ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

TRANSCRIPT  OF  PUBLIC MEETING

BRISLEY VILLAGE HALL, NORFOLK

7.30pm, Thursday 7th September 2000

to discuss

FARM-SCALE TRIALS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS at  HORNINGTOFT

Chair:   Sue Beare, recently retired as Chair of South Norfolk District Council

 Speakers:  Richard Powell, Novartis Seeds

Mike May, Institute of Arable Crops Research

Luke Anderson, author and lecturer

Dr Jeremy Bartlett PhD Plant Genetics

Some questions from:  Mike Fenton, Liz Logan, Natasha Chamberlain, Sarah Savage, Mark Roberson (farmer),Caroline Clarke, Charles Cathcart,  Karly Graham.
 

S Beare Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and a very warm welcome to you.  Can you hear me alright?  Alright, Iíll speak up a bit more.  If at any time you canít hear, if you do this [cups ear], weíll all understand that weíre not speaking loud enough and weíll pick it up, rather than sort of shout.  Is that OK?  And I think this meeting is being recorded so I expect weíll be heard and you may be heard as well with your questions.

Iím Sue Beare and Iím right out of this area so Iíve come in to try to be a sort of fairly impartial Chairman.  I have at one time been Chairman of South Norfolk District Council but Iím not that any longer. {Anon comment] Thank you.  What I would like to do is ask the speakers each to talk for about 10 minutes or less.  What weíre trying to do and what weíre looking into, as I understand it, is the situation where there are some trials of genetically modified seed in this local area, which some people are concerned about, and some people are interested in.  And the idea of this meeting is to try and share information as much as possible.  Which is why weíve got a panel of speakers:  on my immediate left is Richard Powell of Novartis Seeds and next to him is Mike May from the Institute of Arable Crop Research;  and then on my right here is Jeremy Bartlett, who used to work at the John Innes Institute and is now in computing, and Luke Anderson who lectures on genetic modification and some of its difficulties and has written a book on genetic engineering, food and our environment.

So you wonít remember all that.  The actual conduct of the meeting ­ I think itís important to remember that if in your question you make a long speech, there will be fewer questions.  And if I feel that all the questions are coming from one side, as it were, if we can talk about sides, I will actually ask for questions from a different point of view, to try ­ because I donít know any of you - so it would be good to have a good set of questions that cover all aspects of this really quite difficult, very challenging and very interesting topic.  So if I could start by asking Mike May if you could just introduce yourself and the subject a little bit please.

M May: Well, good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I suspect really that most of the questions tonight will actually come from those of you who want to ask questions about the technology, so we do expect that.  We seem to be stuck like this [indicates panelís seating arrangement, two either side of Chair] and I certainly donít see it as a Ďthem and usí, or whatever.  So, my position is that I work for the Institute of Arable Crops Research, and the crops that are being grown in this area, under the field-scale evaluations ­ staff from my institute are involved in actually monitoring and doing the work on the sites.  This work is funded by the Government, by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.  It is in collaboration with the companies who have the crops because they have the responsibility of growing them - they have the responsibility of destruction at the end.  Our role is simply to do the science on the sites.  We work with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which is an environmental-based research centre ­ the nearest one to here is at Monkís Wood near Huntington.  Our institute ­ we have three sites on that but the nearest one is ours near Newmarket (Brooms Barn), and there is another one at the Scottish Crops Research Institute.

 So we cover the whole country.  And the trials are being done throughout the country.  This ­ earlier this year we had trials on oilseed rape ­ spring oilseed rape that is ­ maize and beet.  Now the fourth crop is coming in and this is winter oilseed rape, and thatís the one that is going to be grown this autumn near here.  So what are the trials about?  They are actually looking at these crops because these are the ones that are nearest to market.  These ones have been, in this particular case, first field-trialled in about 1989, but that was small scale trials and itís gone through, before it even gets into the field, they go through a whole rigorous safety checking through the Government.  They then have to get consents to actually grow them in small plots in the field.  But that doesnít actually tell you what will happen in the wider scale.  Certainly, what weíre looking for are small effects, because if there was large effects ­ (1) we wouldnít need to do the trials, if theyíre very large, or (2) we wouldnít have to do so many trials.

So what are we looking at?  Weíre looking at winter rape thatís been genetically modified, and we can discuss that later on, to be tolerant to another herbicide.  Rape is already tolerant to something like forty odd herbicides but itís had a gene inserted into it to make it tolerant to one more, which is a herbicide call Glufosinate.  Itís by Aventis, and they have put a piece out at the back with their comments on Glufosinate, if you want to pick that up.  Itís been modified to that herbicide.  Now that herbicide is one extra, but itís also a much more powerful herbicide than the ones that are currently being used in the crop.  And the worries are that if we use this herbicide we will actually kill most or all of the weeds in the crop.  If we do that, do we actually reduce the bird food sources?  Do we actually reduce the number of plants that are left in the field?  Do we reduce the number of insects in the field and affect the food chain right through?  So do we actually cause harm to the countryside?  And thatís what these trials are about.  Are we actually going to do harm if we grow these crops widely?

The effects are going to be small on an individual basis so this one trial is not going to cause a great problem to the farmer or to you or to this neighbourhood.  But it could be, if we were growing a lot of these and they were each causing harm, that would be an accumulative effect, and thatís what weíre looking for ­ to see if that happens.  The way weíre doing it is to select farms, as I said, from all round the country.  We want farms of different soil types, we want farms on different areas, we want different farmerss, because some farmers keep their farms much cleaner than others and that can have an effect.  So we want a wide range and these are chosen from a whole range that are given to the consortium.  In fact, our group doesnít actually choose which rapes, winter-rapes sites ­ thatís done by another group.  But what happens is a field is chosen and itís split in half.  Half of it grows conventional crop and half of it grows the GM crop.  And because fields vary, if you look how fields, a lot of the fields out here now are not single fields ­ some of them have been amalgamated over the years.  So there will be some variation.  So what we have is a fairly vigorous system whereby we actually randomise which half has the GM and which one doesnít.  And thatís ­ the people doing the work have no control over at all.  So thatís one of the ways we get round this field variation.  We also get round it by having this large range of sites as well.

Now you have to say that when these crops go in ­ itís a winter rape crop.  Itís going to produce rape seeds and itís going to flower so there is going to be some gene flow.  Thereís going to be pollen moving and one of our colleagues whoís working at Scottish sites, heís actually done, with other colleagues, a lot of work on gene flow ­ what happens, how far it goes, how far pollen goes in particular and certainly one says, it must move.  Put it into a field, itís a real environment ­ things happen.  But that work that he has done is being used by most people now as a basis for determining what some of these risks are.  So, this work on this field will be one year, one crop.  You might say, well why donít we do crop after crop?  The reason is weíre looking for the normal situation and winter rape is only grown once in a rotation.  What you typically have is some cereals, say wheat grown for two, three years, then the rape will be used as a break crop.  And then itíll go back into wheat so that spray will only occur once and thatís the reason that these trials are not being grown year after year on the same site where that isnít appropriate and itís not appropriate with winter rape.

Thereís about 25 sites of winter rape this season and there will be the same number for three years.  Weíre collecting data on a whole range of things:  weeds, insects.  There is an additional study being done by the British Trust for Ornithology looking at birds, but it is accepted that the scale of this is pretty small so they may not pick a lot up but itís useful to do it.  What weíre not going to do is look at things like earthworms, soil nematodes, soil micro-flora, and you might say thatís very important.  But if you actually look at the food chain that weíre looking at, we can pick up indicators of changes in other species further up that chain than those, and in addition, those species are, those systems are just not sensitive enough.  Thereís too much variation ­ we just wouldnít be able to tell Yea or Nay.  And itís better if there is a concern to do those in smaller scale experiments.

So what weíre doing is looking at whether growing this Glufosinate-tolerant crop, this winter rape, is going to have a potential long-term effect on the environment.  On an individual field itís going to be small so we need a range of fields.

S Beare Thank you Mr May, thank you.  Right ­ I only have one question, which Iím going to be cheeky and ask ­ how big is this field?

M May Iím afraid I canít tell you because I havenít got the information but I can certainly let ­ if anybody in here wants to know I can find out.  Unfortunately I was away, Iíve only just come back off of holiday and the staff who are doing this ­ I havenít even had a chance to ask them.  Essentially it will be somewhere in the region of about 5 hectares perhaps, so about 12 acres, something like that.

S Beare Right.  That gives us some idea.  Thank you very much.  Right ­ Jeremy Bartlett from the ­ ex-John Innes Institute, would you like to go?

J Bartlett Right ­ can everyone hear me alright?  Well weíve heard the words John Innes Institute mentioned a few times here.  This is something I did in a past life, as it were.  Iíve lived in Norfolk for 15 years and I came down here in 1985 to do a PhD at the John Innes Institute ­ itís now the John Innes Centre, by the way ­ and I did that for about four years and at the end of it I decided I didnít want to carry on in scientific research and Iím actually now working in computing.  And so for a number of years I didnít really think too much about genetics.  And then, probably about 1998, genetic modification started to appear in the news and I thought I really ought to find out a bit more about it, especially because of my background.  And the more Iíve read about it the more concerned Iíve got.  Thereís an awful lot of information about the subject and thatís one of the reasons - thereís various pieces of information here- the one you can attribute to me ­ thereís a four page, well two full side piece here.  The idea is that if we donít get to talk about all these things you might want to have a look at that at your leisure really.  And if you want to ask any more about any of that you can.

My concern about these farm-scale trials is that theyíre being touted as a definite answer as to whether GM crops are safe in Britain.  If you look at things like this ­ the DETR factsheet from 1999 ­ itís got statements like:  "The results of  these farm-scale evaluations will ensure that the managed development of GM crops in the UK takes place safely".  Itís "will" not Ďmightí or anything.  Itís, you know, touted as fact that this is actually going to show something.  And it worries me rather that itís not going to show anything.  Mikeís told you a bit about the details of whatíll be looked at.  And heís also mentioned small effects, because it may be that there will be some big catastrophic, sudden effect from this ­ I donít think so.  I think itís more likely to be something that happens in an accumulative way over a number of years.  If you look at past things where science and technology have worked out [inaudible] weíve got things like CFCs and the ozone layer.  CFCs were invented in either the 1920s or 1930s but it wasnít until the seventies that we started to feel, well [inaudible] thereís something wrong here.  And even later still before scientists proved they were causing a hole in the ozone layer.  And another example is modern farming ­ a lot of very intensive farming does cause damage to the environment but again, it wasnít apparent when we went down that route immediately after the second world war.  So these things are things you donít find out about immediately, you donít find out about in three years.

Some of the things that might happen.  Thereís, well, earthworms and bacteria and fungi were mentioned.  Not genetic modification itself might cause the harm but also the chemicals that are being used ­ either glyphosate or glufosinate ammonium, two herbicides ­ they have effects on these which, even without GM, we should maybe be looking at.  Thereís one study from 1995 which says that glufosinate ammonium (the thing thatís being used on the oilseed rape) under realistic field applications affected something like 40% of soil bacteria and 20% of all soil fungi.  And the thing is, for the health of the soil, soil fungi and bacteria are very very important.  Perhaps less so in something where we put the fertiliser on in a big bag but certainly in long term health of the soil itís very very important.

Another ­ Mikeís actually mentioned this ­ another criticism ­ there was a study from the UEA that came out in Science journal last week and what the principal author of that said that these field trials were very valuable but they wonít tell us what will happen to bird populations.   Theyíre carried out on too small a scale.  So thereís a lot of things that we probably wonít find out but thereís also an awful lot of possibility of harm happening.  Its genetic material can escape from these crops.  Weíve got pollen, weíve got seed can be spread.  Thereís also transfer of genetic material to soil bacteria and fungi (itís called horizontal gene transfer).  Itís something that there are quite a few research papers on now, but itís not something thatís been known about, we donít know the full details of it.

And then, if you look a bit further, if you look at the United States where GM crops have been grown for quite a while, there are quite a few problems coming out with the way these are used.  And this is in real life, this isnít in trials, this is examples like farmers spraying on their herbicide resistant corn and spray drift going onto a neighbourís corn and heís not using that technology, and his yield goes down because half of his plants get wiped out.  Thereís things like herbicide resistant weeds that can develop.  Thereís a quote here from a guy whoís ­ heís president of the US National Family Farm Coalition.  He actually says:  "The promise was" (this is to do with the GM) "the promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield, but let me tell you none of thatís true".  And in Canada, in fact, theyíve now got a nine-point management plan to deal with oilseed rape thatís tolerant to, a lot of itís tolerant to three different herbicides.  So itís making farmersí lives much more difficult.  It maybe works in the short-term but not longer.  And there are threats to bee-keepers as well.  There are the economic threats that if youíre a farmer who doesnít want to have any GM then youíve not really got much choice about it if you live near a crop trial or where things have been growing on the larger scale.

