GM crops in Europe - game on

July 2014
Photo credit "Épône - récolte du maïs01" by Spedona - Own work
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The Westminster GM plot, hatched in 2012 and nurtured along by former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, seems to be reaching fruition [1].
EU ministers have been persuaded to agree to the planting of two new GM maize crops. This has been made possible by a concurrent decision to allow Member States with on-going concerns to opt out of growing GM, rather than blocking their approval. The proposal also includes a clause on liability for damage caused by the biotech crops, and a clause which makes it compulsory for Member States to implement rules for the prevention of contamination.
Around half of EU Member States have indicated a wish to opt out. But will it be that easy?

Consider for example: 
  • It's not certain whether the biotech industry will allow the proposed 'opt-outs' to stand
  • In order to opt out, each country will have to negotiate with the company that owns the patent for that crop. (COMMENT This sounds cumbersome and impractical on the scale that the biotech industry will try to fast-track GM crops into Europe.)
  • The World Trade Organisation can still challenge or start a trade-war in response to an 'opt-out'.
  • Once GM crops are established in any Member State, it will be very difficult for a future government to adopt a different position, no matter what safety or export difficulties emerge.
  • How long will the grand plan for liability and prevention of contamination remain tenable?
  • The proposal signals the end of the single market, which is what give the EU its strength, and is the reason the EU was formed in the first place.
Anyone sceptical about the idea of a Westminster GM plot should read what GeneWatch has unearthed through a series of Freedom of Information requests.  
Seemingly, things kicked off in June 2012, with a roundtable meeting whose agenda was set by a report from the Agriculture and Biotechnology Council (ABC, UK biotech industry representatives). Three key goals were agreed to achieve a GM future in the UK:  
  • More taxpayer's money to be spent on GM R&D and on “education” 
  • GM crops to be promoted in developing countries
  • Regulatory and political barriers to be removed
COMMENT If these goals sound familiar, you've probably already read about them: see Background [1,2,3] below. 
When Owen Paterson took up the reigns in September 2012, the UK Government's previous position, that GM opt-outs would damage the EU single market, was reversed.  
Collusion with industry (see below) was then used to devise and enact a strategy to achieve the goals set out. 
Supporting all this has been GM-friendly media output generated in accordance with biotech industry advice, and with the aid of the 'independent' scientists of the Science Media Centre. 
Of course, the determinedly anti-GM stances of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a thorn in the flesh of all this slick behind-the-scenes orchestration. However, it seems this will not be allowed to stand in the way of the grand plan. In April 2014, just before the two new GM crops came up for consideration in the EU, Owen Paterson succeeded in 'forgetting' to mention to European Ministers that Scotland does not share Westminster's intention to embrace GM. 

What's driving the UK's GM agenda: 

The UK Government has been in regular consultation with key GM-promoters. Not all communications have been minuted and not all have been made available for scrutiny, even under a Freedom of Information request. 
Besides the ABC, Gene Watch has documented direct and indirect contact with Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer Cropscience, BASF, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC, agri-supply industry representatives), Europabio (EU biotech industry representatives), the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO, US biotech industry reprentatives), and Cargill (commodity crop importer giant). All these bodies have an international presence.



The lack of unity on GM crops and food within the UK is being deliberately, and thoughtlessly, extended to all Europe. 


It seems a good time to press home the point our UK Environment Secretary left out: tell your MEP that Scotland is not being represented in Europe in the matter of GM crops.  
Also Avaaz has started a petition you might like to sign:
To the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy: 
“As citizens of Europe, we call on you not to take a rushed, undemocratic decision to approve Du Pont's GM corn. This decision will be deeply unpopular and goes against a vote by the European Parliament and the wishes of 19 member states. The results of the European elections showed that the EU faces a crisis of confidence and we urge you to take this opportunity to rebuild trust by listening to citizens”
[3] THE MINISTER FOR GM HYPE - November 2013 
  • EU Council Vote Pushes GM Crop Decision to Parliament, GM Freeze Press Relaease, 12.06.14
  • Sean Poulter, GM crops in England as soon as next year, Daily Mail, 12.06.14
  • Soil Association reacion to EU decision to allow Member States to go GM free, 12.05.14
  • Eve Mitchell, GM crops in the EU - game on, Food and Water Watch, 12.06.14
  • Defra battles to keep public in the dark over GM industry influence on policy and media, GeneWatch UK Press Release, 15.04.14
  • The UK Government and the GM industry: colluding to promote GM crops and foods, undermine consumer choice and ignore environmental harm, Summary of Report, GeneWatch briefing, May 2014
  • UK Government and GM industry collusion exposed, GeneWatch Press Release 6.05.14
  • Rob Edwards, UK environment minister breaches agreement with Scotland on GM, Sunday Herald, 26.04.14
  • UK gov breaks promises at EU GM crop talks, Scottish National Party Media Centre, 27.04.14

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