GM Oilseed Rape

Pro-GMO Commission undermines EU democracy

70% of EU citizens opposed to GM crops,            MEP Caroline Lucus tells conference – 13 June 2007

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The unelected European Commission is undermining EU democracy by supporting GM crops and foodstuffs despite the opposition of over 70% of EU citizens and more than half of the EU’s member countries, Green MEP Caroline Lucas told a Brussels conference.

More than 170 EU regions and 4,500 other zones have now declared themselves GMO-free but in the absence of qualified majority in the Environment Council the Commission continues to authorise new GM varieties, and force countries to allow their cultivation, she said.

“It is outrageous that in the face of this overwhelming opposition we still have to constantly marshal our efforts to try to stop the drip-drip-drip of vested corporate and misguided economic interests seeking to force GMOs upon us.”

She made her comments at a conference organised by the Institute of Science in Society at the European Parliament.

Dr Lucas, a member of the European Parliament’s influential Environment Committee, also criticised the “secretive and pro-GMO” European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for its support for the GMO industry.

She warned that the risk of contamination meant it may be impossible for conventional and organic agriculture to stay GMO-free, and said liability for financial losses sustained as a result of GMO contamination should fall on the polluter.

“We must review GMO legislation to ensure that all impurities in seeds are labelled as far as possible, and that foods such as milk, meat and eggs are also clearly labelled if they derive from GM ingredients or feeds,” Dr Lucas added.

“Until these urgent measures have been agreed and come into effect we must have a moratorium on all further approvals.”

“Currently, there are at least 18 varieties of GM crops which have been authorised for cultivation in the EU, despite evidence that GM varieties pose a real threat to the environment. This is at least 18 too many.”

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A UN report warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment - 9 May 2007

...The report warns too of the impacts on nature: “Use of large-scale mono-cropping could lead to significant biodiversity loss, soil erosion and nutrient leaching.”

This has been avoided, the report says, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo where sugar cane farmers are obliged to leave a percentage of their land as natural reserves.

Water is also a concern. The expanding world population and the on-going switch towards consumption of meat and dairy produce as incomes rise are already putting pressure on freshwater supplies, which increased growing of biofuel crops could exacerbate.

In conclusion, UN Energy suggests policymakers should take a holistic look before embarking on drives to boost biofuel use.

“Only through a convergence of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water-use policies can bioenergy find its proper environmental context and agricultural scale,” the report concludes.

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Public to re-consider GM crops based on possible future food shortages and the increased cost of producing non-GM foods

The front-page article in the Scotsman Newspaper on 21 July 2007 smacked of emotional blackmail with a touch of bullying by the GM corporate sponsors. The same corporate sponsors that hide behind the glossy and non-transparent façade of words that are attempting to transform our agricultural and food industries beyond natural biological recognition that will, allegedly, “save the world from starvation and poverty.”

It is rather ironic that our “saviours” appear to be the very people who caused food shortages in the first place and who continue to drive-out local agricultural bio-diversity and sustainability within the agricultural world on a global scale. We have been pacified with talk of co-existence between GM and Non-GM crops, yet the reality is that there can only be one survivor.  Co-existence is not only expensive but it is both an administrative and environmental management nightmare.

Yes, co-existence can work, but judging by the performance of the agricultural industry to date, it is high unlikely that this could be made to work.  One just needs to glance around the agricultural landscape during the oilseed rape flowering period to see evidence of biological litter (oilseed rape volunteers as the crop biologists call it) growing on our road verges, beside riverbanks and on the central reservations of our motorways.  I have even witnessed oilseed rape weeds growing in the rusty rainwater gutters of old buildings.

Whilst the biologists may correct me by stating that these weeds are not in fact oilseed rape plants, but wild relatives. This does little to allay fears that out-crossing will occur from the field into the environment via these biological weeds/distant relatives of oilseed rape crops.  According to a recent agricultural report, seeds for oilseed rape can remain dormant in the soil for between 5 to 10 years.  So it’s going to be quite a task to manage out-crossing from the field into the wild and vice versa.  It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a farmer to confirm that his cop is GM free when GM wild relatives could well be growing on the central reservation of the motorway close by.  In the end, farmers will have little option but to turn to GM crops to protect their livelihoods.

 So who wins in the end if we allow our farmers to grow GM crops - the environment, the farmers, the UK public, third world countries?  I believe the answer can be found in the history books.  The canola industry (that incidentally owns the patent rights to the world’s GM oilseed bank) set its corporate agenda on GM technology some 30 years ago and has been unstinting in its quest for global supremacy ever since.  Whilst the European Commission advocates the precautionary principle to protect the public and environment from unproven technologies such as GM technology, the canola industry views the precautionary principle as unscientific and nothing more than an unfair trade barrier.

If I may quote from a book written in 1992 by the highly respected biotech author Brewster Kneen;

    “Not enough time has elapsed for the biotech industry to discover the consequences of what has been so carelessly initiated. There has been, however, sufficient increase in the occurrence of allergies, asthma, cancers, immune system disorders and similar illnesses, for which there is no adequate explanation, to give us good cause to doubt the assurances about the safety of scientific endeavours in general and biotechnology in particular.”

    “Biotechnology remains firmly entrenched in the service of national competitiveness, and the industry is as clear as ever that ethical issues, public concerns, and government regulation must not be permitted to stand in the way of corporate progress. Canada cannot afford to fall behind its major international trading partners in the development and commercialisation of new crop varieties, improvements to animal products and advances in food technology, warns the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee, calling for a balance to be struck, between regulation and promotion, equity and efficiency, protection of the public and the environment, as well as the furtherance of private interests and economic growth.”

It would appear that little has changed since the publication of Brewster Kneen’s book, other than the biotech corporate sponsors have changed their focus from protecting their Canadian interests to securing a world wide monopoly for their GM products by driving out all competition (Non-GM crops) along the way. In today’s modern phraseology – redundant biological technology being superseded by more adaptable manmade technology.

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Hidden Uncertainties                                                               published by Friends of the Earth Europe & Greenpeace April 2006

What the European Commission doesn’t want us to know                                 about the risks of GMOs

The European Commission has released new documents that question the safety of genetically modified foods and crops. The papers form the basis of the European Communities’ (EC) scientific arguments in the current trade dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

For full information, refer to the page EC & GM Crops

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Author - Armitage: copyright 2007

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