So that really worries me and the sad thing about it is there are so many other things we could do.  For example, to cut down the use of herbicides and pesticides you can use integrated crop management, which is reducing the use of those by about 20-80%.  And all you do, rather than spray routinely you actually wait until thereís a ­ well you try and prevent in the first place, and then you actually use the chemicals only when you need to.  Thereís organic farming, which is very much [inaudible] at the moment.  And also we can use biotechnology.  Iím not against biotechnology.  You can use biotechnology with conventional crosses.  What you can do ­ an example is to make sweeter strawberries.   You cross the strawberry plants, sorry first of all you isolate a strawberry sweetness gene, or find where that is, and then you do your conventional crosses ­ and you follow that around.  Thereís no GM involved at all.  But youíre actually just - itís a way of speeding up conventional breeding.  And that uses biotechnology.  Nobody at John Innes is going to be out of a job because of that, so thereís no worries about economic effects there.  But itís a way of using it wisely and not letting it extend into the environment.  So I hope youíll ask lots of questions this evening and I hope weíll be able to give you some good answers.  Thanks.

S Beare Thank you Jeremy.  I call on Richard Powell from Novartis Seeds to talk a bit about where heís from.

R Powell Where Iím coming from.  Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  Richard Powell from Novartis Seeds, based at Docking in Norfolk so not a million miles away.  I in fact live in Fakenham and I have worked in the field of agriculture and seeds in Norfolk now for over 20 years, and working in the last 12 years primarily with the sugar beet crop but also, to some extent, with maize and oilseeds.  Iím here pretty much as representative of a company that has supplied the seed for the DETR biodiversity trial in sugarbeet.  However, itís genetically modified ­ the oilseed rape that you are here and concerned about is genetically modified, and there is an overlap in the concerns that go with these crops.  Therefore, Iím here to hopefully answer your questions as best as I possible can from a seed industry perspective and to give you as much information as I have, and hopefully maybe allay some fears that surround these crops.

It is true that all GMOs and GMO crops must be seen on a case by case basis and it is very important that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater in the development of what is an important, I believe, to be an important new technology.  The safety of these crops, in terms of environment, people, animals, should and was established before any trials were allowed.  In the case of oilseed rape, the first field trials in this country in 1989.  In terms of sugarbeet, 1990 ­ the first small-scale field trials occurred.  In both crops, now over 300 small-scale trials have occurred around the country over the last ten years.  In the case of our sugarbeet, last year it was trialled in 22 countries around the world.  The same is largely true for the oilseed rape.  These are not just in your back yard.  They are on a global basis.  And they must be as safe and as stable as a conventional crop for them to be released, otherwise the Department of the Environment would not grant a consent to release them.

And the important thing is ­ what is the difference in these crops?  Really weíre looking at herbicide tolerant crops and, in the case of sugarbeet, our genetically modified crop tolerates 29 herbicides whereas conventional sugarbeet tolerates 28.  In the case of oilseed rape, I think the figure is conventional oilseed rape will tolerate about 46.  This crop that might be planted here will tolerate one additional herbicide.  Other than that, truth to tell, if you look at it, if you examine it, if you crush it, if you use it, if you extract the oil from it, if you look at the flowers, there is no difference.  They donít glow in the dark, they do not cause any problems that conventional beet do.  If you sneeze from the pollen of an ordinary oilseed rape crop, which a lot of us do, and from the smell that comes from these, you will sneeze just the same way with the GM crop.  It wonít do you any more harm but you will sneeze in exactly the same quantity.  The difference is that we can potentially use at least 30% less chemical.  This is already proven in terms of sugar beet and where weíre looking at these important agricultural crops (and this is an agricultural county - 30% of the national sugarbeet crop is in this county) youíd be looking at ­ if the technology were ever adopted and whoís to say?  These trials might prove that there is detriment to the environment.  I personally donít believe that that is the case but they might, in which case the programme for this country would be scrapped.  It would not go ahead.  There is already a moratorium, self-imposed by the seed companies, not to commercialise any GM crops for three years.

But if we look at the savings that could be achieved, it must surely be, I feel, a step in the right direction after intensive agriculture in the 70s and 80s was perhaps taken as far as it could go.  Everybody recognises that agriculture should be taking a step back from that.  Integrated crop management was mentioned and our company was one of the leading exponents to drive that forward from a crop protection point of view.  If we can make the savings on the sugarbeet crop, weíre talking in this county alone, in one year, savings of probably over _ million litres of herbicides.  They are important crops, and our discussions that revolve around them must be based on sound science.  In this debate we cannot afford to take tabloid comment as good scientific evidence.  I donít think, Iím nearly finishedÖ

S Beare  No no, youíve got time still.

R Powell ..but I donít think that we should be scared of genes.  Theyíre not something to be feared.  We share about 30% of our genes with yeast and mushrooms, nearer 50% with bananas.  Now, that might horrify a few people, but we surely must not be scared of the technology.  It must be used safely, it must be used to bring benefits and I think if that is how we proceed, I think science will tell us it wonít be Ďmight, may, could, ifí ­ it will be Ďit will/it wonítí.  And I think these trials are important to give us the answers.  Thank you.
 
S Beare Thank you very much Richard.  Right ­ the last ten minute spell from Luke Anderson.  Heís an author and lecturer.

L Anderson I was just reflecting on that last comment ­ yes we do share a lot of our DNA with other plants, animals or whatever, but itís only 2% of DNA which makes us different from a chimpanzee, so small amounts of DNA can be rather significant.  I just want to put this into its perspective a bit.  I was reading through the 1993 Coca Cola annual report, and I came across one paragraph and it said:  "All of us in the Coca Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the worldís 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day.  If we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people to escape Coca Cola then we assure our future success for years to come.  Doing anything else is not an option".  Well, it may not have escaped your attention that the biotech industry share the same philosophy.  Almost overnight in 1996 when the first shipments of soy arrived from the United States, more than 60% of all our processed food contained one or more genetically engineered ingredients.  It was presented to us as a fait accompli ­ itís here, itís arrived, itís going to be here to stay and you can do nothing about it.  No public consultation whatsoever.  In fact, in the United States the biotechnology industry organisation said they hoped that within 5-10 years some 90-95% of all plant-derived food will be genetically engineered.

We heard in May this year that Advanta Seeds had ­ thereíd been a contamination of their supposedly non-genetically engineered oilseed rape crop and that last year and this year it had been planted on thousands of hectares across Europe and in the United Kingdom.  And not only that, but contrast to the 50 metre barrier distances which our government requires around these farmscale trials, they were actually growing this non-genetically engineered seed 4000 metres, according to their records, 4000 metres away from the nearest genetically engineered crop, and still there were quite high levels of contamination.  So it just shows how readily the cross pollination, the gene transfer can occur.  And these so-called mistakes have been occurring not just in Europe and in the United Kingdom but all around the world - countries such as Thailand and Australia, in Canada and the United States etc.

So here we are.  Weíre being told first of all - by the way, cross-pollination, it doesnít really happen you know, the seed industry established these barrier distances, theyíve known for years and years; theyíve got it down to a T; itís incredibly pure, thereís almost nothing can happen ­ and then the governmentís own tests show that actually a great deal of pollination can happen at these distances.  I mean, just down the road from where I live, the government had the wisdom to plant a test site of genetically engineered maize right next-door to the countryís largest organic vegetable farm, growing organic sweetcorn, and he was told that if there was any evidence of cross-pollination that he would lose his organic status.

And so we asked the Government to stop this planting from going ahead, and they consulted with the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment, and ACRE said that they thought that at 275 metres the likelihood of cross-pollination was probably about one in thirty thousand kernels of the organic sweetcorn might have been cross-pollinated. Well, we thought that this was an extraordinary figure for them to have come up with.  In fact, according to their Minutes, many of their members thought that this estimate was too high.  And so we asked Jean Emberlin from the National Pollen Research Institute at the University of Worcester to just trawl the scientific databases, you know, something that was readily accessible and that the Advisory Committee could easily have done and see what she thought the estimates wouldíve been.   And she said that in a moderate to high wind speed, she thought it was more in the order of one in ninety three kernels (as compared to one in thirty thousand).  So little wonder that people have not a great deal of faith in the supposedly independent Advisory Committee.

We hear that genetically engineered food is exactly the same as any other.  And in fact this is the basis for international risk assessment of genetically engineered food.  It was announced in the United States by the then Vice President Dan Quayle as quote "regulatory relief for the industry".  The US Congress was anxious that over-regulation would suffocate the young industry so they decided that unless a genetically engineered food were nutritionally different in a very major way, unless it contained genes from things like peanuts, which are already known to cause allergic reactions, there would actually be no need for safety testing.  The theory was ­ genetically engineered food is Ďsubstantially equivalentí to non-genetically engineered food ­ therefore itís safe, therefore it doesnít need to be safety tested.

Well one of the interesting things about this is that when it comes to safety testing, the biotech industry is very quick to say itís exactly the same, itís no different from its conventional counterpart.  And yet when it comes to the field of intellectual property rights however, they say ĎWell actually itís unique, itís different, itís never existed before ­ therefore we deserve the right to patent it as a new inventioní.  And so thousands of years of plant breeding by countless generations of farmers have been hijacked in a very short period of time by the biotech industry, because with these patents they can demand exclusive monopoly rights to these genetically engineered crops.

Weíre not just talking about single varieties, weíre talking about whole ­ for example, Monsanto in fact, first of all it was a company called Agracetus has a patent on all genetically engineered cotton ­ the whole lot in one block ­ that was quite a win, and Monsanto was actually one of the companies to complain the loudest that this patent lacked obviously an inventive step and it was too broad.  But in the end the solution for Monsanto was to buy Agracetus and to drop the complaint.  And in fact this consolidation ­ buying up seed companies, buying up biotech companies, is one of the key features of this whole debate.  The five companies ­ Monsanto, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Aventis and Dupont that control pretty much 100% of the trade in genetically engineered seed also control 60% of the global pesticide market.  Interesting to note when weíre told that this is being done to reduce the amount of chemicals being used.  These companies donít want to see you using no chemicals ­ they want to see you using their chemicals.

And so Aventis, the company behind the glufosinate resistant crops have actually increased their production facilities for glufosinate ammonium, production facilities in Germany and the United States and they expect increased sales of £560m over the next 5-7 years, in conjunction with the sale of these herbicide resistant crops.  So they control 60% of the global pesticide market, and they also control 23% of the commercial seed market because theyíve been buying so many seed companies recently, which I think presents another interesting discussion in the, sort of, whole realm of choice.  What choice are farmers going to have if there are fewer and fewer options for them to buy seed?

And this was articulated by one person from the Philippines who are was talking to, who was saying ĎWell, you know we hear a lot about choice from you in the West, and we hear all these comments like, well surely if these farmers in the third world donít want to plant these crops then they just wonít choose to.í Well the fact is that in countries under International Monetary Fund economic austerity policies, what youíve frequently got is joint public/private partnerships between governments and multi-national corporations, so that if youíre a poor farmer in the Philippines, for example, and you run out of cash, or you havenít got enough money to buy seed or whatever it is you need, yes you might get a loan from the government but youíll only get a loan if you buy a certain kind of seed that grows with a certain kind of fertiliser and a certain kind of pesticide.  So thatís very important to note.

Speeding through, because Iíve only got a couple of minutes, you know, this Feed the World argument, which the industry churns out again and again, is clearly disingenuous.  According the United Nations World Food Programme, we are already producing enough food to feed one and a half times the worldís population.  Clearly if there was the political will to feed people, we already could.  And Monsanto articulated the sort of the industry position in their 1998 advertising campaign when they came to the UK.  You might remember it in the weekend newspapers when they said "slowing the acceptance of biotechnology is a luxury that the hungry world cannot afford".  Well, it so happened that there was a meeting of the United Nations Food and Agricultural organisation as these adverts were coming out, and the delegates representing the African countries there were so outraged at the statements being made on their behalf that they decided to issue a formal statement of their own to the press, in which I think they made their position fairly clear.  And this was signed by 24 delegates from 18 African countries.  They said, I quote:  "We strongly object to the image of the poor and hungry from our countries being used by giant multi-national corporations to push a technology that we believe is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us".  And they went on to say:  "We do not believe that such companies or such gene technologies will help us to provide the food needed in the 21st century.  On the contrary, we believe that they will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge systems and the sustainable agricultural practices that weíve been developing for millennia and that they will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves".

So coming to these farmscale trials, these are being presented to us as the be all and end all, as Jeremy already decided.  And theyíre not so much a scientific experiment, I would suggest, as a social experiment.  Can we convince a sceptical public, through conducting some rather short-term trials that are going to tell us not very much about long term incremental effects on biodiversity, that this is going to answer all their questions and all their concerns.  And in fact, as soon as anyone raises an object to these trials, we are shouted down by the Government and industry as being unscientific.  WellÖ

S Bear  Youíve been timed out.

L Anderson My timeís out.  I would just like to pose one question because I frequently come to these meetings - these meetings, as they appear around the country, have been characterised by fierce local opposition.  Would people representing the Government or Novartis seed, agree or accept some kind of provision whereby the local people could actually veto or allow the trials based on their decision, based on the information theyíre able to access, and their considerations as to the economic impact on their crops or their livelihoods, be they farmers or just local concerned people?  Is that something that you would welcome?

[long applause]

S Beare I thinks itís time, although you have finished with a question, I didnít ask the members of the panel, would you like to speak at the very end of the meeting to wind up at all, or are you happy just to go on with..

R Powell Whatever you think.

L Anderson Maybe we could have just a concluding statement at the end or something after questions?

S Beare OK.  Well, letís move on then to questions now.  Who would like to go first then?  This gentlemen here?

Man#1 Iím not sure that there are any questions to be asked here, because weíve heard some very excellent presentations, because itís ­ I do sense, especially when we heard from the last speaker that what Norfolk, famous for its sugarbeet, maize and all the rest of it, one time famous for itís wool, and I think some of thatís being pulled over our eyes by the biotech companies.  I know just a tiddy bit about this.  I think the concerns are these:  that itís a bit like the referendum on the Euro ­ we are simply not qualified to say yea or nay to this.  And the one first step, that was the one that was alluded to at the very end, what powers, in the face of so much information, so much conflicting view on this, do people like us who live in this area, the oneís that will be affected, in order to try and, at least modify if not veto?  Before anybody answers that, I might say that Iím not a NIBMY person.  I fully recognise the value of biotechnology.  I donít believe in elbowing the problem up the yard to the next county.  What I do believe in is, perhaps in, more stringent control that is not based, or not driven, I should say, by sheet commercial interest, because I think thatís whatís happening here.  I think this world is more than capable of feeding its present population.  Thereís absolutely no doubt about that.  Itís political will that fails to deliver stuff to Ethiopia or what-have-you accepted when it gets there.  So Iíd like to see a large break on this because all the fears that I have about gene transfer, which are the very things that are going to happen, they are going to happen on this trial ­ thereís no doubt that the weed resistance no. 47 or whatever it is that this particular construct conveys is going to drift over to something else ­ thereís absolutely none.

S Beare  So is that the nub of your question?

Man#1 Itís not so much a question really as a statement of, I think, I canít speak for everybody else ­ if you like inadequacy of all of us, perhaps, to make a judgement on this.  And secondly in the welter of a large amount of scientific information, some of which is beautifully summarised here and Iíve only just glanced at it, having only just seen it tonight, and what powers do we have to modify whatís being done?  I suspect that whatever is said here tonight, this is going to go ahead.

S Beare I think thatís an interesting question and it reiterates one you had.  I mean, is there any way that local people can influence whether or not trials are taking place in their area?

M May Iíll put a government hat on, which Iím not qualified to do, but basically the Government would turn round and say that if these trials are going ahead, if you have information that they will be dangerous or whatever, that hasnít been considered, then that would change things.  But you would have to have information to show that they havenít considered something.  And as you say, you wouldnít have that.  But I think what is being a big problem in this, as far as I go, is that there is a lot of information out there that isnít factual.  And I think that one of the big problems we have is that people are misusing data, selectively using data.  And itís actually making the Government very wary of actually even accepting things.  I mean, Iíve had information put to me that certain things would happen and Iíve suggested to those people they take that information to the Government because if that happened, it would stop it dead.  In fact it was flawed, when I actually looked at the paper I was referenced to, it wasnít true.  So thereís misinformation on both sides unfortunately.

Man#1 Yes but, youíre absolutely right, I agree with you but there is cast-iron proof in your own words here that genetic material passes from one plant to another across a distance at the very least of 4.5 kilometres and the dilution effect down the line ­ itís like dropping a bucket of ink in a river, you know, by the time you get down to the estuary you canít see it but itís still there.  And we heard an example of one in thirty thousand as opposed to one in ninety-six or whatever it was.  OK so there might be that sort of difference over 4 or 5 kilometres but it is going to happen and those genes are going to be transferred, and itís not just the glyphosate gene either, itís going to be whatever else youíve shoved in there as a marker..

M May  Yes..

Man#1 Öwhich may not be a serious marker but an antibiotic resistance is commonly used as a marker.  Donít like that, I donít like shoving in that and that can get transferred to crops.

M May I think, you know, the answer is yes­ itís going to transfer.  We could sit here all night and bore you silly as to whether itís going to be 9 or 30,000.  That doesnít matter.  Itís going to happen in that sense.  My own personal view, and I have to say this is my own, is that I donít think there is a great risk to you as individuals or to a neighbouring farm, in the way this is being done in that sense.  But I do think there is a risk when you have an organic crop, say for instance maize and sweetcorn adjacent to each other, when that organic farmer is not allowed to have any contamination whatsoever.  Now, I would suggest in those situations those trials should be looked at again.  So there are certain situations where they are.  But those ones I think would be pulled back.  But the basic premise is that if you have new information that will be looked atÖ..

Man#1  I donít have any specific information, Iím asking a pointÖ

M May  No I ­ neither do most people.

Man#1 Yes, what for example, happens [S Beare tries to interrupt] if the resistance gene whips across into a wild plant that is weedy?  Now youíre now going to have a resistant weed, but Iíve already got a weed problem in a garden, you know, havenít we all?

M May Essentially this is recognised before you even start with the small scale trials that thatís going to happen.  What happens with that is, if you were to be growing it in your garden and you wanted to spray that weed with glufosinate then it wouldnít kill it.  Now really most of us in the gardens donít really go around spraying, you know, these type of weeds that it would be with any herbicide ­ we pull them up.  That wouldnít make any difference.  As far as the farmer goes, he isnít really if heís - and this is where the whole guidelines for growing these crops will come in - but he wonít be spraying that seed or that plant with that herbicide next time so itíll be a different crop and heíll be using a different herbicide to control it.  But, I have to say that, with farming, if the farmers are going to use this sensibly, theyíve really got to plan ahead ­ and thatís use their whole rotation sensibly so they donít get problems.  But that is really going to be a problem for the individual farmer growing that crop.  Thatís his ­ thatís where the problem is, not really much for anybody like yourself.

Man#1 Iím very grateful to you for the explanation.  Iím not going to go on any further.  But really what Iíve been trying to sort of tease out of you is that all the problems are recognised ­ that we understand that in order to find out what can go wrong, youíve got to do it, that you canít not do it otherwise youíd never get anywhere.  The question then is, so what, what can all these people do about it if they wanted to ­ it seems to me they canít do anything? Itíll go ahead anyway.

S Beare  I think we must move on.  Thank you for that point.

L Anderson Can I just clarify something that was said was that if the Government was presented with new evidence, then this would be stopped.  Well actually the onus is on us to provide evidence of harm, in fact thatís the way the European regulatory system is set up.  Youíre only allowed to stop something going ahead if you can provide scientific evidence of harm, which is kind of counter-intuitive, given our experience over this century with DDT etc etc and thatís what I believe people are really calling for ­ is rather more humility, and acceptance that we donít know all the answers to all the questions.  In fact we might not even be asking the right questions and that was, I think, highlighted by the fact that Michael Meacher and our government and other governments have accepted that the 92/20 Directive, which is the EEC directive under which thousands and thousands of releases of genetically engineering crops have taken place was actually deficient, because it wasnít asking certain questions about secondary effects on biodiversity, which is why itís now being revised.  So whatís going to tell us that in five years time we wonít suddenly say "Whoops, we forgot to include horizontal gene transfer" or "we forgot to include this that or the other because we didnít know which questions to ask?  And sorry itís too late because weíve already got 100 million hectares planted around the world."

S Beare I think we should move on because thereís a gentleman here just behind you, and then after him the gentleman at the back.

Man#2 Can I just say I think the problem here is we donít have the information to make the decision and I ask the question, why donít we?  Weíve heard tonight genetically modified crops have been grown around the world for some years now but have they produced any problems like cross-pollination or anything else?  All weíve heard about tonight, the only problem weíve heard about is in America they have had trouble with spray drift from genetically modified to non-GM but in this country we donít have problems with spray drift any more.  Weíve been educated and trained and controlled and the technology we have todayÖ

[audience talking]

Anon  Iíve never heard such rubbish.

Anon  I havenít either.

Man#2  Iíll pass that one over.

S Beare Can we stay with your interesting point?  Has anyone looked at whatís happened elsewhere where itís been used?  Would one of you two like to start this one? [to LA and JB]

L Anderson [to JB] Do you want to start this time?

J Bartlett I could say something and later on you could say a bit more.  Yes, I mean I mentioned spray drift earlier.  There are cases in the United States ­ thereís a guy, I think his nameís Percy Schmeisser ­ who grows or who used to grow quite a lot of oilseed rape.  He planted a whole load of oilseed rape, it looked a little bit different to his usual variety but he wasnít too sure and then he sprayed ­ he used sprays quite a bit ­ he sprayed his field, and I think he sprayed it with glyphosate, and it didnít die, and half his field still had oilseed rape in it.  And heíd never ever grown GM crops, he didnít want to grow GM crops.  But Monsanto, because theyíre quite keen on litigation, they took a court case out against him because in their eyes heís growing GM crops.  Heís actually turned the tables on them more recently.  I gather heís taken them to court.  I havenít heard the outcome, I donít know if there is an outcome yet.

But what people think that was, itís probably, it may not actually be cross-pollination, itís more likely that oilseed rapeís got tiny little seeds - I think you get about a thousand seeds in 5g ­ I canít remember what that is in old money but itís a lot of seeds anyway, and itís very easy for these seeds under normal agricultural practices for them to get dropped, perhaps off a lorry thatís transporting the harvested oilseed rape, maybe at processing they can get dropped around.  Itís reckoned that around between 1and 30% of seeds get dropped at harvest when you harvest oilseed rape.

Man#2  But have we any evidence as to what has happened?

J Bartlett This has happened.

Man#2  This has happened?

J Bartlett This has happened and this herbicide drift has happened as well.  And the oilseed rape is tolerant to three different herbicide genes because of gene flow between different GM crops has happened.  These are all ­ theyíre not speculation ­ they have definitely happened.  Weíve also got cases like in the United States growing cotton, there was Monsantoís GM cotton, where one year a large percentage of the crop ­ I canít remember the percentage ­ but dropped the cotton bolls, which are obviously the thing that have the cotton in them.  The farmers were ruined, well not ruined but it was very very serious for them that year.  Thereís also soya beans in the United States.  There was a fairly hot summer, I think it was last year.  The stems of the soya beans suddenly cracked in the heat, and the plants fell over.  And none of this was predicted or found out in any of the trials that were going on beforehand on a small scale.  Itís something that was only discovered when they went out into the large scale real world.

S Beare  Richard, would you like to have a go?

R Powell Well, yes I mean I think the questioner was asking have there been problems.  I mean, weíve got to face it that in other parts of the world, tens of millions of acres of this are being grown.  I think this year ­ youíll correct me if Iím wrong ­ about 60 million acres worldwide?  Itís about the size of the whole of the United Kingdom is being grown ­ about 25 million of that in America and then elsewhere.  And itís been grown for a number of years, I mean Ď95/96 was when it really took off.  Weíve got to take the fact that ­ why did it take off?  Itís because it worked for the farmer.  It was, he could see benefit ­ potentially a better return, potentially easier weed control for him, potentially maybe a little bit more money.  And agriculture globally is in pretty dire straits.  Itís fairly difficult to squeeze any money out of growing crops.  But in all those tens of millions of acres, no-oneís fallen sick, animals havenít dropped dead from genetically modified crops.  They ­ when I say they are as safe as, thatís the import phrase.  Theyíre not safe per se, because you might say that the oilseed rape crop thatís growing outside or the wheat crop is not safe to you.  But the genetically modified crop will be as safe.  And this is what has been tried and tested since the first modification 15 years ago.  No-one has fallen ill.  Animals havenít died.  Birds havenít dropped out of the sky and in the rest of the world tens of millions of acres are being grown.  Now this country is different.  In America and in Canada they only use about 30% of their land.  They have the prairie system.  They can afford to grow crops in certain areas.  Here weíre far more intensive.  We use about 78% of our land.  So things will be different which is why this three year study will look at minute differences and detect whether there are potentially any other wrinkles that havenít been seen.  But no-one has fallen ill.

L Anderson Now, weíre being asked to believe that everythingís fine because we havenít seen any dead bodies yet.  Well, you know, it took us 60 years to realise that DDT might have its oestrogenic activities and affect humans.  The reality is that, you know, we hear this said again and again - no-oneís even caught a cough from eating a genetically engineer soy bean.  Ah god, what a load of nonsense.  For a start, thereís no monitoring going on, so how would we know even if anything was taking place if itís in the majority of most peopleís diet.

