ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

7 March 2003




Letter to Krebs

Sir John Krebs,
Chair, Food Standards Agency,
125 Kingsway,

5th March 2003

Dear Sir John Krebs,

I am writing in regard to the role of the Food Standards Agency in the forthcoming Public Debate on GM issues.

The Five Year Freeze alliance is very much in support of an open and independent public debate on GM foods and crops, and as you may be aware our Director sits on the Public Debate Steering Board (PDSB), along with representatives from industry, and other interests.  The Government set up an independent board to oversee the debate in recognition of the lack of trust and suspicion held by the public towards Government and related institutions on this particular issue.

However, we are concerned about the announcement from the Food Standards Agency on the 15th of February and the potential for the programme of events planned by the FSA to undermine the work of the PDSB and cause confusion for the general public. We recognise the FSA's role in food safety and consumer concerns, however we believe its current role in the GM public debate is inappropriate due to the concerns presented below:

· Firstly, the FSA's plans have been developed without independent oversight or broader consultation. A noticeable strength of the PDSB is that it has strived to invest in thorough and open consultation in planning its activities and is currently producing supporting literature with input from a wide range of organisations with differing views. This process draws on questions raised by members of the public in the foundation discussion workshops held before Christmas. This public framing of the debate is essential in order to gain trust on an issue as controversial as GM and is essential for the credibility and success of the outcome.  We are disappointed that the FSA has not taken this into consideration when framing its events.

· Secondly, the material which has been produced, 'GM Food opening up the debate', appears one sided and over-confident on contestable issues and fails to address many issues of concern to the public. It also reinforces a biased view of GM by failing to present any critical or cautious views such as uncertainty over unknown effects on human and animal health. The presentation of an unbalanced view is misleading to the public, particularly when in the aforementioned workshops, members of the public specifically said that they wanted to hear all sides of the argument.

· Thirdly, of the activities currently planned, a Citizens Jury, schools debating competition, production of a school video and discussion groups in Scotland, the question remains how are the results of such activities intended to be captured, analysed and reported?

Because of the currently held perception that the FSA has not always acted in the interests of UK consumers on GM, for example over recent labelling and traceability issues, the current plans of the FSA have the potential to damage and undermine the public debate this summer. We therefore recommend the following actions:

· Withdraw and replace the current material presented in the FSA booklet with more acceptable, balanced material informed by the concerns of participants in the foundation discussion workshops carried out for the PDSB.

· Engage an independent stakeholder body to oversee the FSA's activities, without which the FSA's process has no credibility.

· Contribute the outcomes of the FSA's activities to the final report produced by the PDSB, so that the results can be considered in the context of the overall debate.

I would also appreciate clarification on the FSA's role in relation to the Science Review.

Please could you reply addressing these concerns. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,
Rachel Sutton.
Campaign Co-ordinator

Cc: Malcolm Grant



Daily Record, Mar 7 2003
Michael Christie eid=89488

FIVE GM crops protesters made legal history yesterday when they were found guilty of aggravated trespass.

Until yesterday no law of trespass existed in Scotland.

But at Dingwall, Sheriff Alistair MacFadyen ruled that the group, who disrupted the sowing of a GM trial crop, had broken the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 - which was brought in to deal with fox hunt protesters.

They had blocked a tractor on farmer James Grant's land at Munlochy, Ross-shire.

Six others are currently waiting for a decision on their trial.

The five - Pete Turnbull from Cantray, Inverness-shire, Rona McAlpine from Avoch, Ross-shire, Nancy McAdam from Poyntzfield, near Inverness, Pam Bochel from Nairn, Moray, and Gavin McEwan from Munlochy were each fined GBP100. They will appeal the decision.

Dad-of-five Pete Turnbull, 55, who runs a community telecommunications company, will emigrate to a farm in Portugal on Monday.

He said: "None of us was particularly surprised by the decision but we're all bitterly disappointed.

"We have been involved in this for nearly 18 months and I feel that justice has not been done.

"It creates a very unfortunate situation for the future in Scotland.

"But it has not been a complete waste of time for us.

"We have had fantastic support from the people of the Highlands and it has raised the wrongs of GM crops across Scotland.

"Looking back, I would do it again. I feel it would be my duty as a citizen because these crops are not safe."

Pam Bochel, 44, returned to her home town of Nairn three years ago, after a successful publishing career in London, and began growing organic vegetables.

She has no ties to environmental campaigning organisations but when she heard GM corn was being sown, she was the first to protest.

Pam and fellow protester Nancy McAdam marched on to the field to stop the tractor.

She said: "I wanted to make a point, to make people more aware that GM crops are an experiment with our health.

"Once they have been sown, there is no way back.

"GM will get into the food chain, with who knows what effects, and there's no way to take it back out again."

Rona McAlpine, a 39-year-old nursing assistant at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, was the first to be arrested, when she sat in front of the tractor and forced it to stop.

The vegan mum-of-three said: "I don't agree with intensive farming, but at least I can choose not to use certain products.

"But once GM gets into the food chain there's no way back.

"You can't contain the pollen. You can't control birds, which peck at the seeds."
Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist: "This technology is being promoted, in the face of concerns by respectable scientists and in the face of data to the contrary, by the very agencies which are supposed to be protecting human health and the environment. The bottom line in my view is that we are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences."

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