Letter: Biotech mess

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The Independent Culture
Sir: First it was "the tyranny of pressure groups" like Friends of the Earth that the Prime Minister blamed for the public's overwhelming rejection of GM crops and foods. Now he thunders in Cabinet that it is all the fault of the media ("Blair blames GM hysteria on the press", 28 May).

This does not explain why the British Medical Association, English Nature (the Government's conservation science advisors) and 65 independent environment and development organisations insist that extensive environmental and human health trials must be completed, under a much tougher regulatory system than the voluntary code drawn up by the biotechnology companies, before final decisions are made.

GM-contaminated pollen and insect prey have been shown to harm monarch butterflies, ladybirds and lacewings. There is neither farmer nor consumer choice when organic and other non-GM produce is contaminated by cross- fertilisation with GM crops.

Yet there is no known way of growing GM crops in isolation in Britain's crowded countryside to prevent cross-fertilisation. The flight of bumblebees and the wind are two forces of nature still beyond the Prime Minister's control.

Sustainable farming, including the rapidly growing organic sector, can supply North and South with more than enough real, healthy food for everyone - if these systems are backed by government. Companies like Monsanto like GM technology because GM patents buy further intensification and market control.

Mr Blair's obstinate defence of the indefensible is no way out of the biotech mess his government has created. The commercialisation of GM crops and foods should stop until the necessary good science has been completed, the environment and health risks minimised and public approval won.


Director, Friends of the Earth

London N1