Secondly, in terms of the environmental effects, similarly very little, if any, actual ecological monitoring is taking place.  If you look at the trials that are taking place in this country, the National Seed List trials for example, they donít really ask ecological questions.  Theyíre very basic questions, such as, you know, is it maintaining itís stability etc.  And even then weíre seeing that in many cases itís not.  Thatís part of the problem with genetic engineering is there can be a range of unpredictable effects as Professor Richard Lewontin, whoís Professor of Genetics at Harvard University, quote: ĎWe have such a miserably poor understanding of how an organism develops from itís DNA that I would be surprised if we donít get one rude shock after anotherí.  While the latest edition of Nature Biotechnology explained what one of these effects of unpredictability might be.  They found that when the genetically engineered oilseed rape, herbicide resistant oilseed rape which has got a promoter ­ thatís a kind of a switch that helps the new gene to be switched on inside the new crop, that comes actually from the Cauliflower Mosaic virus - when that crop, the genetically engineered crop, was infected by the Cauliflower Mosaic virus, it affected the herbicide resistance gene so that it wasnít expressed any more.  And the crop was no longer resistant to herbicide.  Thatís one effect of something that can happen.

And similarly weíve heard about these tens of thousands of acres of genetically engineered cotton which failed and Monsanto had to pay millions and millions of dollars in compensation payments ­ something which weĎre not told very often.  And yet weíre also hearing that, OK so in a period of climatic stress for example when itís hot, the genetically engineered crop might not function, you know, might be affected.  And yet weíre seeing trees, which have a lifetime of about you know, say for example about a hundred years, potentially being commercialised in about two years time.  So how do we know what kind of range of different temperature extremes or other kinds of stresses that tree might be subject to and therefore the way that it could express the new genetically modified, you know whatever, construct over the life-span of that tree?  Thereís so many questions that arenít being asked.  These insect resistant crops for example which are being planted on millions of acres ­ weíre already seeing insect resistance developing in the target insect populations so, is this really a sustainable long-term solution when youíre seeing insect resistance building up after just two to three years?

S Beare Right, I think weíll move on.  The gentleman at the back there waving his white paper was next, and then this gentleman in the grey sweater after that.

M Fenton We seem to have a lot of ignorance [inaudible sentence] lot of assumptions of the science;  people have got fears of the science [inaudible words]. and a certain amount of greed [inaudible]  We all seem to be saying thereís a lot we donít know.  These studies are carried out by a specialist interest group.  [inaudible sentence].  We in this room are a specialist interest group.  Weíre interested in what is happening in our area.  Iíd like to suggest, in particular to Mike May, is there any possibility that interested people in this area could contribute to an in-depth, with greater breadth and greater scope survey of what is happening in these trials?

S Beare  Can you see any possible input from local people into this investigation?

M May As far as the input into to the science thatís going on on the field, I would probably say no.  But I think as far asÖ.

M Fenton [inaudible]

M May Well, I think, as Iím saying, when it comes round to what is the science, what has got to be measured, how itís being measured in the actual work in that sense, no.  But I think the type of question you raise is worth saying to Government and others because what youíre saying is, we have these concerns.  We donít know what is happening or whatever.  We want more information, or weíre concerned about this.  I mean some of the points that Jeremy and the others have made ­ some I disagree with, some I agree with but, you know, you should be saying to the Government ­ youíre not supplying us with this information.  Youíre putting this out in our fields and youíre not giving us the information we want.  We want it on this.  And we donít want it factual ­ we donít want it spun one way or the other.  And I think that type of area is very good for this type of audience to get into.  But again, Iím talking not as a member of the scientific committee on this, Iím just talking as me.

M Fenton But is there any other member up there who thinks, yes a co-ordinated locally assisted survey might be possible?

R Powell My only feeling is that youíre going to compare what might be grown with what has already been probably grown and with what youíre familiar with as the yellow crop in the fields.

M Fenton Scientifically speaking weíre already too late to establish a base-line.  We can only start from where we are..

R Powell Itís a case of what do you know about the oilseed rape that grows around you at the moment.  Potentially, what additional threat or concerns do you have about the new crop as opposed to what is already being grown around you.  That is what Iím interested in.

M Fenton Please donít limit yourself to the crop because I think weíve considered that the crop and the chemicals [inaudible words] means nothing if something coming in is five hundred times as powerful [inaudible sentence].  Itís a question of can we input, one way or another, into the broader spectrum of information [inaudible words].

S Beare  Are you ­ sorryÖ

R Powell It is a very interesting question.  Itís the first time Iíve heard that raised, whereby the public could potentially input information into the system.  Itís something that hasnít actually ever occurred on the many church halls that Iíve attended that, if you like, youíre volunteering to add information to the whole.  Itís something that will require some thought.  Off the top of my head I agree with Mike that it requires the level of understanding of what is already there and what additionally or negatively this new form of crop or agriculture brings.  So Iíd have to think about that.

L Anderson Iíd just like to make a couple of points in response to that if I may.  First is that this has been done the wrong way round.  Youíre being told that this is taking place whether you like it or not, and then meetings are being called to let you know whatís happening.  Actually, under article 7 of the 92/20 Directive it says explicitly, quote:  Ďwhere a member state considers it appropriate, it may provide that groups or the public shall be consulted on any aspect of the proposed deliberate releaseí.  And our government has specifically chosen not to consult the public as to whether these trials go ahead because they know that if they did, in most cases the public would say no.  In fact, theyíre already having difficulty finding enough farmers willing to conduct these trials.  In fact they only managed to get enough trials this year for one of the crops by forcing one to take place in Wales, after the Welsh Assembly had actually voted unanimously 54-0 against the farmscale trial going ahead.   So thatís one aspect.  Second thing is that I think people are already volunteering to take part in the trials, and weíre seeing them being pulled up all around the country, and the third thing is that weíve got a winter oilseed rape thatís going to be planted here, with a chemical being used, glufosinate,  which hasnít actually received approval from the Pesticides Safety Directorate to be used in this time frame.  Between September and May itís actually prohibited to use this chemical because it leaches into groundwater and because itís toxic.  And so what is the point in going ahead with taxpayers money with farmscale trials of a crop resistant to a chemical thatís not actually been allowed to be used in that time frame?

[applause]

R Powell I canít let that pass because factually that is incorrect.  There is a sheet at the back which I hope all of you will take which gives the facts completely ­ I donít work for Aventis ­ but it gives the complete facts on glufosinate ammonium.  It is not banned, it is not prohibited.  They have never applied to the Pesticide Safety Directorate.

L Anderson I said it hadnít received approval.

R Powell Right.

S Beare Can I just, I really would like to come back to the gentlemanís question of what could local people do.  Are you meaning in terms of observing what happens in fields around, in actually putting that information together?

M Fenton That is our area of special interest group is Here.  Not, worms, not birds, not seeds not [inaudible].  We could look at Here if an interested and expert body were to [inaudible words]..

S Beare  Can IÖ

M Fenton Will anyone in the hall be prepared to get off their butt?

S Beare  OK ­ I know youíre the next question butÖ

Natasha Yes, I think that I would really like to raise this question about the, whether or not glufosinate ammonium is actually banned.  Thereís a great deal of ambiguity.  Iíve actually rung the Pesticides Safety Directorate and the Department of the Environment and have been passed from pillar to post.  In fact, many people Iíve spoken to are not actually willing to say.  I mean, first of all they say, the sort of wordplay that goes around whether itís banned or not I think throws up two things.  First of all that in fact it hasnít ever been tested, and they actually admitted to me there would be the possibility - yes there could be damage.  They actually said that ­ we donít know but itís a theoretical possibility.  And second of all, Iíd like to raise the question of monitoring.  When I rang the relevant organisations I was told the Environment Agency would be responsible for monitoring any effects of glufosinate ammonium use in winter. In fact the Environment Agency passed me on to the DETR.  I think anyone, if you actually start Ďphoning round, what you find an incredible unwillingness to take responsibility from anyone on anyoneís part.  And I find that extremely worrying.  Because [inaudible] people in the area who have bore-holes which may potentially be affected by this particular chemical going into groundwater and affecting the supply, and itís a theoretical possibility.

S Beare Right, do you want toÖ

Liz Can I just quote, just clear up this - whether itís ever been banned, Iíve got a message here from the DETR.  Its says [reading from document]:  ĎThe restriction on commercial use of this herbicide during the winter months relates to non-GM crops.í  So in fact the winter use of this herbicide  - it is banned in the winter for commercial use.  Of course, the GM crop trials are another matter and theyíre something new anyway.  But it has been banned in the winter.  It says so here.

S Beare  Thank you.

M May  Can I..?

S Beare  Yes please do.

M May Well I was at one stage going to accuse you of actually being inaccurate but I can see why now.  The information isnít good, is it?  Essentially what happens is that when you ­ we have two issues here with these ­ you have a herbicide issue and you have a GM issue.  So the two are actually dealt with separately to start with then together towards the end.  But essentially with any pesticide, about seven years ago, something like that, they brought in new directives about use of pesticides in the winter.  Because of rainfall, could they move through the soil?  And so if you wanted to bring in a pesticide to spray it through those periods, you had to provide an extra data package.  And AgrEvo or Aventis as it is now, but AgrEvo as it was then decided they didnít want to spray it during the winter so there was no data package.  So itís not a case itís banned but it hasnít been approved for it.

Liz  Thatís not what it says here ­ it says itís restricted for use.

M May  Yes it certainly canít be used..

Liz  Right.

M May  Ö in that sense.. [audience laughter] but  what weíre saying, itís not as though, no what Iím saying is ­ itís subtle use of words isnít it really?  What Iím saying is that a farmer cannot spray it in the winter and the reason is there isnít data on it at that stage when it was submitted and so itís not a case of ­ itís like all pesticides.  If you say, bringing in pesticides ­  like this pesticide now, glufosinate, can be used on rape we grow now, thereís no problem.  Can be used and is used to dessicate it, but it doesnít mean to say it can be used earlier as a weed control product.  That as well has to be assessed.  So every pesticide has a use which is approved.  And everything outside that is not allowed.  Why Iím coming from is  - why I see bans is somethingís come in, been used or is found to be bad and is then banned.  This has never been allowed.  Itís that subtle difference.  OK?  Because the information wasnít there.  Now when it comes round to using it on the GM crop, there were two questions first of all.  One is ­ could it be used?  It had to have approval to be used irrespective of when, because the spring rape as well ­ although it could be used later, it was a different use and it has to be assessed for that.  And then there is the other issue of ­ can it be used during this time period?   And there is an approval for it but itís what we call, or what the government call, an experimental permit approval.  Now, generally for experimental permits these come in when a new pesticide is coming through to be assessed.  It says it can be used normally on a small area, and this would normally be restricted to that.  This one is quite different and so they wouldnít normally allow it just by extrapolating on any data they had, and Aventis, another company, actually had to put data in to show that if it was used in these trials, it wasnít a risk.  Now that still doesnít mean to say that that will get final approval.  Itís now in what they call an experimental approval, but itís not done on, you know, just well, weíll let it go.  It was a package and it was assessed by a committee thatís the Advisory Committee on Pesticides.

Liz Actually, before we go on, can I just say something else about this?  There are, there have been conditions for the approval of the use of thisÖ

M May  There always would be.

Liz ..of this glufosinate, and it says that the siting must be careful because it must [reading] Ďtake into account the advisory information in the experimental permit that sites must not be selected, sorry, must not be selected on soils obviously vulnerable to leaching to groundwater reserves.í  Now the site that has been chosen here, and when I say chosen Iím not sure there was a choice, because I have a feeling that so few farmers came forward for this trial that in fact there was no choice in this district.  The site that has been chosen is quite high, on high ground.  Itís just above the headwaters of the River Wensum and that obviously is not a good site, I should think, according to these conditions that have been stated.  Also there are people with, who get their water from bore-holes very near to that site, two in fact almost in next to the, the house adjacent to the field.  And I should think those people are rather worried.  So what Iíve been trying to Ďphone people and find out in the last few days, with no luck at all, is to find out, OK the herbicide has been approved for limited condition of these trials, but who has then approved the sites?   The sites seem to have been approved separately with no reference to these conditions.  And I gather that your organisation is one of the organisations in the joint body that gives selection of these sites, or approves selection of the sites I should say.

M May Can I just briefly explain that?  I think thereís two issues there.  The toxicity and bore-hole aspect is not really a great issue because it is allowed to be sprayed right up to water and it is used in water sensitive zones elsewhere.  But the other issue is important because what actually happens is that the company, Aventis, supply us, the science consortium, with a range of sites.  Now they should be sites that are within that approval.  Now if that isnít within that approval you have a very valid reason for stopping the trial because it isnít within that approval.

Liz  How do we do it?

M May Well certainly you need to write to the DETR but I will do it as wellÖ

Liz I have.

M May Well, I will do it as well because it must be ­ it must comply with that, otherwise, you know, they canít spray the herbicide.  And I donít want a trial out there if weíre going to start assessing it and canít spray it with herbicide.

Liz Donít your people check that, donít your people check up on these sites that Aventis give you?

M May We do not, in the initial stages, look through on those.  We get information through on a whole range of aspects, including where it is, the soil type, what sort of farmer it is, you know, the history of the field, and so we can select from within those.  We certainly can check, and they are checked to see whether the information weíre given complies with those and, as far as I know and, again Iíve been away, those are true, but if it isnít ­ yes, itís not going to do the trial then.

Liz So, whoís responsible for this because this is what Iíve been trying to find out.  The Environment Agency say that theyíre not consulted on individual sites and itís Aventisís responsibility.

M May Well itís Aventisís responsibility to comply with that ­ itís the Pesticides Directiveís responsibility to enforce, it so it really comes back to them.

Liz Well, thatís actually not what they told me.  The Pesticides Safety Directorate said that once theyíve passed their decision to approve the chemical itís then out of their hands, and I spoke to someone..

M May Ah yes, if you use it properly.  If you donít, if you look in the ­ they produce something called the Pesticide Monitor [inaudible] and if you look in there, anybody whoís actually broken a pesticide regulation in that senseÖ

Anon man Only if caught.

M May Well thatís true ­ you can catch them with this [inaudible] if itís right.  No, you see what you do is stop it.  No, they have the power to prosecute.

Liz But how does anyone find out?  I mean, they did say to me that it was then out of their control once they..

M May Well, they have a duty if itís not done according to that to prosecute or do something about it.

Liz  So are they supposed to monitor it then?

M May Well there is a feedback in of what happens, yes, they should actually have a feedback in under experimental purposes yes.

S Beare  Have you, sorry to interrupt, have you got something to say on this subject?

Karly Iíve seen an e-mail from the Environment Agency on exactly this thing and what they say is that once the site has been chosen, itís almost self-regulatory ­ not, obviously not their words.  Aventis provide the data to say whether the chemicals are safe to use, they confirm whether or not they are complying with the regulations for the use of this ­ so they say if itís OK to use.  They say, yes, we are behaving, we are using it correctly and they produce the data, you know, they produce the data.  So theyíre doing everything.  Theyíre judge and jury.  Itís an extraordinary situation when we have to rely on the [inaudible] who are going to benefit from the successful results of the trial to produce the date to say itís OK to go ahead.

M May Well certainly this is the way I would work if I had, which I have had at times, permits to do things, I have to file a proper report.  And in fact PSD as well know the type of, where weíre working ­ whatever.  But in this particular instance itís slightly different because doing the trials, I donít want to compromise these trials so I can do something about this if this is right.

Karly [inaudible] in an e-mail in the last few days [inaudible] that Aventis say whether theyíre obeying the rules, they say whether the siteís safe to use.

S Beare It seems to me that Mr May is prepared to follow this up and I think perhaps we should move on, itís a quarter to nine.  Weíve only got another _ hour.  This gentleman was going to ask some questions ­ do you still want..?

Man#4  I think most of my questions have been asked.

S Beare  Right, the lady in blue?

S Savage I think some of the trouble is that for those people who are scientists itís really easy to sit up there and say ­ oh, the great unwashed donít know what theyíre talking about, and thatís just really easy because knowledge is power and the rest of it.  But years and years ago I used to work at the Institute of Food Research in their press office, and you would find that youíd have factories that had appalling levels of listeria,  places that had appalling levels of salmonella, people were dying all over the place but nobody ever published the information.  I understand that you canít publish a report and say anything until the information is complete, but youíre asking people here to say that somethingís OK without the complete information.  Youíre talking about diseases in the world at the moment that are neurological.  Youíve got the Creutzfeldt-Jakob lot, youíve got many motor-neurone  diseases, a debilitating disease, you know immune deficiency.  These arenít coming just because we all have a few more petrol fumes in the air.  Theyíre coming from what we eat.  And a large part of the people here are pro-organic farming and have organic land.  Itís their interest to grow organically and if youíve got cross contamination from GM crops, itís people who are trying to farm organically ­ that then is wrong because thatís imposing on our environment.  I mean, this is where we live, this is what we do.

Anon  Hear hear.

S Savage The American Food and Drink Association have put so much pressure on the American government to re-label all their organic food when itís totally genetically modified, the American governmentís had virtually no choice but to cave in, and itís struggling.  And the organic movement is working really really hard to try and make sure that organic food is organic for people who want to eat organically.  So whilst a lot of this is a technicality, itís not fair to say ­ oh weíve been doing research for four years, we know itís safe because you donít know itís safe.  Because Creutzfeldt-Jakobís Disease started 20 years ago at least, and thatís only now coming out.  So to say somethingís safe after five years and assume that you have all the information ­ and you donít have all the information.

S Beare  Do you want to..?

R Powell No, I would agreed thereís a lot that we donít know.

S Savage You bet.

R Powell Very definitely, I mean, genetic modification has been around for, well, figures vary ­ 15,16 years.  And Iím sure that thereís a huge amount that we will learn as we go along.  Sadly, the way everything works, everything works, is that we donít stand still as a race.  Itís in manís nature to develop and keep pushing on.  The only constant thing in life is changeÖ

S Savage I understand that but people are under-estimating the power of the bio agrochemical companies, as we see with Aventis, who only put forward the information they want to be published  Thhere isnít open information coming out yet because everyone has too much of a vested interested to make an impartial decision.

R Powell But itís, yes ­ I mean, I agree that we could have floods of information but the way that sometimes these companies are portrayed ­ Monsanto, totally demonised.  Theyíre seen as a huge, multinational company ­they are indeed multinational , but theyíre only, but it might surprise a few of you, that theyíre only one third the size of Tesco in terms of their turnover, the number of people they employ.  Theyíre small fry compared with what can happen to you in terms of what Tesco does to their countersÖ

[laughter and talking]

Anon woman They donít buy GM..

R Powell ..are you saying you donít trust Tesco?

[laughter and talking]

J Bartlett I donít want to say too much about this but because Iíve got a scientific background, Iím very aware of the limitations ­ thereís many wonderful things science can do but there are also a lot of limitations.  And I think itís the case in point.  Thereís a lot of knowledge that we just donít have and you get people who make very big, bold statements about this.  The sort of statements Iím making ­ Iím saying I donít know.  Iím not saying this is definitely bad because in a lot of cases I donít know either.  But I donít think itís right either for people to say this is definitely OK.  Having no evidence on something is not the same ­ that somethingís harmful ­ is not the same as having evidence that itís not harmful.   Thereís a big difference there.

And I would like to say another thing about progress.  I started off as a scientist, Iím now in computing, thatís all technology, thatís what ­ Iím not a Luddite, whatever a Luddite is meant to be these days.  But I think weíve all got a choice in the way the worldís going to go.  Thereís no predetermined path to the future which is going to be GM crops and no horrible, old-fashioned way of doing things which is organic.  We have all, or we should have the choice, our choice is being denied us, but we should have a choice about what we want to do with our countryside, what we want to eat and how we want things to go.  A lot of the time we donít have that choice because we donít get asked about it.  But I think thatís very important ­ thereís no set future.

S Beare  I think weíll move on now.  This gentleman at the backís been waiting for some time.

Farmer I suppose   [inaudible words] about those farmers that Iíve heard so much about tonight .  I actually farm in a village closeby.  I thought I should just explain a bit from our point of view, or from my point of view, the way I see it.  I also have some points to make that have come across to me over the past few years.   Obviously we as farmers tend to get it quite in the neck at the moment and Iíll explain to everybody that if we donít buy this technology then it wonít exist.  The thing that happens with farming is that itís a business like any other we have to try and make a living before we all (squeak?)  It is actually quite difficult actually at the moment, so when a few years back this idea of this technology came up, nearly every farmer I knew thought this was it ­ this was wonderful.  You know, here we can produce more yield and here we can produce better crops.  And weíll be able to cut our costs and therefore Mr Tesco (who we all love?) will increase the prices by about 18%.  And the supplier weíd be able to sell you the products cheaper.  It was sold to us, or is sold to us, on the pretext that we would probably have higher yields, weíd have less harmful chemicals etc.   It sounds wonderful.  And so naturally an awful lot of people grabbed it ­ they thought this is the business.

I tended to look at it sideways and think, well what happens?  Because when youíve been using Roundup, which is a very good [inaudible] to control [inaudible] for a number of years.  [inaudible] and itís supposedly perfectly safe.  Itís actually is probably is the nicest thing to use to control [inaudible] .  I ought to explain that the reason why chemicals are used nowadays more than they ever were [inaudible words] myself is because we have no labour.  When I left school there were eight on my farm and there were seventeen when the farmer was there and now thereís just me.  So itís so easy just to start grabbing the chemical industry and they fed on us and we fed on them too.  Well then I noticed that the Roundup would kill [cooch and stuff?] rather effectively.  It probably halved [inaudible words] some problem weeds but you would see that nettles and other weeds wouldnít be controlled, they just werenít controlled.  And so over a number of years weíve been using this, well the best product really for cleaning up stubbles and what happens is actually natureís very clever.  It seems to be you keep using one product, the ones, the weeds that are left take over.  And so you get an enormous quantity of weeds which never were a problem, they  were just [inaudible] little weed and theyíve become difficult.  And the reason why weeds are difficult is because they tend to get the seeds on and they get into the combine.  The combine canít separate them.  And when it goes to the merchant, it goes to your flour merchant or it goes to your food manufacturer, they wonít have the product with seeds in so weíre squeezed.  Itís the same reason why people tend to spray apples, and I hate the damn spray on the apples, but, you know,  nobody wants to go to Tescoís and find maggots in them and though [inaudible] personally I think thatís far more desirable.  Iím not an organic farmer by the way, Iím just an ordinary farmer.  So we was looking at this technology and we thought it  was wonderful.  And then it occurred to me, yes Iíve seen this before.  If we start to get yield increases because theyíve bred something into this plant which adds resistance to say a fungus, then it always happens that the actual buyers turn round and they say ­ hah, you actually produced this crop for less ­ weíll pay you less.  And Iíd like to give you some idea ­ I grow [malt?] barley.  it was £160 a year, a ton, sorry at the top of the market.  It crept up over many, many years, about six years ago  it reached £160 for the finest malt barley ­ itís now £65-£70.  So thatís how itís collapsed.

So technology came in and everybody grabbed it.  They thought it was wonderful.  But then I began to look at it and I thought ­ whatís going on here because, if everybodyís using the same chemical, two things happen:  something you might not think of is the other chemicals ­ which we might not like chemicals but theyíve been used for a number of years now and theyíve proved their effectiveness and they know what theyíre going on ­ they will slowly disappear so youíll have a [inaudible].  Secondly if you pour Roundup on everything, the whole of the [inaudible] just gets more and more , thereíll be more and more resistance and I believe, I think Iím right in saying, thereís pollution of ground reported in France.  So even though I believe you can even put it in waterways, or you used to be able to ­ Iím not sure if you can now, but it has been shown to stop shrimps breeding ­ whether that [inaudible words] I donít know.

So ­ Iíll try and be as brief as I can ­ but just to show you why this technology began to grow.  But then, more and more farmers began to think, hang on a minute, what if?  And then the public debate got going and itís your public debate thatís making the farmers hesitant, which is in my opinion although I Ďm obviously on that side is a good thing.  I donít want this thrust upon us, personally.  But you can see if I donít and my neighbour does, he can sell his extra yields, the price drops for both of us but I have less yields because I havenít got this technology.  So this is why thereís this enormous [inaudible].  Itís always interesting for me to note, itís always the farmer thatís going to get it in the neck.  And it will be the farmer.  The gentleman from the seed company said - if the farmers use it carefully.  Theyíre going to step sideways when it all goes wrong like BSE, I can assure you of that.  I absolutely know it because we are the [inaudible] but weíre the ones that buy it.  If we [inaudible]  or we try and control it then it wouldnít happen.  But it is happening and its out.

Another thing, we can talk about herbicides ­ insecticides.  Can I just sort of briefly say insecticides are a necessity if we want the food that we want now in the quantity and quality.  Itís a horrible thing ­ there are Pyrethrol?]   For example, on sugarbeet can be used at a certain time, some, I forget but it could be 16 weeks before harvest ­ OK, you only buy chemicals for two reasons.  One costs, secondly because of restrictions and you donít want to waste money, you canít afford to waste money.  So if thereís a major problem occurs, say thereís some aphids which do cause an enormous problem with sugarbeet, you may have to, may have to get them with one spray or two if itís a really bad season.  We havenít had to for a number of years.  So you go with your [Pyrethrol?] with 16 weeks to harvest and in that 16 weeks the chemical actually deteriorates naturally in the plant so when you come to harvest it, itís virtually negligible.  Thatís the idea.  But they can now genetically modify sugar beet and introduce an insecticide gene into the sugarbeet which kills every aphid, or stops it feeding, which lands on it which sounds wonderful because we donít have to spray it with loads of nasty chemicals that weíve heard about, but the trouble is, thatís in that plant.  So when it comes to harvest, that insecticide which the plant has manufactured itself if you like, by the insertion of other genes, is still there.  Have you thought of that one?  So donít be [inaudible] that weíre not using the chemicals.  The chemicals we are using, we use at a certain time and they naturally fall off.

What else have I got?  Birds in the sky.  Obviously if you kill the aphids which I obviously see as a pest at only one time of year on one crop, if you could get rid of them, at least  [inaudible] that they cross-pollinate, where are the [inaudible] birds which feed on the aphids?  So the whole balance of nature goes up the creek and I, although I do believe in the technology, Iím really really really scared, by whatís going on.  And I urge my fellow farmers to listen and Iíve been to some meetings, Iíve been in a minority of about 3 out of 500.  I went to the John Innes and I think there was about 2-300.  There was three of us against and the rest all just sat there.  And I was criticised and the Chairman said, you know, that Iím sorry at the end, because Iíd been arguing a little bit about it, and at the end he said to me, because Iíd said at the beginning, you know,  heís gone on about science, and I hope it wasnít Mr May but it was someone like himÖ [laughter] ..[inaudible] science, and I stood up and I said Ď well, didnít science give us the nuclear bomb?í  You know, I just did that to rub him up.  And at the end, heíd obviously boiled up, and in front of all these big people he said to me ­ I want a final word with that gentleman before we close ­ and ­ if you donít base it on science, what do you base it on? ­ and I said something back and I didnít have a microphone, and he shouted at me again, and I said Ďcommon senseí.  And I urge you to have common sense.  Itís you that make us decide to drop it  because we are, if you like, weíre trapped.  We donít know what to do but we believe it could be dangerous but it could be beneficial.  Some people are very venemously against, some are really pro.  The majority probably would be pro, I would say.  But please donít be anti-farmer as such ­ we do think too.
 
S Beare  Thank you very much.

[applause]

S Beare  Who wants toÖ

L Anderson Iíd like to make two comments:  the first one about yields.  Weíve heard a lot from the biotech industry about increases in yields and yet most of the studies donít actually support these assertions.  Monsanto in 1998, for example, said that their soy beans averaged ­ I think it was, what is it, Iíve got it written down ­ 43.1 bushels per hectare or per acre, which is up 4.5 bushels.  And yet another study by Ed Oplinger, whoís the agronomist at the University of Wisconsin whoís been conducting performance trials on soy beans for the past 25 years, he in that year conducted trials on -  in 12 of the States that grow 80% of the soy beans, and he found that on average they were 4% down in yield.

 Second point is one ­ you mentioned that it would be the farmers that would get it in the neck.  Itís interesting that despite the biotech company and indeed the Governmentís assurances that this is all absolutely safe, these assurances are not matched by a willingness to enter into any kind of liability arrangement whereby they would accept liability for any damage.  In fact, there was an attempt to set a liability regime within the European parliament that was knocked down recently.  And as Tewolde Egziabher said, who was leading the African group in the international negotiations called The Biosafety Protocol, which was an attempt to set an international regulatory framework governing GMOs.  Basically,  you have a situation there where over a 100 countries, pretty much every country in the Third World, were only opposed by six countries, led by the United States and Canada weíre told, who were saying that the Third World countriesí desire for stricter regulation and all the rest, was a barrier to free trade.  And what Tewolde Egziabher said to me was, you know, why should we, the poorest countries of the world, be expected to bear the risks of the experimentation of the richest?  So Iíll ask now, why, why if youíre so sure that this is safe will you not accept a liability regime?  Why will none of the insurance companies insure you?

[applause]

R Powell Liability is an interesting one.  Personally, I canít comment as I am but one small cog in a very large wheel.  But there is a belief in the safety of our products.  I come from a company based in Switzerland and where we produce baby food, primary care drugs, more than 60% of our products are primary health care and we own the likes of Gerber baby food andÖ

L Anderson Who have gone GM free.

R Powell Yes exactlyÖ [laughter & talking] Öno, no question of that.  Novartis, Novartis products are GM free.  Ovaltine ­ GM free.

Anon  There must be a reason.

R Powell Itís market pressure.  Itís like the likes of whilst ­ you know full well, you should accept that Tesco, whilst there is public pressure against genetically modified things wonít have them on their shelves.  They will do what they can to get rid of it.  Itís called commercial pressure.  They will blow with the wind.  If it ever became fashionable, they will be the fastest people to put it back on their shelves.  Letís be honest, I mean this is just commercial pressure.  We have done the same.  Agriculture for Novartis is 4%.  But they have the same stringent belief in their products, be they a seed that we sell to a farmer in one of 120 countries or whether itís something where we are giving them cancer care or a transplantation drug - the feeling and the sensitivity is the same.  And I think that that goes right to the core of company values.  And I think ­ we hear a lot about pesticide residues, and that is talked up and organics.  I am pro-GM.  I believe that the technology has something to give.  I agree, it is scary.  I agree very much with the grower at the back.  Itís scary partly to me, or itís interesting, there is no end point as to what can potentially be achieved.

[audience talking]

Anon  Thatís whatís worrying us.

Karly  What about compensation?

R Powell Exactly ­ it is a concern as to where it could all end...

[audience talking]

..in 10-20-30 years time.  There are challenges however to be met.  40% of the worldís crops are lost to pests and diseases at the moment, of the worldís global food production is lost.  Some of those things can be addressed, where we donít have to use more cans of pesticide.  I believe that pro-GM doesnít mean that Iím against organic.  Iím pro-organic as well.  I think it would be a shame if organic meant that it was,  pro-organic meant anti-GM because I believe  itís one small step towards using less chemicals.  We are talking, at the moment, small steps like 30-40%.  But Monsanto have developed a potato ­ now if you know potato crops around here ­ theyíre out there spraying them every 7-10 days for blight primarily, insects.  Theyíve come up with a potato which is tolerant,  which is resistant to viruses, it is tolerant to insects and leaf stem and tuber-blight tolerant.  It will, in two years, if it were ever commercialised which I canít see, mean that youíd have a potato that didnít have to be sprayed.  Now, the organic movement at the moment is allowed to spray copper, and will spray Bordeaux mixture regularly, as I understand it.  But surely it would be better in a way to think of a reliance upon the genetics of the plant protecting that plant than using something out of a can.  And I believe that we can move some way in that direction.

Sue Beare Can I just, Iíve got that gentleman and this gentleman and ­ youíve already had a go..

Anon  He didnít.

S Beare You didnít have a go?  Thatís right yes.  No sorry, just a minute ­ is there anybody ­ because Iíve been very aware that the questions have been very good and clear, and theyíve been accompanied by a lot of statements that show a lot of doubt about the genetically modified organisms.  Have we got anybody who is ­ rather a tendency to pro , rather than anti who would like to make a comment or ask a question?

[no takers]

S Beare  OK - this gentleman next, then this lady in front here and then the gentleman in the greysweater.

C Cathcart My nameís Charles Cathcart and I live at Gately and I have a small farm there.  One thing thatís worried me, or concerned me, is why do we need to grow GM crops?  And the answer Iíve been getting, around where Iíve been asking, is so that we can produce more, and produce it more efficiently.  And Iím told that the population in the world is going to grow over the next 20-50 years by a huge amount, and we therefore need the food to feed the world.  And that America, Canada , Europe will be the breadbasket of the world.   And that seems like a good argument.  But I then ask the question, well, I think Mr Aventis ­ I canít remember your nameÖ [laughter]  Öin America and Canada they have a large amount of land that wasnít being cultivated.  We then have in Europe, we have the Iron Curtain opening up a lot of land there that has been badly cultivated, is now getting new machinery and technology getting in there, producing, therefore, more food.  So there are areas of traditional farming that can be used to grow more without the need for genetically modified crops.  Then if we look in Europe and this country, weíre being told that weíre actually growing too much food, so much so that weíve actually got to have 10% of our land in set-aside.  And you think, what the hellís going on?  So I would like to know, what is the answer?  Now, you might not be able to tell me but I would like to know what the answer is?

I then move on to another point.  This is really, this debate is really in two areas ­ one is food consumption, and the other is the effect on our biodiversity.  Now, we all have a choice of what we want to eat.  We can have organic food, or we can go, and just go to whatever supermarket and buy whatever food they sell for the cheapest price.  And if we buy a loaf of bread, I suggest that itís probably got chemical fertiliser on it, itís got other chemical sprays have been put on it, itís got chemical preservatives put on it.  Now weíre eating all that, those of us that do, weíre all eating that.  Weíre eating chemicals.  And you then wonder, or you donít wonder, why there are so many allergies in the world.  Well that is probably the reason.  But yet, here we are ­ weíre being sold all this stuff, this food and itís all cheap.  But that is your choice ­ whether you go organic yourselves or you just buy whateverís in the shops.

More concern to me is, whatís happening to the land with all these chemicals?  Because I take your point, where farmers just get sucked in to what the next-door farmerís doing ­ well if heís making a better profit, then why the hell arenít I making a better profit?  And therefore if heís using those chemicals and those seeds, well Iíd better try them.  And then what happens?  We get a sterile farm, that has these kill-all chemicals on them, that only then grows oil-seed rape.  It kills everything else.  Well what happens to all the insect life, does that all get killed?  And weíre not going to see birds dropping out of the sky.  What weíre going to see is a slow decline of wildlife in the countryside because the young donít have the insects to feed on and weíve seen that in English partridges, and the skylarks and you name it.  And thatís my concern.  Itís not going to be over the next ­ just these trials youíre doing here ­ you wonít notice it by doing just one field here and another field over there.  Itís once youíve said ­ yes we can go on with it, or government says you can do on with it, then everybody will be doing it.  And then weíll see a slow decline over 20 years of the rich wildlife that we now enjoy.

[applause]

L Anderson OK, a few points.  Firstly, the assumption that the companies wonít go ahead even if they do actually discover that according to their, whatever, references theyíre making, itís damaging to the environment ­ the Governmentís actually allowed the commercial approval process to continue ahead while these farmscale trials are going ahead.  So even if the Government was to say ­ yes, theyíre really damaging to the environment, they could actually be challenged legally.  And they ­ the companies, would probably actually win because theyíve already got approval for commercial release and thereís nothing the Government can do about it.  Thatís one point.

The second point is the feeding the world stuff.  I mentioned earlier the United Nations World Food Programme says weíre already producing enough food to feed one and a half times the world population, yet weíve got one in seven people in the world suffering from hunger.  Now the causes of hunger are, of course, like I said before as well, political.  They are fact that Third World Countries are crippled by Third World debt, for example.  According to the World Bank and OECD statistics,  from 1997, for every dollar that was given in aid to Third World countries, they paid back $6.32.  Which works out at $836.2 million every day, just over a third of which was servicing their interest, as Louis da Silva, head of the Brazilian Workers Party said:  the third world warís already started ­ itís got as its main weapon interest, more deadly than the atom bomb, more shattering than the laser beam.

And so under the International Monetary Fund, these countries, in order to service their debt, have to gear their agricultural systems towards growing export crops so that we can have luxury vegetables all year round.   So youíve got the appalling situation where countries like Brazil by the mid 90s for example was the worldís third largest food exporter ­ and yet 70 million Brazilians canít afford enough to eat.  In Ethiopia during the 1984 famine, youíll remember the images, Live Aid, all the rest of it, all the starving people, well actually some of their best agricultural land that year was being used to grow linseed, cotton seed and canola to feed livestock in Europe, as well as exporting fruit, meat and vegetables.  So thatís something that needs to be tackled if weíre going to feed people.  We also need to tackle landlessness.  The fact that 8 out of 10 farmers in central America donít have access to enough land on which to feed their families and yet youíve got huge areas of land going unused either because commodity prices are too low or held for land speculation.  And yet, all of these solutions to hunger are not politically very savoury in a global corporate capitalist economy because itís all about power relationships.  And, you know, itís in our interest to maintain power relationships through economic systems which keep the Third World at their knees so that we can support our totally unsustainable lifestyles.  So, yes we could feed the world if we wanted to.  The argument that some kind of biotechnological panacea is the best or even a necessary way to solve this just diverts attention from the real causes of hunger.  And I think that this is actually criminal.

Yes, the second thing is itís not surprising that the industry and governments arenít willing to accept the value of truly sustainable agriculture systems because they empower communities to feed themselves and itís very difficult to make money out of that.  And yet theyíre incredibly successful.  223,000 farmers in Brazil, for example ­ theyíve doubled their yields of corn and wheat with sustainable agricultural techniques.   45,000 in Guatamala and Honduras ­ theyíve tripled their yields of corn.  Itís encouraged re-migration back out of the cities.   I could go on, example after example.  And yet what we see actually being promoted by Government, for example the United States government jointly together with Delta & Pine Land, a company which already controls more that 70% of the cotton seed market in the United States, is a development of the Terminator technology which has not, contrary to public rumour, been dropped.  The only thing that happened is that Monsanto couldnít afford to buy Delta & Pine Land and then made a lot of publicity out of it.  The United States Dept of Agriculture is still going ahead with this technology.  Itís prime target ­ it genetically disables the plant so itís incapable of producing fertile seed ­ and USDA freely admits the prime target is second and third world countries - 1.4 billion farming households depend on farm-saved seed ­ and the prime purpose, to  increase the competitiveness of US based seed corporations.  So if we look at whatís actually going on, itís not about feeding people, itís about profit.

