use earlier--should be correct. It is manufactured by Monsanto;
that is the company with which we are concerned. Should not the Government
reappraise whether the level is correct? 

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the Government are concerned about any threats to
health and safety; that is why the working party is looking at this issue.  It
is Roundup; I did not wish to give a plug to the company marketing that
tradename. We are looking at that aspect in relation to soya. The advisory
committee is concerned with safety in relation to glyphosate and other
organophosphates. This is an OP, and that is why we are reviewing the whole
issue. 

21 Jul 1999 : Column 970