ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

28 November 2001


3 docs from Five Year Freeze: press release/summary/list of supporters



Embargo: 7.00pm 28th November 2001


The Five Year Freeze has published a hard hitting audit of Government policy and performance[1] on GM food and crops. The audit has found New Labourís efforts inadequate and out of touch with consumer and producer demands and the need to protect the environment from harm.

The Five Year Freeze, an alliance of 120 organisations [2], has produced the audit to measure the Governmentís performance against core demands for a moratorium on the growing, importing and patenting of GM crops. The audit looks at nine key policy areas including consumer choice, environmental protection, human health and public involvement. The Freeze is critical of the Governmentís failure to deal with the issue of co-existence between GM and non-GM crops in the UK in order to maintain farmer and consumer choice.

Clare Devereux, co-ordinator of the alliance, said today:

"Our report highlights the Governmentís inadequate response to addressing, or even acknowledging, many of the concerns held by supporters of the Five Year Freeze. Every day more and more evidence comes out demonstrating how little we still know about the impact of GM. To-dayís report in Nature shows evidence of GM contamination of wild maize in Mexico, the origin of all maize varieties, posing a potential threat to vital diversity essential for future global food security. Here in the UK the issue of genetic pollution not only threatens bio-diversity, but also the livelihoods of non-GM and organic farmers, and the right of consumers to choose GM-free food."

The report calls for the Government to implement the precautionary principle in relation to GM crops; to carry out a full assessment of the research needs required to address public concerns; and to implement a full examination of the potential co-existence of different types of agriculture and how to maintain consumer choice- should GM be introduced in UK agriculture.


[1] Summary attached

[2] List of Five Year Feeze members attached

[3] For more information contact Clare Devereux, 020 7837 0642 (work),
012373 82270 (home), 07803 002825 (mobile). FIVE YEAR FREEZE CAMPAIGN
The Genetic Engineering Alliance
94 White Lion Street
N1 9PF
Tel: 020 7837 0642/01273 822700
Fax: 020 7837 1141
The Genetic Engineering Alliance
94 White Lion Street
N1 9PF
Tel: 020 7837 0642/01273 822700
Fax: 020 7837 1141
GM food - the Governmentís record
Why we still need a moratorium


This report examines the Government's record in dealing with the controversial issue of genetically modified food.  In the past four years the issue has rarely been out of the headlines and has amounted to a public relations disaster for a government whose support for the agri-biotechnology industry has been seen to clash with its responsibility to the public interest.  As a result serious omissions remain in the regulatory system, public consultation and debate has been minimal and many concerns remain unanswered.

In February 1999 the Genetic Engineering Alliance launched the Five Year Freeze campaign, calling for a minimum five year moratorium on:

ß the growing of genetically modified plants and the production of genetically modified farm animals for any commercial purpose
ß the imports of genetically modified foods, plants, farm crops and farm animals, and produce from genetically modified plants and animals
ß the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops

The alliance now numbers 120 national organisations representing over 4 million members of the UK public. This report reinforces the continued need for the Government to introduce a comprehensive and statutory moratorium. It examines outstanding areas of concern identified by members of the alliance and recommends actions to be undertaken by a new Government.

Verdicts on the Governmentís performance and the targets to be achieved are:

1. Preventing harm to human health
Despite the Prime Ministerís claims to be pro-health when it comes to GM foods, the Government has done very little to take a precautionary approach.  Commissioning more research and proposing a new committee has been the extent of action taken.

The Government should make a commitment to ensuring the safety of GM foods by:

ß Withdrawing the marketing consent for all GM foods until a thorough review of their safety has been undertaken.
ß Ending the use of substantial equivalence as the principle underlying GM food safety testing.
ß Banning the use of antibiotic resistance gene sequences in GM crops and foods.
ß Introducing a robust monitoring scheme to determine the short and long term effects of eating GM foods.
ß Introducing safety regulations which cover feeding GM material to animals.
ß Assessing secondary effects, such as the impact of metabolites and herbicide residues present in GM plants, on the chemical composition of the GM crop plant as well as on human and animal health when ingested.

2. Preventing harm to the environment and genetic pollution
Despite continually stressing the importance of protecting the environment, the Government has played down the significance of genetic pollution and defended its position by hiding behind the advice of the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment (ACRE) and their agreement with the industry body, SCIMAC. Although the farm scale trial (FST) programme is an attempt to address concerns raised by environmental organisations it will fail to provide many of the answers necessary for a full environmental impact assessment.  The continued release of GMOs into the environment without essential baseline knowledge is unacceptable.