[applause]

R Powell Well, thereís nothing wrong with profit.  If the village shop doesnít make a profit, itís not thereÖ

[audience talking]

Anon  I donít think he was talking about profit, he was talking about greed.

R Powell Greed?  Greed is an interesting term.  The population is growing.  Itís estimated that itís growing at about 9,000 mouths per hour ­ net.   And generally thought to be, most consensus seems to be somewhere between 8 and 10 million in the next 50 years.  The reason ­ youíre quite right ­I mean, weíre very comfortable here, weíre setting aside land, which I thinkís a damn shame.  And large parts of the world that are highly efficient at producing food - weíve increased our wheat yield in this country by three times in the last 50 years.  The populationís doubled in this country in the last 50 years.  In 50 years time though, hence from now, weíre going to have 90% of the worldís population in developing countries and unless we are exceedingly lucky with governments, weíre going to have a real problem in ­ because food doesnít just move and doesnít get donated in that nice way that would be really great if it would be possible.

Itís going to have to be potentially grown there.  Thatís my feeling.  These ­ the technologies that are being talked about at the moment, I totally agree, it hardly produces any more yield.  Itís trivial, what weíre dealing with at the moment.  These first few crops that youíre seeing at the moment are trivial.  They improve the efficiency of growing the crop as it is.  It will allow the crop to be grown with 30% less chemical and, for the grower at the back, potentially an 85-95% cost saving in what you would have to pay on your sugarbeet.  Right, for weed control ­ thatís an interesting point to a farmer.  Some sugar companies are looking at genetic modification as a strategy.  They recognise that theyíre going to have to pay you less for your sugarbeet.  Here we pay nearly £30 per tonne for sugarbeet.  The world price is £3 per tonne.  It canít go on.  There are lots of anomalies that will break down.

Farmer Hold on there ­ British Sugar is the [inaudible] company that runs all the sugarbeet so itís highly profitable.  And they actually subsidise cane sugar, and rightly so because theyíre [inaudible] countries, so itís not what you say in that respect.  Itís not that weíre receiving too much for our sugar beet..

R Powell Yes yes, no no ­ over timeÖ

Farmer Can I just say something about this population thing?  If you look at history, just a quick one to think about, if you look at the history of the world, when the industrial and agricultural revolution occurred they began to produce farming in the ways we do and the population goes up after the food is provided.  So which comes first?  You know, youíre saying thereíll be all these people who need food, but generally if you provide food you get the people ­ itís the other way round in  history.

S Beare One of the questions, could I stop you a bit in mid-flow, will the Government be able to stop commercialisation?

R Powell Commercialisation ofÖ?

S Beare  Commercial growing of these crops already starting toÖ

R Powell It will be an interesting point.  The French government has done it.  The Aventis maize has now got Part C clearance which allows it to be potentially commercialisedÖ

C Clarke Itís got rather more than that.  The Governmentís already approved it for commercial growing in this country alreadyÖ

R Powell Correct, correctÖ

C Clarke Öin spite of the farmscale trials, and it isnít that oilseed rape is nearer to commercialisation, Aventis maize already has it.

R Powell I know, Part C clearance.

C Clarke Well I think you should tell the people that.

R Powell It has clearance.  It could now, under all the laws that exist within the European Community, be freely soldÖ

C Clarke Under the United Kingdom law, thereís a Hearing, against it, in October in London.

R Powell Right ­ it could be sold and it could be grown.  Aventis have not pressed their case and are continuing with their voluntary moratorium to not commercialise for three years.  But it could be, youíre quite right.  There will be, Iím sure, legal challenges as these first few crops come forward.  Iím sure there will because at some stage a multi-national, such as Aventis, might wish to see a return in this country from their investment.

L Anderson So what is the purpose of these trials then?  If the Governmentís not actually, according to the seed companies, going to have the power to stop it from going ahead anyway ­ what is it?  Is it just window-dressing for the slippery slope towards full scale commercialisation?  Is there any real, genuine desire to see whether or not, you know, these crops are safe?  Whatís the truth?

R Powell There is a DETR leaflet at  the back which will explain precisely what these trials are for.

L Anderson Well the Government have yet to actually tell us what theyíre going to define as unacceptable damage.  I heard in Inverness last week, Geoffrey Squire saying that they have actually come up with some kind of definition but no-oneís been told.  You know, what is unacceptable damage?

R Powell If these trials proved that there is a problem, three years is not a finite time.  They would extend it for as long as they need to evaluate it, and the Government can do that.

L Anderson Who would extend what?

R Powell The Government could extend the trial programme so that there is no commercialisation whilst the trials go ahead.  You know full well that France has banned any commercialisation at the moment.  Theyíve just put a hold on everything.  OK ­ the French are different from us.  They have a means of, they have a cunning meansÖ

L Anderson Yes, theyíre willing to take direct action to make social changes.

S Beare  Donít distract yourself please.

R Powell True, so what Iím saying is, youíre quite right in your view of the rest of the world.  I think the foodís going to need to be grown there.  I think the technology can do something towards that.  What weíre talking about here is just some small start ­ these crops are a start.  Theyíre testing something that does have benefit, that is real and it exists and can be proven to existÖ

Anon man But 90%, as you were saying, 90% of the worldís population is going to be in Third
(C Cathcart?) World countries, and GM crops are going to be needed in those countriesÖ

R Powell Potentially, yes.

Anon man Why are we having the trials in this country?

[laughter]
R Powell There are more than 55 countries are trialling GM crops.  Itís not just here.  I mean if you go away with just one fact, itís not a local first world technology.  Weíve got over 50 crops being looked at over 55 countries round the world.

L Anderson And just to say that many of those countries donít actually have regulatory systems set up to deal with these releases.  The seed companies going into these countries, for example in Eastern Europe, and trying without the government even knowing.

S Beare  Now this lady hereís been waiting patiently.

Woman#1 Can I just ask that should this crop, winter oilseed rape, be planted in this area, is there anybody in a 4 kilometre radius checking everybody elseís crops to see if thereís cross-pollination?

S Beare  Well itís very like what the gentleman said at the very beginning, wasnít it?

Woman#1 Well I was just asking, because Iím a beekeeperÖ

S Beare  Is anyone looking at the situation 4.5 kilometres from the planted crop?

M May I doubt if theyíre going as far as that.  There is a Central Science Laboratory in York are actually looking at neighbouring crops but how far they..

Woman#1 How neighbouring?

M May Well I suggest theyíre probably only going to, you know, half a kilometre, but I donít honestly know how far they are going.  A comment really about this type of thing is - they came back to the comment about liability or whatever ­ the one thing you can do with these crops is actually determine whether another crop has been affected or not.  And, for instance, the supermarkets who want to have crops come in, produce coming in to make sure it hasnít got GM, they actually test all the way along the line.  They donít just test when it gets here.  They test all the way through to make sure thereís no contamination at any point.  And they can use, they basically use amino acids, basically using systems on rabbit blood, or these use another system which is even more precise, but they basically use amino acids to do a quick test all the way through.  And those sort of systems are available to others and I would suggest that, whatever anybody says , be they the company, the government or whatever, if somebody is damaged they can prove it quite easily.

L Anderson But the problem is that the companies have pushed, and the US government has pushed for a 1% tolerance threshold, so what they call Ďadventitious contaminationí, ie if youíre a farmer growing a conventional crop and it gets contaminated by a GM crop, as long as thatís only up to 1% -  remember thatís about 3 kernels in every cob could be GM ­ as long as thatís only up to 1%, well actually nothingís really happened and it can be sold without having to be labelled.  In fact, when I contacted the Governmentís GM Unit, which is their sort of PR unit, to ask a question for an article I was writing for The Guardian about this, I was also asking about bee-keepers, so I said ­ so what about honey?  If honey contains pollen from a GM oilseed rape crop, will that honey need to be labelled, because Iím being told by bee farmers that they werenít actually going to market if their honey needs to be labelled as GM.  And the GM unitís response was, oh well, bees donít actually go to oilseed rape.

[laughter]
Oilseed rape is the major crop for many of the honey bees in this country.  And then they went on to say ­ and in fact any pollen content in honey would be accidental because honeyís made from nectar.  Well, you know, every spoonful of honey contains tens of thousands of pollen grains, so theyíre just really digging their hole deeper and deeper with this.  And thatís not really the point that supermarkets can test for it.  The fact is that these crops could, you know for example, they could be de-tassled before pollen is being released.  Male, sterile varieties could be being used.  Are they taking these precautions?  No theyíre not.  Theyíre using varieties which do produce pollen, which are cross-pollinating other crops.  And then youíve already let the cat out of the bag, you know, these are living organisms.  What are you going to say ­ whoops Iím sorry?  You know, thatís what Advanta are saying ­ whoops Iím sorry.  Monsanto are saying with the cotton ­ we are just hearing in Greece they are destroying, what 9,000 hectares or acres of cotton because that was Ďaccidentallyí mixed up.  And everywhere around the world itís being Ďaccidentallyímixed up.  And then people are just going to be told, well Iím sorry ­ itís too late now, youíre just going to have to accept it because itís everywhere and itís inevitable.  So whatís really going on here?  The fact is that people arenít getting any choice.

Woman#1 Could every farmer within a radius or everyone whoís growing oilseed rape or similar plants take their crop to a science laboratory free of charge for testing?

M May I donít think theyíd do it free of charge, but there are independent laboratories that will do it.  I donít know what their charges are.  But certainly the type of systems that the supermarkets use for their sort of checking are very cheap.

Anon  Why canít you use a sterile crop?

M May  Well, in some cases you could but everybodyís against the Terminator gene.

L Anderson No Iím not talking about, it doesnít need to be a Terminator.

S Beare  One last question.  Itís half-past nine.

L Logan Excuse me, this gentleman here hasnít asked his question.

S Beare  Iím asking him for the last question.

Man#4 Iím asking ­ a point I wasnít going to make before.  Weíre told all these things must be based on good science.  Now Iím a scientist and I want to know what good science is because thereís some awful science going on.  And the companies say itís a decision based on good science ­ what they really mean is the guys that come up with the results they want.  And is this whatís going on?  This really worries me because Iím becoming more and more cynical about the people who produce the results.

S Beare Hereís a scientist ­ good science?

JBartlett One of the things ­ Iím sorry, Iím not trying to do the John Innes Centre down because they do some good research there, very good place.  But there are places like that where Iíve been - one of the things that made me really get a bit more active about this ­ there were scientists there who were making statements beyond the limit of their knowledge about how safe GM was.  They ­ a lot of them were ­ well I suppose like I - geneticists by training but they were making very definite statements about ­ oh, itís certain, in terms of ecology itís perfectly safe.  Now I certainly wouldnít say something like that because I donít know, and I donít think anybody knows.

And the trouble with science these days ­ itís been the same Iím afraid since about 1980 ­ is that itís very difficult to get independent science because the government funding for science has dropped dramatically ­ I canít give you any figures, but thereís so much reliance on funding from commercial organisations, and thereís also, even when you do get funding thatís not from commercial organisations, if you work for, do any research for BBSRC ­ itís the Biotech Research Council ­ youíre not allowed, as part of your contract, to make controversial statements about GM.  Now, that doesnít actually mean that.  It means youíre not allowed to make statements against GM.  Because you get these scientists who actually are making pro-GM statements.  And the trouble is theyíre trying ­ I donít think theyíre succeeding -  theyíre trying to fool people, members of the public who trust them ­ you know you should be able to trust them- that theyíve got all the answers and theyíre impartial and theyíre not  - it really upsets me.

M May  Can I just clarify that?

S Beare  I was going to say to you Mr May, what do you feel about it ­ good science?

M May BBSRC donít actually fund our site, but they do fund other parts of IACR and their policy is not to say that you cannot speak about GMs if itís only adverse.  You cannot speak about GMs until it is published and itís in the public domain.  Weíve had problems in the past with people, and thereís a lot of references here that [indicates Jeremy Bartlettís paper] youíll see are just quotes in the mediaÖ

J Bartlett Theyíre peer reviewed scientific articles.  There are some media quotesÖ

M May  Thereís a lot in there that are not Jeremy.  And those are the misleading ones.

J Bartlett Theyíre notÖ

M May And our view, as far as the BBSRC goes, is that it has to be published in a peer review journal which means first of all it has to be seen by other scientists and then itís made available.  And then we can comment.  Weíre not allowed to comment beforeÖ

S Savage Thatís the point I was making about Listeria ­ the Institute of Food Research, that people knew for a whole year that there was a serious problem.  But because the paper hadnít been published, nobody would comment on it, even though all the scientists knew that there was a very real problem.

