Ministers press for end to GM ban

A A A

British ministers will press this week for a Europe-wide go-ahead on new GM crops and foods. At two crucial meetings of EU ministers, they will push for an immediate end to a ban on approving new GM products, which has been in operation for the past four years.

If their bid – which follows intense pressure from the United States – succeeds, it will pave the way for new GM products to appear on supermarket shelves, and new GM crops to be sown in fields throughout the continent.

Britain will argue, at meetings of agriculture ministers tomorrow and environment ministers on Thursday, that the ban is illegal. The European Commission takes the same view, and the political balance in Europe has shifted in their favour as a result of recent right-wing election victories across the continent.

Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth last night described the British position as "another case of the Government kowtowing to George Bush, jeopardising the interests of its own people to please its master across the Atlantic".

No new GM crops or foods have been approved for use in the EU since October 1998, when governments imposed a voluntary moratorium in the face of rising public anger at the way the technology was introduced, largely without consumers knowing about it.

The United States has consistently campaigned against the ban – which, it claims, has cost it $200m (£128m) a year in lost corn exports alone – but France, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium have insisted that they would veto any new approvals, pending new regulations for labelling GM products and for tracing them back to their source.

New regulations approved six months ago come into force on Thursday, and the EC is taking the opportunity to press for the ban to be lifted, fearing that otherwise the United States will take action against it in the World Trade Organisation.

David Byrne, the EU Health and Safety Commissioner, says that "conditions are now ripe" for lifting the ban and, echoing language used by Tony Blair, adds: "Europe must act now to prevent the biotech field being hindered by emotional reaction."

Environmentalists point out that evidence has strengthened enormously that genes from GM crops will spread, contaminating other produce and creating superweeds– EC reports now acceptthat this is "inevitable". Concerns that GM foods may pose health risks have also grown.

Although the new regulations do provide for labelling, environmentalists say they contain no detailed provisions to trace the GM products. Nor do they address how firms and farmers should be made liable for any damage to health and the environment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss