Letters: GM is all about world domination

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 22 June, 2013


Nothing has changed regarding GM crops, despite Environment Minister Owen Paterson deciding that he will lead a campaign to sell the product to the public.

The spurious line that GM crops are needed to feed the world has been proved to be palpably untrue. There is more than enough food to feed the world if it were equitably distributed and less of it were thrown away.

The interests of the GM companies remain the same as always, namely to get control of the food chain. Once they have done this and got a complete monopoly on what we eat, they can dictate prices and control availability of seeds to people across the world.

The idea that GM represents the greatest good for the greatest number is nonsense. The present manoeuvres to convert Europe to GM are nothing but another example of the few attempting to make a profit at the cost of the many.

Paul Donovan, London E11

Owen Paterson has again raised the issue of GM, emphasising the importance of this technology in helping to deliver a sustainable food supply. In particular, he is urging the UK to take a lead in Europe in the use of genetically modified crops.

He points out that it isn’t just for government to make the case, but calls for industry and the scientific and research community to play their role.

The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) has previously stated the important role that food scientists and technologists can play in the responsible introduction of GM techniques – provided that issues of product safety, environmental concerns, information and ethics are all satisfactorily addressed.

IFST supports the call for the scientific and research community to play a key role in the potential future introduction of GM crops through continuing research and ensuring open communication of the issues from a balanced and scientific standpoint. Only in this way may the benefits that this technology can confer ultimately become available, not least to help feed the world’s escalating population in the coming decades.

Jon Poole, Chief Executive, Institute of Food Science & Technology, London W6

Owen Paterson thinks that “after the biggest field trials in history” GM crops are safer than conventional ones. No, Mr Paterson. The biggest field trial in history lasted for millennia during which humanity existed very well on organically grown food.

If he really wants the public to be convinced about the safety of GM crops, he should insist that Monsanto et al publish all – and I mean all – their research data.

Perhaps not. It would only convince them of the reverse.

Lesley Docksey, Buckland Newton, Dorset

Badger culling: the farmer’s view...

I am one of tens of thousands of farmers living with the devastating impact of bovine TB on my family and business (“The badger cull dissidents in the Forest of Dean”, 19 June). It has taken a huge toll on us and we continue to live with its ever-present threat.

We had a positive TB test last year, which meant that we had movement restrictions placed on our business, with two of our breeding cows removed and shot; this badly affected us for eight months, until fortunately we passed with two clear tests last autumn which allowed us to trade again.

We were lucky – my neighbour lost nearly 80 cows out of his herd of 90 over two consecutive tests; he is still devastated.

Getting a positive TB test in your herd is one of the most upsetting experiences a farmer can face. I’ve invested a lot of care, time and effort raising the animals in my herd over many years. To see them being taken away to be slaughtered because of a disease you’ve done everything to try to protect them from is heartbreaking.

Action needs to be taken to tackle TB on all fronts because the disease is out of control. More than 35,000 cows were compulsorily slaughtered in Great Britain last year and this cannot go on.

It is a proven fact that badgers spread bovine TB. I’m doing everything I can to minimise the chances of my cattle coming into contact with badgers. But until the wildlife reservoir of TB is dealt with, I’m fighting a losing battle.

Evidence from other countries that have had problems with TB shows a targeted cull of wildlife in areas where it is rife, carried out with other measures, has a major impact in dealing with the disease. The best current scientific advice backs this up.

All farmers want is to stop the spread of this terrible disease and to carry on being able to produce high-quality home-produced food.

James Small, Charterhouse-on-Mendip, Somerset

...and the protester’s view

We have seen letters recently from farmers’ representatives and even vets attempting to justify the horrific and imminent wholesale slaughter of badgers.

Sincere people have been pointing out for years that the science cautions strongly against a cull, and many people have argued from the moral standpoint, pointing out the lack of humanity involved in such a hideous exercise.

It is time we all realised that the only thing that will stop this appalling action is to hit farmers in their pockets. It’s simple: if you oppose the cull, stop buying British beef and dairy products. That is the one thing that will prompt the farming community to insist a stop be put to the proposed action.

