Margaret Beckett: GM has not polluted the Government

From a speech by the Environment Secretary to the Green Alliance conference at the Royal Society, in London
Click to follow

I have encountered few issues where the Government's position is more systematically misrepresented than on GM crops. The Government approaches these issues with a genuinely open mind - keen to explore the evidence and genuinely interested in hearing what the questions the public wants answers to.

There is the evidence of the experience so far of widespread cultivation in many parts of the world. There is the evidence as to the potential of GM techniques to ameliorate the impact present methods of cultivation have on our environment. (In the UK alone, pollution from agriculture is becoming one of our biggest problems as other sources of pollution are cut.) And, not least, there is the potential for the developing world or for pharmaceutical uses.

I constantly read that I have already made a decision about commercial growing of the individual crops now being evaluated in these trials. That is totally untrue. I have not and I will not until the evidence of these trial results is available.

And just as I will not judge in favour in advance of the evidence, so too I reject the notion that we should judge against in advance of the evidence.

And it is right and sensible that those decisions are taken against a background of information about the interests and concerns of the public - something I hope this dialogue will help to explore. I want to listen to what people have to say - whatever issues ordinary members of the public have, I urge you to take part in the debate; it's only just started.

GM is a possible tool, not a panacea. Developing countries need to be able to make their own informed choices about whether to accept GM food as aid, and whether to adopt GM technologies or not.