GM lobby helped draw up crucial report on Britain's food supplies
2010 10 13

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.


Lord Rooker
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.

Source: guardian.co.uk

Red Ice Radio
Jeffrey Smith - Seeds of Deception & The Danger of Genetically Engineered Foods



Related Articles
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

Starbucks Supports Pro-GMO Company
2014 11 26
Another reason why you should not go to Starbucks. Starbucks has an image of being a socially responsible, environmentally friendly company (Really?). In 2013, 95 percent of their coffee was ethically sourced, and their goal is to reach 100 percent by 2015.1 Other goals include reducing water consumption by 25 percent in their company-operated stores by 20152 and mobilizing their employees and ...
Group Polarization and the Fad of Ethno-masochism
2014 11 26
From "Group polarization: A critical review and meta-analysis". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 6 50 (6): 1141--1151 The psychology of White self hatred. Political correctness IS a mental disorder. More: Group polarization: A critical review and meta-analysis. Isenberg, Daniel J. the paper Indoctrinate U Harvard Professor Noel Ignatiev talks about how to end the White race The History of Political Correctness The Narrative: The origins of Political ...
Credo: A Nietzschean Testament by Jonathan Bowden
2014 11 26
This lecture by Jonathan Bowden was given at the 11th New Right meeting in London on September 8, 2007. The original title of the presentation was “The Art and Philosophy of Jonathan Bowden.” I think ideas are inborn, and you’re attracted, if you have any, toward certain systems of thinking and sensibility and response. From a very young age, I was ...
A Look Back at the OJ Simpson Verdict -- Reactions
2014 11 26
This is a look back at the different reactions to the OJ Simpson verdict some 20 years ago (exact date of verdict was Oct 3, 1995). The OJ Simpson jury consisted of 9 Blacks, 1 Hispanic, and 2 Whites. It would raise eyebrows after they only deliberated for 4 hours in a case that they were involved in for almost ...
New York Times Publishes Darren Wilson’s Street Address and Photo of House #Ferguson
2014 11 26
Hey here are the two @nytimes scumbags that published Wilson’s home address. —> @juliebosman & @campbellnyt— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) November 25, 2014 Michael Brown’s Stepdad Shouting ‘Burn This Bitch Down’ The New York Times published information about the address of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Monday in a move that has generated controversy. Tensions are running high in Ferguson, Missouri, as ...
More News »