ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

9 July 2002


1. Blair to head GM campaign
2. FoE press release url
3. Campaigners' fury over 'go ahead' for GM crops


1. Blair to head GM campaign

July 9, 2002
The Daily Telegraph
Andy McSmith

Tony Blair is to lead a three-pronged campaign to win public opinion over to the idea that genetically modified crops should be grown commercially in Britain.

The story says that the campaign will run in parallel with the last of a three-year series of trials of GM crops. The last 18 experimental sites were announced yesterday.

Officially, the exercise is described as a public debate. However, one minister was quoted as saying, "Don't be in any doubt - the decision is already taken."

The results from trials with GM crops are to be published next summer. But ministers fear that public opinion is so hostile that allowing GM crops to be grown commercially will provoke political uproar, whatever the scientific findings.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is planning what a minister called a "three-pronged PR offensive"to increase public awareness of the advantages of GM foods.

The campaign will include television, radio, posters, supermarket leaflets and public meetings.

One theme will be the economic benefits, backed by a report from Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, and the Government`s Performance and Innovation Unit.

Another theme will be the health and environmental impact of GM crops. Research supported by government advisers will emphasise that GM crops require fewer chemicals to help them grow, that trials have produced no damage to the environment, and that there are no known risks to human health.

The third theme of the campaign will be to emphasise the benefits for the Third World.

A Defra spokesman said yesterday, "This will be a public debate, not a formal consultation exercise. There are a lot of myths out there."

Pete Riley, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, "The Government has agreed to hold a national debate. At the same time, they are allowing trials to take place that threaten the environment with GM contamination."


2. Government's GM public debate is 'PR offensive' admits minister


3. Campaigners' fury over 'go ahead' for GM crops

A leading environmental campaign group has renewed its attack on the Government stance on genetically modified crops.

The move by Friends of the Earth comes after an unnamed Minister is reported to have said that a decision to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK had already been taken.

The Daily Telegraph said Prime Minister Tony Blair was to lead a three-pronged campaign to win public opinion over to the idea.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett earlier this year said: "The Government considers that there should be a full and informed debate.

"The Government will later need to take decisions on the possible commercialisation of GM crops."

Friends of the Earth said that the revelation about the bid to win over public opinion follows UK Government opposition to moves in Europe to tighten the labelling of food containing GM material.

Despite this, European MEPs voted in favour of stricter labelling.

Pete Riley, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "The damning comments from this Government Minister confirms our fears. The Government's public consultation exercise on GM crops is nothing more than a PR sham.

"Despite the fact that the public have clearly said that they don't want GM food on their plates or GM crops in their fields, the Government seems determined to push the interests of the biotech industry.

"People should be very wary, the 'official' GM debate is likely to be very one sided."

Story filed: 14:46 Tuesday 9th July 2002

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