According to an article by BBC News, the UK government is about to back the introduction of genetically modified crops in Britain, although an overwhelming majority of Britons are highly skeptic. Only 2% said in a recent survey, that they would be happy to eat GM foods.
Opponents argue that contamination of non-GM and organic produce is inevitable, once the altered varieties are grown in the country. Conservative MP Gregory Barker has proposed a bill and is challenging the government to back him. He says the contamination issue must be resolved before the go-ahead can be given to plant crops. Here is his communication, forwarded through Zeus Information Service:
GM laws must come before GM planting
Conservative MP challenges Government to back his GM Bill
19th February 2004; Responding to today's reports of leaked Government papers showing a decision to give the go ahead to commercial GM crop planting, Conservative MP Gregory Barker said
"It is completely absurd to allow the planting of GM crops before putting in place the proper legal framework required. There is no reason to rush into planting GM crops - by the Government's own admission they have few advantages, and hardly anyone is expected to grow them. Before they are given the go ahead, proper debate on laws to control their planting must take place."
Last month, Gregory Barker MP introduced a Private Member's Bill into the House of Commons, the Genetically Modified Organisms Bill, which will be debated in Parliament on March 26th. The Bill will set out rules to ensure that GM contamination is kept under control, and will set out a liability regime so that if damage is caused by GM, costs do not fall on the taxpayer or non-GM or organic farmers.
As yet it is unclear whether or not the Government will support the Bill.
Gregory Barker continued
"No GM crops should be planted before we know who is responsible and have some proper rules to prevent contamination. Most people are sceptical about GM, but even among its strongest advocates, very few people would argue that we should not have a choice whether we eat GM food or not. Without proper rules to stop GM crops contaminating conventional and organic agriculture, all choice could be lost. The Government must back my Bill".
Contact Gregory Barker M.P.
Martyn Williams, Friends of the Earth
Write to your MP about Government's GM crop plans
from Robert Vint, Genetic Food Alert.
We can expect this Government to treat the public with the same contempt over GM issues as they did with the war. But until any announcement that GM maize is approved, probably in a week or maybe in two, we should all be asking our MPs - especially Tories and LibDems - to raise objections in Parliament. Clearly the public want a ban, but I think we can at least persuade MPs to demand a delay. I think the most effective things to ask MPs to demand are:
1. That before any approval the Government hold a detailed economic investigation of the costs and benefits to UK businesses of allowing GM maize. They said crops would be assessed on a 'case-by-case' basis but they are doing no case-by-case cost/benefit analysis. The supposed benefits are tiny or non-existent, whilst the costs of preventing contamination of conventional and organic sweetcorn, of testing sweetcorn to see if it is contaminated, of dumping contaminated corn, of testing the feed of cows producing non-GM milk etc etc is clearly very high.
2. That no approval should take place before laws on GM contamination, liability and compensation are in place. MPs could support Gregory Barker MPs "Genetically Modified Organisms Bill" (to be debated on March 26th) which includes excellent proposals for doing this.
3. That the Government does not claim that we need to promote GM crops because they will "feed the world". Way back in 1998 the Food and Agriculture representatives for every nation in Africa jointly declared that they "strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us".
Just over a year ago Britain's top aid agencies - ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children Fund - jointly wrote to Tony Blair to say "claims that GMOs are necessary for the food security of poor people in developing countries should not be used to promote public acceptance of GM by the UK public. We believe such claims are misleading and fail to acknowledge the complexities of poverty reduction and household food security in developing countries".
4. That in order to abide by the advice of their Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) that any GM maize be grown using only the type and quantity of herbicides used in the Farm Scale Evaluations the Government must alter the European release consent for this crop to impose such conditions before GM maize receives any approval.
It's best to write a letter to your MP at their constituency office or via House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA