The Great GM Revolt
Daily Mail's Anti-GM Campaign
An army of 3,000 men and women from all walks of life have vowed to rip up genetically-modified crops if they are ever planted commercially in Britain.
The campaigners have signed the Green Gloves Pledge which commits them to fight each new crop 'field by field'.
The rebels include Zac Goldsmith, who owns and edits 'The Ecologist' magazine and Camilla Parker Bowles's son, Tom.
News of their campaign came as Britain's first commercially-grown GM crop - a type of maize to be fed to dairy cattle - awaits Government approval.
A Cabinet Office report warned last year that allowing GM crops could trigger civil unrest.
Now the Green Gloves Pledge has declared: 'If the UK Government gives the go-ahead to commercialise the growing of GM crops against the overwhelming wishes of the British public, I pledge to non-violently remove GM crops from the ground or support those who take action to remove GM crops.'
Tracey, Marchioness of Worcester, has also signed the pledge. She said last night: 'I cannot see how anyone can protect our health and environment unless we disobey the Government. Our Government seems only to be listening to big business and the Americans. It is not listening to the people who raise serious questions about the impact of GM on health and the environment. The real vandals are those who intend to unleash GM in a way that will contaminate the countryside for ever. We are prepared to stand up against a Government which ignores the wishes of the vast majority of the population.'
Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat farming spokesman said, 'If the Government gives the go-ahead for GM maize, it will show a breathtaking disdain for both the public and MPs. It will have irreversible consequences for the environment, farmers and consumers.'
Spin, lies and flawed science
So Tony Blair has at last got his way. In the teeth of overwhelming public opposition, mounting scientific evidence, and a shelf full of sceptical official reports, the Government has finally given a tenative go-ahead to growing GM crops commercially in Britain.
The Prime Minister's spinners and the GM industry's cheerleaders will claim that the debate is over and that those, like the Daily Mail, who have campaigned against them should accept defeat.
The way is now clear they will say for Mr. Blair to complete his declared mission to make this country the 'European hub' for biotechnology.
Don't believe it. Yesterday's announcement - scandalously rushed out before Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett departs on nearly 2 month's travels - is an attempt to shore up a crumbling position rather than a definitive last word.
The battle is far from over and Mr. Blair and his ministers look like continuing to be on the losing side. It is still far from clear that GM crops will ever be cultivated here commercially in any meaningful sense of the word.
For a start, the Government and industry have had to abandon two of the three GM crops that they planned to spread across Britain.
GM beet and oilseed rape failed trails to assess the impact on surrounding wildlife and yesterday Mrs. Beckett had to confirm not just that they would be banned at home but that the Government would oppose their commercial cultivation anywhere in the EU.
Only a GM maize called Chardon LL - originally licensed for 8 years by the EU in 1996 - survives. And the prospects for this are far from rosy.
Yesterday's announcement was held up for weeks while the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments - who by law have to agree to the GM maize being cultivated - refused to toe Mr. Blair's line.
Even now Mrs. Beckett has been unable to give specific permission for planting the crop and has to confine herself just to supporting its principle.
Instead she has effectively announced another delay while a public consultation is carried out into how to minimise genes spreading from the GM maize to organic and conventional crops.
This will prevent any of the maize being grown this year. And it is looking increasingly likely that the consultation exercise will be spun out to prevent any planting next year either, in order to avoid a row in the run-up to a General Election.
By the year after that, 2006, the EU licence for the maize will have run out and the industry will have to demonstrate its desirability all over again.
The GM industry can see the writing on the wall, even if it still eludes Mr. Blair's tunnel vision.
Last October, Monsanto (world's largest GM seed company), announced it was closing its cereal seed business in Britain and Europe. And Bayer CropScience which owns the Chardon LL maize, has just made the national heads of its GM programmes throughout Europe redundant.
Contrast this with the prospects for the GM industry six years ago when the Mail and other critics began their campaigns. Then, Monsanto and other biotech firms were riding high, darlings of the stockmarkets, dismissive of opposition.
The Prime Minister, then as now, enthusiastically promoted the technology, letting it be known that he was happy to give his children GM food.
However, the opposition grew rapidly. In 1998, 60% of Britons said they would not eat GM foods; now its 84%.
Supermarkets scrambled to take them off their shelves; none now sell them. Food manufacturers have gone GM-free, while demand for organic produce continues to boom.
It's not surprising. Despite Mrs. Beckett's claim that her announcement was 'precautionary' and 'evidence-based', the scientific case against the technology continues to grow.
Yesterday's announcement changes little and will do nothing to abate public hostility or slow the flow of damning evidence. It does not even ensure that a single GM crop will be grown in Britain.
It is little more than spin, designed to show that Tony Blair is never wrong and to appease the ferociously pro-GM President Bush.
But it does present a danger by allowing the GM industry to tell the world, however falsely, that European resistance to the technology is cracking.
As so often, Mr. Blair is giving a false impression. But he will not fool people at home. The announcement will increase opposition, not just to GM but to his increasingly authoritarian and unrepresentative style of government.
To order apricot kernels (vitamin B17) email Phillip Day's Campaign for Truth in Medicine: email@example.com
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