Paterson's GM comments attacked by organic lobby

DEFRA Secretary Owen Paterson has come under fire for comments he made about genetically modified (GM) crops.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Paterson dismissed critics of the technology as ‘humbugs’ and said the case for GM food now needed to be made ‘emphatically’.

He added: “Emphatically we should be looking at GM … I’m very clear it would be a good thing. The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits.”

But the comments have drawn a strong response from the organic lobby in particular.

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: “Owen Patterson is wrong to claim that GM crops are good for the environment.  The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.

“US Government figures show that overall pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there, because as scientists opposed to GM predicted, superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. 

“The recent British Science Association survey showed public concern has not changed, and the number of people saying that GM food should be encouraged dropped from 46 per cent in 2002 to 27 per cent in 2012.

“Owen Patterson says that people are eating meat from animals fed of GM feed without realising it. That is because the British Government has consistently opposed moves to label to give consumers accurate information, and he should put that right by immediately introducing compulsory labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM feed.” 

Friends of the Earth’s senior food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: “Owen Paterson’s claims that we need GM crops simply don’t stack up. The industrial farming system, which GM aggravates, has been instrumental in causing the global food crisis we currently face.

“A fresh approach to agriculture is urgently needed to serve up sustainable diets globally, including reduced meat-consumption in wealthy nations and an end to food crops being used for biofuels.”

Readers' comments (11)

  • At last a balanced article on this latest attempt by elements of the UK govt to push through GM crops in the face of masses of scientific and farm evidence showing they bring problems. Peter Melchett is right, the facts this time are on the side of those who oppose GM crops. All that is on the other side is advertising by GM companies and their allies.

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  • oh dear me - me think they doth protest to much. Surely this has nothing to do with the fact that if GM crops take off (and make no mistake - they will), the likes of the Soil Association (and their 6 figure salaries) will become extinct?

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  • People will probably eat more organic is GM is put in other food. Why is Paterson so keen on this? GM is only of benefit to Mosanto, not to farmers or consumers.

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  • How close to the Government did the bio tech lobby get recently. Monsanto et al? All the bio tech industry is keen about is profit. For the harm they are doing look at what is happening in India ( mass suicides) and America. The weeds fight back!

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  • If you believe that the bio tech industry, Monsanto et al, are motivated by altruism and will provide the answers to the problems of feeding mankind in the future, then why have they so aggressively fought against Proposition 37 in California, a move simply to make labelling of GM foods mandatory, not to ban them. See http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/sign/prop_37_demand_transparency/?akid=686.364245.9s8OTh&rd=1&t=5

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  • What good timing by this government - to make this announcement just after professor Seralini's clinical trials revealed that GM maize, fed in diluted doses, has a highly deteterious affect on rodents, leading to giant tumors and an early death.

    Now furtehr scientific evidence has revealed that by ingesting GM foods our human RNA is carrying GM 'information' into the gut. In the case of maize genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate (Roundup) - this is effectively turning our intestines into pesticide factories and us into genetically modified human beings.

    Government officials had better wake-up - otherwise they will soon be in the courts standing trial for their complicity in promoting genocidal policies capable of exterminating large swathes of humanity.

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  • GM unfortunately is not delivering the long term answers to agriculture that were promised, we are seeing the emergence of herbicide tolerant weeds and insecticide resistance in some BT strains worldwide. What is needed is not GM but OM, putting the Organic Matter back into soils drained by continuous mono cropping. Organics does have a role to play, however the politics and petty rules make it unviable to most. We need to be taking greater care in managing our soils far better than currently, we need viability in the industry to enable proper arable break crops to be grown, rather than the continuous systems currently employed. We also need to stop wasting so much of what we produce.

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  • http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/11/29/166156242/cornstalks-everywhere-but-nothing-else-not-even-a-bee

    so GMO eh? Good idea?

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  • To suddenly go headlong down a GM route is foolhardy. In the States it has not been the panacea for all ills , infact it has caused a lot of ills itself. Let the research continue yes but let us have time to really see the possible benefits or downsides. Let us also spend as much time and effort on Organic research, worldwide that has to be a more sustainable future.

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  • So do we want British farmers to be competitive on the global market, or not? Owen Paterson is just making sure that the UK is in with a chance of maintaining or even increasing its self-sufficiency as effectively as possible, and with consideration for the environment. It's part of a growth and jobs strategy that might help get us out of the mess we're in. In the next ten years, Brazil's agriculture sector will grow by 40%, the EU by 4-5%, about the same as Sub-Saharan Africa. We can afford to keep importing, but surely it's better to stay in the food production game ourselves, and keep exploring new ag technologies (whatever they may be).

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