The government should show a commitment to protecting the environment by:

ß Suspending the current farm scale trials
ß Carrying out research only in contained conditions until there is an agreement on the need for GM crops.  Only when all essential research has been carried out can the move to farm scale trials be made.
ß Carrying out baseline studies prior to any further GM research
ß Carrying out a complete review of research needs and take action on the results.
ß Increasing research on horizontal gene transfer.
ß Examining the impact of changed patterns of pesticide use implied by GM crops
ß Increasing the separation distances between GM trial sites to prevent gene flow to wild relatives.
ß Implementing the precautionary principle in relation to GM crops

3. Right to choose products free of genetic modification
Despite claiming to be in favour of consumer choice, the Government has failed to ensure either choice or consumer protection. Currently there is no way to trace potentially hazardous GM ingredients back to their source, and the right of the consumer to eat a GM-free diet is hampered by high thresholds for contamination, weak labelling, poor enforcement standards, inadequate crop separation regulations and seed purity controls.

To guarantee consumers the right to choose not to eat GM foods or foods derived from a GM source, the Government should:

ß Agree to the labelling of all food based on the origin and method of production, including animal products produced using GM animal feed.
ß Guarantee in law and enforce, the segregation, labelling and traceability of all GM imports and domestic products.
ß Re-negotiate EU labelling regulations to set thresholds at the limit of detection (0.1%).
ß Support the position that EU regulations should not allow for any contamination.
ß Carry out an assessment of the compatibility of GM agricultural systems with non-GM or organic systems and the subsequent capacity to deliver consumer choice.

4. Public involvement, openness and transparency in the decision making process
There has been a gradual recognition that there has to be greater public involvement in decision making.  However, this has yet to translate into any real impact on the policy process or outcome.

The Government should reinforce public consultation, openness and transparency by:

ß Carrying out a programme of gathering public opinion on whether there is a need for GM and developing methods to evaluate GM against other options.
ß Introducing statutory consultations on individual GM trial sites and decisions on the commercialisation of new products.
ß Increasing public representation on relevant advisory committees.
ß Opening up the pesticide application process to public scrutiny and consultation.
ß Holding meetings of ACRE and ACNFP in public.
ß Introducing public representation on research council boards.
ß Committing to implement the outcomes of consultation and participation processes.
ß Publishing a detailed public register of all releases of GMOs into the environment - whether commercial or experimental.
ß Publishing a public register of the monitoring of GM contaminants in the food chain.

5. Strict Liability for Harm Caused by GM Crops and Food
The Government has recognised the need to address GM liability but has missed several opportunities to do so and instead has put its support behind the weak Environmental Liability Directive proposals from the EC.

The Government should:

ß suspend all marketing and release consents and refuse future proposals until effective and strict liability legislation is in place.
ß introduce liability legislation in the UK to cover the period before EU legislation is in place to protect citizens, the environment and non-GM farmers.
ß ensure that the EU Environmental Liability Directive will include strict liability for all harm that may be caused by the release of GMOs
ß ensure that liability legislation is quickly and clearly implemented under the Cartagena Protocol.

6. Patents on genetic resources for food and farming
The Government, despite setting up a Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, has not gone far enough in responding to public concerns about the granting of patents on life, particularly in southern countries. Despite other EU member states, including France and Germany, expressing dissatisfaction with the Patent Directive, the UK Government has consistently supported and implemented it.

The Government should:

ß revoke the legislation to implement the EU Directive on the Protection of Biotechnological Inventions
ß support the cancellation of the EU Directive.
ß re-examine and/or revoke all patents on food and farm crops granted to date by the UK patent office
ß instruct the UK Patent Office to produce a plan to make itself more publicly accountable and to involve more public participation
ß establish an Independent Commission for the Public Domain to examine all issues of importance in this area, including resources for food and farming
ß undertake a full public debate on the implications of patents on life.

ß carry out a full impact assessment of patents in food and farming including their effects on research and academic freedom in the UK.
ß present the results of these findings in international meetings.

7. The impact of GM crops on farmers
At a time when the future of the UK agriculture is at stake the Government has consistently supported the biotechnology industry and those farmers participating in GM trials over the interest of organic or non-GM farmers. Very little independent research has been carried out into the economic effects of growing GM crops for UK farmers.

