ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

16 February 2003


On BBC teletext, apparently, it says the UK's environment minister Michael Meacher states GM is dangerous and that the scientists are not telling the truth about the GM crop trials. Here's the Guardian's version of the story.


Meacher at odds with pro-business Labour

Charlotte Denny
The Guardian,  February 15, 2003,11026,896132,00.html

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, was at logger heads with government colleagues last night after launching a comprehensive assault on sustainable development policies.

In an interview with the Ecologist magazine, to be published on Monday, he dismisses the Earth summit in Johannesburg last year as a failure and questions the government's belief it can make globalisation work for the poorest countries.

"This model puts developing countries in a position where they are a valuable but basically ancillary part of the capitalist trading network," he says. "The effect on many countries has been more poverty, not less."

The article portrays Mr Meacher as opposed to policies on the nuclear industry, genetically modified foods, international development and support for business. "When I first came into politics, Labour was a party which was at best sceptical and at worst openly hostile to business. It has now gone right the other way."

He goes on to say that GM technology is not necessary to solve world hunger and could prove dangerous over the longer term. While the government is conducting field trials on the environmental impact of GM, "we have to rely on the biotech companies themselves to tell us if they discover any other problems such as health risks. The system is very trusting and that is worrying."

His comments put him in conflict with the international development secretary, Clare Short. Last night he denied he had intended to criticise the government's development policies, adding: "I am a strong supporter of Clare Short."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs conceded that Mr Meacher appeared to be at odds with government policies in a number of areas. "It is not unhelpful to have some creative tension in policymaking. You would have to ask him personally if he feels comfortable being part of this government."

The government's globalisation white paper ,which argues that global trading rules can be reformed to help developing countries, attracts some of Mr Meacher's strongest criticism.

Ms Short declined to comment but is believed to have dismissed the article as a silly outburst and said that Mr Meacher has little knowledge of development.

Mr Meacher expresses concern over the role of Lord Sainsbury, the government's science minister who is on the cabinet committee in charge of overseeing the GM trials. "As far as I know, the only way he seeks to avoid this conflict of interest is by absenting himself when decisions are taken."

ngin bulletin archive