Penny Little, Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

Use internet to question Assange

Many countries, including Sweden, require that a person accused of a crime is first questioned. I fail to see why during this phase of an inquiry, extradition is necessary.

While Julian Assange is in his self-imposed seclusion, he could be questioned over a video link. While Sweden does not do this, the case cannot proceed – which is no help to the alleged victims.

More importantly, I can think of no reason why this should not become the norm for every case where currently people are extradited for a preliminary inquiry. It is as if we are still living in the Middle Ages instead of the internet age.

Dave Beakhust, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Julian Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorian embassy might not be as long as Paula Jones thinks (letter, 20 June). There is an election in Australia on 14 September and Julian is standing for a Victoria state seat in the Senate. If he wins, then he will need to be in Canberra in July 2014 to take his seat and be sworn in. It will be interesting to see how he will make the journey from London to Canberra without being arrested.

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

Other ‘Assads’ are our friends

I have been puzzled at the vitriol expressed by our Prime  Minister against the Syrian president. It seems incongruous considering Assad has not sent bombers to the UK, been funding al-Qai’da, or entered into some kind of espionage against the UK. I am no fan of Assad. Yes, he is a dictator and has ruled Syria with the help of his militia. But there are other dictators, in the guise of monarchs, in the Middle East, not dissimilar to Assad but with whom the UK and the US are not only friendly but also have excellent business connections.

Mustafa Haqqani, Lymm, Cheshire

Anthony Rodriguez thinks that “David Cameron did the right thing in Libya” (letter, 21 June) and that “a no-fly zone worked in Libya” so it could work in Syria.

The Libya “no-fly zone” was, in fact, an intensive bombardment of the country over seven months. It killed thousands of Libyans and destroyed civilian infrastructure – leaving yet another once-thriving Arab country in pieces.

The groups left in charge of the mess by Cameron and Obama recently killed dozens of demonstrators in Benghazi.

One might think that lessons  in morality could be learned  from Libya, but it seems that as long as the bombs are big and British – and no British are hurt in the process – bombing will always be a success.

Peter McKenna, Liverpool

How is monarchy democratic?

In pouring cold water on the idea of a British republic, Gareth Wood (letter, 21 June) argues: “To take France and the US as examples, republics are no less prone to the creation of a ruling class than monarchies.”

“No less prone” than Britain’s? Surely some mistake. The point is: how can perpetual enforced subservience to whoever’s turn it is from within one privileged family “long to reign over us” be compatible with democracy?

Eddie Dougall, Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk

Ban all mutilation

I note renewed correspondence on female genital mutilation (FGM) and would support all efforts to bring to justice those responsible for such a horrifying practice. But while accepting that FGM and its consequences are more terrible than the genital mutilation of male children, both represent an assault on the person. Is it not time that all genital mutilation – on boys as well as girls – was treated as a criminal offence?

Ian Quayle, Fownhope, Herefordshire

Mid-lane crisis

The reason our taxes are spent on three-lane motorways is to increase capacity.  If we do not use the left-hand lane, capacity will be reduced to not much more than a two-lane motorway. Yes, you may be slowed down from time to time but your average journey time will be faster if everyone keeps to the left lane except when they are able to overtake safely.

Jon Hawksley, London EC1

Although the bright yellow 175mph Porsche featured by Jamie Merrill (20 June) may have macho appeal, I’ve decided to stay loyal to my faithful Reliant Robin. It’s ideal for the middle lane of the motorway,     

Ivor Yeloff, Hethersett, Norfolk

Last resort

They used to say: “If you can’t do, you teach – but if you can’t teach, you inspect.” It looks like that may have been right in relation to the healthcare profession as well.

Wilf Fox, Brackley, Northamptonshire

No peace envoy

After his latest bellicose pontificating about Syria, to call Tony Blair a peace envoy must be the biggest misnomer in our history.

Sarah Pegg, Seaford, East Sussex

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