To protect the interests of UK farmers the government should:

* include GM agriculture in any review of the future of farming in the UK
* introduce statutory requirements to consult with and obtain consent from neighbouring farmers and beekeepers within a 6km radius of growing GM crops
* introduce adequate statutory separation distances to prevent cross-pollination
* abandon the SCIMAC voluntary code of practice and replace it with statutory controls
* carry out a review of the impact of the biotechnology industry on the consolidation of the seed market and on agricultural biodiversity
* carry out a thorough independent assessment of the socio-economic impact on farmers and the agricultural industry of growing GM crops

8. The global food supply
The Government's support of the biotechnology industry over the interests of farmers worldwide has ignored the legitimate concerns being voiced by Southern countries.

The Government should:

ß Ban Terminator and Traitor technology and deny requests to field test other Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) until comprehensive impact assessments have been conducted.
ß Ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
ß Support Southern countries in developing and implementing systems to regulate GM technology.
ß Support the development of farmer led research in Southern countries.
ß Support public information and involvement in the need for and regulation of GM crops in Southern countries.
ß Carry out an independent assessment of the potential of GM crops to contribute to global food security measuring them against alternative solutions.
ß Present these assessments at international meetings.

9. Genetically modified animals
The Governmentís advisors have recognised the potential for animal welfare to be compromised as a result of genetic modification and, to a lesser extent, environmental concerns.  However, no action has been taken to suspend activities until studies are completed.

The government should protect animal welfare and the environment by:

ß Suspending the licensing of genetic modification experiments on animals for use in food and farming.
ß Place a moratorium on allowing GM animals or their products into the human food chain.  (This should include a moratorium on the "failure" animals which result from GM procedures).
ß Follow the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Council by placing a moratorium on the use of cloning in agriculture until the problems of oversized offspring and wastage of life have been resolved.  Introduce legislation to avoid the loss of genetic diversity or introduction of deleterious genes into the gene pool via genetic modification and cloning.

Supporters of the Five Year Freeze

Action Aid
Action Against Allergy
Additives Survivors' Network
Agricultural Christian Fellowship
Baby Milk Action
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
Biodynamic Agricultural Association
Black Environmental Network
Body Shop International PLC
British Allergy Foundation
British Association of Fair Trade Shops
British Association of Nature Conservation
British Naturopathic Association
Catholic Institute International Relations
Centre for Alternative Technology
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Christian Aid
Christian Ecology Link
Communities Against Toxics
Compassion In World Farming
Council for the Protection of Rural England
Ecology Building Society
Elm Farm Research Centre
Ethical Consumer
Farm-A-Round Ltd
Farming and Livestock Concern
Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
Find Your Feet
Food Commission
Food for Health Network
Food Poverty Network
Forum for the Future
Fresh Food Company
Freshlands UK
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Gaia Foundation
Gardeners GMO Group
GE Free Forests
Genetics Food Alert
Genetics Forum
Genetix Snowball
GeneWatch UK
GMO Campaign
Good Gardeners Association
Green & Blacks
Green Books
Green Network
Green Party
Guild of Fine Food Retailers
Guild of Food Writers
Harvest Help
Health Food Manufacturer's Association
Help International Plant Protein Organisation (HIPPO)
Hyperactive Children's Support Group
Iceland Foods
Institute for Science in Society
Intermediate Technology Development Group
International Society for Ecology and Culture
Islamic Concern
Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environment Sciences
Living Lightly
Local Government Association
Longhouse Food Consultancy
Maternity Alliance
Muslim Council of Great Britain
National Association of Health Stores
National Federation of Women's Institutes
National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd
Natural Law Party
Natures Store Ltd.
Nealís Yard Bakery
Nealís Yard Remedies
New Economics Foundation
New Internationalist
Noah Project
Organic Farm Foods Wales
Organic Gardening
Organic Shop
Organics Direct
People & Planet
Permaculture Association UK
Permaculture Magazine
Permanent Publications
Pesticides Action Network UK
Plamil FoodPlanet Organic
Positive News
Pret A Manger
Scientists for Global Responsibility
Scottish Consumers Association for Natural Food
Small Farms Association
Soil Association
Splice (Genetics Forum)
Student Environment Network
The Harbour
The Woodland Trust
Townswomen's Guilds
Traidcraft Plc
Triodos Bank
Vegan Society
Vegetarian Society
Vetwork UK
Vinceremos Wines & Spirits Ltd
Whole Earth Foods Ltd
Wholesome Food Association
Wildlife Trusts
Womankind Worldwide
Womenís Environmental Network
World Development Movement
World Wide Fund for Nature

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