The common ground between nuclear power and GMOs

Anti-nuclear protests in Japan, April 2011
Picture by VOA news on Wiki Commons
August 2011

As Japan tries to pick up the pieces left behind by the triple disaster, the earthquake, the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear-plant explosions, which struck in March this year, the long-term implications are becoming evident.

The Japanese Prime Minister said it will take decades to clean up the damage and decommission the plant. The cost will include, not only the rubble-removal, rebuilding and decontamination, but the compensation to people affected, and the knock-on losses to industry and exports.

Anti-nuclear campaigners have been saying for decades that the risks were too great, the long-term consequences too serious, and the technology too expensive (if fully costed) to justify the diversion of resources down the nuclear power route.

It is only now that the worse fears of the anti-nuclear brigade have been realised that Japan is changing tack and taking steps to reduce both its use of electricity and its reliance on nuclear power.

Reactions elsewhere around the world varied.

Apart from Italy, which has not had a nuclear programme since the 1980s (and whose people recently rejected, by referendum, a proposal to revive it), European countries have largely been back-pedalling on the issue. Germany and Switzerland have decided there will be no more building of new reactors nor extension of the lifespan of their existing reactors. France is diverting billions or Euros into offshore wind farms.

India remains intent on pressing ahead with its nuclear plant construction, while China has decided on a delay of at least two years to assess safety before it will approve any new nuclear proposals.

The USA, still smarting from the aftermath of the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 and nevertheless planning major new nuclear stations, set up a task force to look into the safety of its existing reactors.

And the UK?

The Institute for Science in Society describes the British reaction to Fukushima as “swift and decisive. The government and the nuclear industry immediately set out together to put the best possible spin on it, to portray it as an example of the safety of nuclear power, rather than its hazards.” An e-mail from the Department of Business, Industry and Skill (BIS) dated only two days after the tsunami, and at a time when the potential for global catastrophe was as clear as day, said:
“We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it.”
The BIS had already decided to support nuclear power no matter what unfolded from Japan, and clearly viewed the green lobby as its only problem.


The GM issue lies a long way behind the nuclear one. Anti-GM campaigners have given all the same warnings on risks and costs and diversion of resources as the anti-nuclear activists did. We haven't yet had our GM earthquake, our GM tsunami, nor our GM Fukushima, but it seems it will take a disaster of similarly monumental proportions before countries make moves to scale back their use of and reliance on GMOs.

Note the reactions of the different countries to the Fukushima disaster: European countries (except Britain) started backing-off; major developing countries barely paused for thought before continuing what could be a headlong rush to the bottom; the USA (seemingly a slow-learner) formed a committee; and the UK opted for blind-eyed spin and blaming the greens.

Life can't be re-built like the houses, offices and factories around Fukushima eventually will. Life and the environment can't ever be decontaminated from rogue DNA.

All you ant-GM chaps and chapesses out there should make doubly sure you persevere and hold onto whatever ground you gain.

  • Prof. Peter Saunders, Fukushima Fallout, Institute of Science in Society Report 3.08.11
  • Drew Ruthven, Love in the midst of chaos, The War Cry, 6.08.11

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