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2014 - the UK's GM-free year!

The Ecologist

30th December 2013

Despite the best efforts of the GM industry and Government, no GM trials are to take place in the UK in 2014. Could this spell the beginning of the end for genetically modified crops in the country?

The GM industry just hasn’t produced anything UK farmers can use or that consumers want.

The UK has been a useful testing ground for a variety of GM crops. GM potatoes have recently been trialled in Leeds, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, running up taxpayer-funded costs of £1.7 million since 2001. And a controversial GM wheat variety was trialled during 2012/13 in Hertfordshire at a cost of £1.3 million. 

But according to DEFRA's "Genetically Modified Organisms: Applications and consents" document, "Defra currently has no [GM trial] applications under consideration."  So the end of the GM wheat trial leaves the UK farmland GM free.

GM Freeze Director Helena Paul said: "We’re celebrating a GM-free 2014 in UK fields - and long may it continue. We congratulate the millions of UK farmers and shoppers standing up for what is right for their businesses and families, and we’re standing right beside them.

"No matter what it says, the GM industry just hasn’t produced anything UK farmers can use or that consumers want. Instead the industry colludes with the Government to rig public dialogues, botch consultations, remove necessary regulations and proposes using public money to force pro-GM 'education' onto the curriculum."

Last June a 'Round Table' meeting took place bringing together GM companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF, together with  Government officials, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), Science Ministers David Willetts and Lord Taylor, and senior pro-GM MPs.

Also present were academics from UK universities and research institutes including Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre, and  representatives of the National Farmers Union. The aim was to set a strong pro-GM agenda for UK agricultural research backed by significant taxpayer funds.

The resulting document complained about the structure of agriculture in the UK "which is made up of a large number of small farms looking at different sectors, which makes commercialisation difficult." It also refers to difficulties with "regulatory barriers and political divisions at national and EU level."

Now the total lack of GM trials taking place in 2014 indicates that the GM industry may be losing the battle in the UK despite the high level of government support they enjoy. Underlying this is that there is no demand for GM foods among consumers or the retailers that compete for their business.

Helena Paul comments: "We hope that the science establishment in the UK has learned that there is plenty of important and highly productive non-GM research needed, and the UK should be aiming to emerge as a centre of excellence in these areas rather than pursuing unnecessary GM crops that no one wants."

 

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