M May In those situations we are allowed to make it, but - and it goes through another system ­ but as far as the normal results go with this type of work, weíre not allowed to publish it because it wants to be there as hard fact so that some people who are scientists can look at it, other people can look at it as well.  But there is so much going through where everybody is just trying to spin things in their own direction and thatís why the BBSRC have put those sort of limits on it.  Itís not because gagging.  Itís to make sure that when the public get the information itís based on sound science.

J Bartlett Can I just, perhaps I can give you the quote from the BBSRC code.  Itís:  "staff should not become involved in political controversy in matters affecting research, biotechnology and biotechnological sciences."  Mike, I believe thereís a paper that you did ­ it finally appeared in Pest Management Science in April 2000.  Now understand, now maybe correct me if Iím wrong, I donít want to get anything wrong, that at least a year before that this was being quoted ­ itís to do with insects, sorry, to do with herbicide resistant sugarbeet  and the consequences on the use of herbicide.  Now I understand that information from that paper was actually circulated a year or two years before ­ quite a few press articles, saying that this is a wonderful new technology, itís going to have all these benefits, yet the paper didnít actually come out until April this year.  Will you - if Iím wrong correct me on that?

M May Yes, youíre right and thatís one of the things that weíve actually done now.  Again ­ itís both sides, itís not one side.  We published a paper about a year ago and that was used beforehand.  Somebody got hold of some data and was actually using data which wasnít actually in the paper, using results of that to make comments which werenít valid.  When you look at the paper in the whole, on itís own, you can actually put it down, you can see what it really says.  Not what other people have been trying to spin out of it.  And consequently the paper thatís just come out today weíve published has not been put around the press before, other than a general comment within one of the farming press.  So weíre making sure these things are not spun.  And it does mean to say that there is a lag period.  Itís a shame.  What we would love to do is to be able to take people and show you what we are doing in other areas.  But you canít because people will spin it.

J Bartlett Can I also say about this information.  The information Iíve got that isnít from scientific papers is from ­ there are things from newspapers, but there are things like the fact that the seed got contaminated, the Advanta seed got contaminated.  Now thatís public domain, not controversial, we know.  There are things maybe we donít know about how it got contaminated, but thereís that sort of fact.  Theyíre not controversial things Iíve got in there.  The things that there is ­ I think that there may be some controversy about, are peer-reviewed scientific papers which you ­ I mean itís quite difficult, youíve got to go to a library, say the UEA or something like that, to find some of them ­ but you can read them.  Theyíve been checked by other scientists, so theyíre not just spin.  I deny that.

S Beare I think ­ weíre now twenty-five to ten.  We need to be winding up this really very interesting evening.  I donít know if any of you up here have anything else you would like to say very briefly, just as a statement and not as a response to questions?  It does need to be a fairly brief statement so, [laughs] who was I looking at?  I donít know.  Could we start the other way round, so weíll start with Luke.

L Anderson Well, I would still like an answer to the question from anyone on the panel as to whether they would welcome public participation in the decision making process as to whether these trials should go ahead, because weíre supposed to live in a democracy and there seems to be a huge democratic deficiency in this whole process.  And as the saying goes, you donít have a democracy , you practice it.  And clearly itís not being practiced.  I would just give one example.  In 1997, a variety of maize, actually genetically engineered by Novartis was approved by the European Commission, in spite of the fact that 13 out of 15 member states actually voted against it.  And the European Parliament actually voted a resoundingly 407 for, and only 2 against, for a resolution condemning the European Commission for a lack of responsibility for approving this maize, despite serious doubts as to itís safety.  So right the way through, whether itís at European level, at the government level in this country, or indeed in our local communities, it seems there is very little regard for what people actually think.  And thereís a great deal of complacency in those companies that are behind the trial because theyíve already ­ theyíre already sitting in the positions of power.  They already know that this is going ahead.  GeneWatch produced a report just a couple of days ago about how Monsantoís actually placing people, or helping to place people, on key international regulatory bodies.  So theyíve got the whole thing stitched up.  And the last thing they want is this minor irritation called The Public to stand in their way.  Well I would encourage you to certainly stand in their way if you so choose.  And just to remember as well, we hear a lot of talk about direct action and about, you know, eco-terrorists and all the rest of it.  Well the biotech companies are certainly taking direct action by planting these genetically engineered crops, and releasing them into the environment.
[applause]

R Powell Mr Anderson has been extremely long in his list of problems that face us and the world and weíve heard of a lot of potential problems that will beset, maybe not the people in this parish, maybe not in this country but in other parts in the years to come.  So weíre long on a list of problems and weíre a bit short on solutions.  There isnít a lot of government-funded science, either here or abroad.  It is down to companies that have made themselves a success with histories of over one and two hundred years, that are having to fill the breach to try and provide some of the solutions to the problems that potentially face us.  Thatís how I see it.  I know that direct action is a nice idea but what is the direct action against?  What are we scared of?  Thereís been so much scare-mongering and protest about what are perfectly ordinary crops.  You will not see it walking down your street.  It does not molest childrenÖ

Anon   Patronising..

[audience talking]

It has one, no, it tolerates one additional herbicide  Letís be honest ­ it tolerates one additional herbicide.  Thatís the difference in the crop.  These are very trivial starter crops in what is a very long road.  It is true itís going to be tested here ­ potentially, if it ever gets drilled.  But I honestly believe that these are very small steps that we take along a very long road.  We donít know everything but weíre learning all the time.  And I think it is necessary to do the science, and this is the only way that weíre going to find out.

S Beare  Thank you.  Jeremy?

J Bartlett Right, yes, three points really.  One to pick up on what Richard said about learning all the time.  We are learning all the time, and some of the information youíve been given here tonight ­ weíve learnt quite a lot of things that can be rather worrying, and why is no-one acting on them?  Thatís one thing.  The other thing, one of the things that really impresses me at meetings like this is that ­ I actually wrote a similar sheet to this at a previous meeting.  It was described as an Ďanti-GM crib sheetí by someone who wrote to the paper, which I thought was rather amusing, because the thing I always find out at these meetings is that people in the audience know a lot more about some of the issues than I do, and Iím learning a hell of a lot all the time.  And one of the thingís thatís really struck me is that the farmer at the back today ­ thatís really struck a chord.  Because I totally agree with the fact that farmers are in a desperate position and they are very much being squeezed.  And it is very much up to us to support farmers.  There are things like blemishes on fruits ­ it really disappoints me that there is probably a generation of people who start to grow up, who think that carrots come without soil in them;  that meat comes in polystyrene cartons with a bit of cling-film over the top, or whatever.  Thereís no real connection with where food comes from.  And I think one of the most encouraging things thatís happened in the last three years has been the increase in the contact between farmers and customers.  We see, well weíve seen it earlier than that in organic box schemes and things, but also farmersí markets.  I think thatís the future of farming because the farmers can meet up with their customers.  You can chat with the farmer ­ learn about farming, because we all need to know a bit more about farming ­ especially people like me who live in the city.  You need to know a bit more about farming.  You could trust your farmer because you know what he does with the stuff.  You could see that itís really good.  I think thatís the way forward.  And finally, the other thing Iíd like to say is that as far as doing anything about this crop trial other than, perhaps, trashing it, which Iím not going to advocateÖ

S Beare  You be careful [laughing], this is a public meeting.

J Bartlett The things you can do about GM on a longer scale is make a lot of fuss about it.  People have made a lot of fuss about it.  Theyíve persuaded the supermarkets.  The Government is proving very resistant to this.  They havenít really changed their stance very much, apart from the odd, token word or two.  But remember thereís a general election coming up next year and I think if we can make sure that that gets ­ that people nag ­ whatever side youíre on ­ nag your MP.  Find out their views about this.  Get them interested.  And if ­ thereís a final quote:  we may all  ­ I mean we are in some ways, all of us, small and insignificant, but thereís a wonderful quote I like, and it is ­ if you think youíre too small to be effective, youíve obviously never shared your bed with a mosquito.

[laughter & applause]

S Beare  Mr May, I donít think you can cap the mosquito butÖ

M May No, I ought to sit down but I wonít.  Just to really say that I think the point that the gentleman made at the back, the farmer, heís right:  weíve got to really look at every single one of these on a case by case.  The one thing youíre doing here is youíre looking at glufosinate on winter rape.  Later on there may be insecticide resistant crops coming in, there may be medicinal or whatever.  You ignore that.  You look at this one on itís own - what this one is about.  The others each are judged.  And you can think, well, this is great ­ youíve got things like virus-resistant yams in Kenya, youíve got vitamin A rice, or whatever.  Theyíre irrelevant in this situation.  This is our country, with what weíre doing here.

We will pick up effects if they are there.  These trials are designed to pick up and we know theyíre going to be very small effects.  These results will be published and they will be available on the Web.  The reason why you wonít get any results until the end of the three years is that it needs that time to get enough data in for doing it.  So you wonít see those before.  And I think ­ why use GMs?  I think there are other aspects here in the longer term that we need to consider.  Now GMs may or may not play a role but I think the one thing that hasnít come up tonight is land use.  And land use can be used in the environment, but weíll also be looking at it for use for industrial uses.  So weíve got to grow food efficiently and weíve got to have room in the long term, I believe, for industrial crops.  How we do that may be GM, may be not.  But the use of the land, what we do with itís ecology, if we change to industrial crops, if we go right over to organic farming, the questions weíre asking about GM will now be asked about others.  Weíve seen problems like skylarks with a shift to winter wheat.  I think this isnít just a question of these trials, starting to question GMs.  In the longer term, theyíre going to question other shifts in agricultural land use.  And this is one part of trying to get information to say, is this the way we need to do it, or do we modify for other crops or whatever.  But I think this is really, this is an information exercise.  As well as GMs it will give us something about land use and how we assess predicted future uses of it.

[applause]

S Beare Thank you.  Well I would like to thank our four speakers again on your behalf.  Theyíve all been very interesting and have responded very well, I think, to some very good questions.  So I would like to thank you for coming as well.  It had been suggested to me that we ought to have a vote on who is in favour and who is not in favour.  I donít intend to do that.  I think ­ I have been considering it.  I actually think that is  - we all, we know how we feel.  You know how you feel, I know how I feel, my colleagues here know how they feel.  We have learnt a lot and I think we need to home and digest it.  If you feel strongly for or against, one of the things you might actually do is tell somebody.  But donít just fill in a postcard form and send it.  Write letters stating who you are, what you areÖ

N Chamberlain On the other hand, a very efficient way of creating pressure is through the Press, and we do have a member ­ a journalist from the EDP here tonight and what would be a better headline than, you know - Local Village Meeting Leads to ­ you know.   I think itís very - I donít what ­ Iím not very experienced in these things, but I feel that actually, the only thing we can do in this particular instance is to put pressure on the farmer whoís making that choice.  And that, I think that, you know, heís going to have a less comfortable ride with this if he knew there was actually a definite [inaudible] and that would actually go against GM.

L Anderson How about taking a vote as to whether there should be a vote, rather thanÖ

N Chamberlain Yes I think so. I think we should be more democraticÖ

L Anderson I was at a meeting in the Highlands where there were 400 people and only 8 people were in support of the trial and I think that says a lot and I think thatís all part of a real process of public consultation.
[audience talking]
Karly But what we donít want people pressured into voting if they feel that their neighbours and people around them who donít necessarily feel like that way but will vote the same as the person next to themÖ

S Beare I stay by my decision that we wonít have a vote.  You know who the farmer is.  Youíre all perfectly capable of writing him a note ­ Dear Mr So and So..

Farmer More effective than that ­ yes of course, please talk to your local farmer and if heís got a view, it might not be what you like but at least you can try to get the message across, but that could be counter-productive.  The most effective way of destroying something if you wish to destroy it, those that do, is to go and tell your supermarket, because they rule everything.  So if Mr Tesco and all the rest of them are told, quite plainly, that you donít wish for this particular technology, and I would like to kill it dead, then you know, if you donít wish for it, you personally decide that, then they are the commercial buyers.  They will say to us through the chain, oops.  And the farmers will say ­ we might not be able to sell it.  So rather than just hammering in on the farmers, yes put your point of view, talk to them, listen to their point of view even if theyíre pro or against.  But actually the reason why several have changed their view now is probably because theyíre scared they canít sell the damn stuff and it sits in their barn.

Karly  And write to our MPsÖ

Farmer If you really want to stop us or make us think [inaudible] or community, remember, if we donít buy it, they donít sell it.  So you tell your people you donít want it and that will be really what..

S Beare Iím staying by my decision that weíre not going to have a vote.  I think itís divisive and I think it puts pressure on people who may or may not want to vote.  I thinkÖ.

L Anderson Why do they have pressure?  If theyÖ

S Beare I think, excuse me, I think the reporter is perfectly capable of reporting the tone of this meeting without a vote, so thank you very much indeed for coming and safe journey home.

[applause]

ENDS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 



INDEX