Rooker accuses 'messianic' anti-GM lobby of ignorance

FOOD and Farming Minister Jeff Rooker has launched a scathing attack on opponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, who he said were on a 'messianic mission' to halt the technology.

Speaking at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting, he accused the anti-GM lobby of 'ignorance' and warned that opposition to the technology was jeopardising the UK's scientific base.

Responding to a question about whether the time was now right to reignite the debate on GM crops, the outspoken peer expressed frustration at what he described as the 'anti science climate' in evidence across the EU.

“We have to take on and challenge those who pontificate. It isn't just GM issues, it's the same with nanotechnology where simply because it's a new science there's an automatic barrier.

“We are taking a long-term view on this because we don't want to snuff out an industry before it has started.”

He pointed out that 10 years ago GM tomato paste was outselling ordinary tomato paste two to one. “Then we got the 'Frankenstein foods', which is a brilliant sound bite and you can't counteract a sound bite that is ignorant and not based on science,” he said.

He attacked protestors who seek to disrupt trials of GM. “We accept GM medicines for ourselves and our loved ones but it is a different issue with food.

“If the ignorance prevails where you don't allow an experiment to take place because of the fear of what you might find and if we just put up with it and say they are entitled to go and trash the fields and the magistrates will let them off, then frankly we are being taken for a ride.”

He stressed that there was no evidence that anyone's health had ever been damaged by GM crops.

He also warned that the UK would 'lose its biotechnology scientific base if scientists were 'not able to progress in areas where we will see a positive advantage'.

He acknowledged that the first step was to find GM products that benefited consumers rather than just producers, as has been the case up to this point.

But even if that was achieved - and he suggested GM food that helped people with food allergies the answer - opponents of GM technology would have to be defeated for it to be given a chance.

He said he was not in favour of blanket approval of GM crops but wanted a rational debate.

“What I do not accept are the arguments and the slogans where there isn't any validity. They are on a messianic mission, it is like a religion, but there is no science base to it.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Is Lord Rooker acting for the political party, its financial backers or in the interests of agriculture here and abroad? It is difficult to know but his comments do seem a little strange given the reported GM crop failures, GM contamination of non-GM seed supplies, resistant weeds, resistant insects, and the heavy-handed methods used against growers by the companies concerned. I wonder if he has actually watched the French-made film "The World according to Monsanto"? Presumably not. Oh well. Nelson's Eye Syndrome rules - there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. GM is a trap and I am surprised that so many farmers are demanding to fall into it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • At least Rooker is consistent. He said the same when in the Commons as a food minister - and he's still right. We already have next generation GM crops - in the States. GM crops which include trans fatty acid lowering genes for example are used by Kelloggs etc and drought resistant ones are in their final year of field trials. Of course, had the antis not protested so much they would already be available in Africa too, but all the NGOs have to show for their decade of efforts is Monsanto's continuing near-monopoly because the antis Rooker refers to have deterred others like universities and small companies from competing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Register your email address for Farmers Guardian e-bulletins

Get the latest from Farmers Guardian delivered straight to your inbox. Click here to sign-up today

Already receiving bulletins? Sign-in to edit your preferences