GM lobby helped draw up crucial report on Britain's food supplies
By Jamie Doward | guardian.co.uk
Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer ...the usual Suspects
Email trail shows how biotech group helped watchdog to draw up analysis of GM crops ... and prompted two advisers to quit
A powerful lobbying organisation representing agribusiness interests helped draft a key government report that has been attacked by environmentalists for heavily favouring the arguments of the genetically modified food industry.
The revelation comes after the resignation of two government advisers who have criticised the close relationship between the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the body that oversees the UK's food industry, and the GM lobby.
Emails between the FSA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) show the council inserted key sentences strengthening the case for GM food that ended up in the final report.
The report, "Food Standards Agency work on changes in the market and the GM regulatory system" (pdf), examines how GM products are entering the UK, where the growing of GM products is banned, through the animal feed system. It acknowledges food prices could go up if GM products continue to be excluded.
Emails from the council – which represents leading GM food companies such as Monsanto and Bayer – to Dr Clair Baynton, the then head of novel foods at the FSA, show a close dialogue between both sides between 2008 and August 2009, when the report was published.
On 19 November 2008, Baynton sent the council a draft of the report, saying: "I am happy to discuss… if that would be helpful."
In response, the council suggested a series of changes that emphasised how GM food was playing an increasingly important role in global agriculture and helping bring down food prices. Some of the amendments were rejected by the FSA, but others were accepted.
One accepted alteration acknowledged the GM lobby's argument that GM food is inevitable in the European Union because of its ubiquity elsewhere. It stated that "retailers were concerned they may not be able to maintain their current non-GM sources of supply as producers increasingly adopt GM technology around the world".
And the FSA also accepted the suggested amendment that soya protein (which can be grown as a GM crop) remains "the most cost-effective method of supplementing animal feed at present". Baynton replied a few days later: "Many thanks for your comments on the draft report", and asked the council for help in finding evidence of the prevalence of GM foods, "either authorised or being considered for authorisation in Argentina, Brazil and the US".
Months later, the council sent Baynton, a former employee of GM food producer Syngenta, a list of whom it wanted on a steering group overseeing a "public engagement exercise" on GM food. The email stated: "We believe GM must be presented as an option within the wider context of food security as part of a solution to feeding a growing population."
The FSA was due to start the public engagement exercise, which is expected to cost the taxpayer £500,000, this month. But the move is being seen in some quarters as a "rigged" exercise.
Two members who sit on the FSA's steering group have resigned in protest. Dr Helen Wallace, director of Genewatch UK, a scientific pressure group opposed to GM, stepped down last month. Last week, the group's vice-chairman, Professor Brian Wynne, an expert on public engagement with science, resigned, complaining that the FSA had adopted a "dogmatically entrenched", pro-GM attitude.
Wallace said the emails "expose how the Food Standards Agency is acting as a puppet of the GM industry, by colluding with foreign GM companies to undermine people's access to GM-free food supplies in Britain". The FSA is chaired by former Labour minister Lord Rooker, a GM enthusiast, who has attacked its critics as "anti-science".
A confidential bid document to win the contract to run the engagement exercise, submitted by the polling company Ipsos MORI, acknowledges the sensitivity of the initiative. "There will be no active seeking of media interest in relation to this project," it explains.
The bidding document states that it works on behalf of a "multinational agro-chemical and seed company" and warns: "Campaign organisations who may feel that the 'battle' was won in 2003 could decide to try and hijack the process to ensure GM food does not get a chance to be reintroduced into the UK."
An FSA spokesman defended its decision to include the GM lobby's suggested changes in the final report.
"In order to obtain an accurate picture of the situation, the FSA held a series of meetings with stakeholders before drafting this report," the spokesman said. "As the report was concerned with the markets for food and animal feed, the biotech industry had not been involved in these meetings. However, in order to ensure the report was balanced and not to exclude this relevant stakeholder group, the view of the ABC was also sought. Their comments were taken on board in the final draft, as were the comments by other stakeholders."
But Wallace was critical of the decision. "The stakeholder meeting was transparent – the changes made behind the scenes at the industry's request were not," she said. "The report fails to represent the vast majority of GM-free farmers, who will have to pay a heavy price if their crops or seed are allowed to become contaminated with GM crops or seed."
The row came as the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, who used to work as director of a biotech lobbying firm, said that she was in favour of GM foods "in the right circumstances".
Brief History of GM
People have been breeding animals and new varieties of plants for centuries. As a result, the world's main food crops have been selected, crossed and bred to suit local conditions and to make them tastier.
Whereas traditional methods involve mixing thousands of genes, genetic modification allows just one or a small number of genes to be inserted into a plant to change it in a predetermined way. Genes can be "switched" on or off to change how it develops.
The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was a type of tomato, which was modified to ripen without softening and was approved for release in the US in 1994.
Most GM crops are grown in North America. The Grocery Manufacturers of America association estimates that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain a GM ingredient. In the EU, if a food contains or consists of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), this must be indicated.
Public opposition to GM food within the EU saw one of its main proponents, Monsanto, pull out of the European seed cereal business in 2003.
Red Ice Radio
Jeffrey Smith - Seeds of Deception & The Danger of Genetically Engineered Foods
Government sends for the beekeepers to protect nation's honey bees from killer diseases
"Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic
GM food must be allowed into Europe, WTO rules
Monsanto's Government Ties
"Greens" movement may have darker agenda
U.S. using food crisis to boost bio-engineered crops
Obama's Latest Sellout - GM Biotech "Yes Men"
EU governments slam Brussels' GM crops plan
Obama Pushes GM Foods on Ghana, Africa
Fears grow as study shows genetically modified crops "can cause liver and kidney damage"
Latest News from our Front Page
Hackers Leak Info on 9,372 DHS Employees
Homeland Security claims there is no indication that any breach of sensitive or personally identifiable information occurred
Hackers released the names, positions, phone numbers and email addresses of more than 20,000 alleged FBI employees Monday only hours after leaking similar data from more than 9,000 people at the DHS.
The group claiming responsibility, known as “DotGovs,” first alerted Infowars to the alleged ...
Gyms, Wikipedia, & Anti-White Racism
A media-generated “uproar” following the innocent renaming of a River Falls, Wisconsin, school gym, and the blatant manipulation of Wikipedia, have served as the latest examples of the ongoing anti-white racism which is becoming endemic in society at large.
As reported in the River Falls Journal, the Meyer Middle School in River Falls, Wisconsin, needed a new fitness center. To this ...
Pegida's Multi - Culti (state) Agenda!
This guy raises some very interesting points regarding the recent PEGIDA launch in the UK and around Europe.
Make sure to check out the videos below. The focus on the criticism descends into a Nazi accusation contest. "No no THEY are the REAL Nazi's."
Pegida UK is fronted by Tommy Robinson, Paul Weston and Anne Marie Waters. They held a demo in ...
Sweden plans to expel up to 80,000 asylum-seekers (that didn't seek asylum)
Sweden intends to expel up to 80,000 migrants who arrived in 2015 and whose application for asylum has been rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Wednesday.
Ed: Wait, so they are in the country despite being rejected asylum? How did that happen and who let them in then?
"We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000," the ...
What Happened to Roosh and Why Did the International Media Run With the "Pro-Rape" Allegation Lie?
In the past few days there has been a slew of articles coming out of the garbage pile that is the mainstream media, detailing how "Roosh V" of Return of Kings, not only is a "Pro-rapist," but how he also was going to teach men how to rape, at their planned international meetups.
Roosh did a press conference in Washington DC, ...
|More News » |