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latest UK news

Monsanto finally to be prosecuted in UK over crop trial

Following a report by the UK's Health and Safety Executive in mid-December which showed that 1 in 5 GM crop trials that they had monitored was found to be breaking the regulations, the Government has announced that a criminal prosecution of  Monsanto is to be mounted over a crop trial in Lincolnshire.  A six-metre pollen "border" designed to help stop the escape of GM pollen was found by Health and Safety inspectors who visited the Lincolnshire site in June to measure only two metres in some places at a point when the trial crop had already flowered and pollination with the surrounding crop may have taken place. Both Monsanto and another company, Perryfields Holdings Ltd, are accused of contravening the Environmental Protection Act. The case against the companies will be heard in Lincolnshire on February 17th 1999. 

UK government accused of suppressing damning crops report

According to a front page article in the Independent on Sunday for 13th December 1998 a key government report on the effects of growing genetically modified crops has been suppressed "because of its controversial warning of serious environmental risks. It says there are serious dangers to Britain's hedgerows, birds and indigenous plants from growing GM crops on a commercial scale."

90% of medical experts polled are concerned about safety of  Novartis maize

A poll published in the latest issue of the Newsletter of the International Society of Chemotherapy shows that a clear majority of medical experts working in the field of chemotherapy consider the presence of the antibiotic resistance gene within Novartis genetically modified maize an unacceptable risk. Fifty-seven per cent of 198 experts from 25 different countries said that the risk was unacceptable, while a further 34 per cent wanted more risk assessment to be done before the maize is cleared for full-scale use.  A mere two per cent of experts questioned judged the maize to be safe.

Monsanto survey reveals opposition to genetic engineering is 'skyrocketing' in UK

According to a leaked report (18th November 98)  on public confidence in GM foods commissioned by Monsanto from Stan Greenberg (a polling advisor to President Clinton, Tony Blair and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder):

"The latest survey shows an on-going collapse of public support for biotechnology and GM foods. At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached the low point and that public thinking will stabilize, but we apparently have not reached that point. The latest survey shows a steady decline over the year, which may have accelerated in the most recent period."

The report goes on to say:

"Overall, feeling toward foods with genetically-modified ingredients has grown dramatically more negative, 
which is probably the best measure of our declining fortunes in Britain."

The report did, however, say that Monsanto had made progress in its PR offensive with Britain's political elite - MPs and senior civil servants. However, among the public the report notes that confidence in UK regulatory agencies is in serious decline:

"In the most recent research confidence in all regulatory agencies has slipped... stating that seed had been approved by British food safety agencies reduced support for our products. "

The report goes on to state that even the "media elites are strongly hostile to biotechnology and Monsanto. They think the Government is being too lax and believe they must expose the dangers."

The report says that the situation in Germany is even worse.   For more on Monsanto's leaked documents

Key UK Government adviser joins Monsanto’s lobbyists

According to The Observer (25/10/98) a key adviser to the Cabinet Minister responsible for evaluating genetically modified food has taken a job with the lobbying firm that advises Monsanto Corporation, the American biotechnology giant.

The Observer says that her appointment “has raised fresh concern over the 'revolving door' between government and business, particularly in the lobbying industry."

Cathy Mc Glynn spent six years as a special adviser to Jack Cunningham, including the period when he was Agriculture Secretary. Last week Cunningham, was appointed by Tony Blair to head a Cabinet committee monitoring the GM food industry.

Tony Juniper, policy director of Friends of the Earth said, “"This is a clear case of money talking, corperations attempting to buy access and influence that are denied to others. This episode will further undermine the public confidence in the way Government oversees genetically modified food.”

For more on UK Government’s connections with Monsanto’s lobbyists - Genetic Network News 2
For more on UK Government’s connections with Zeneca - Genetic Network News 3

UK ministers bowing to biotech pressure?

Statements by 2 UK government ministers (22/10/98) promise tighter regulation of genetically modified  crops but not the clear cut moratorium that is needed on the commercial cultivation and import of such crops, nor a limit on future experimental releases into the environment to those assessing the environmental and health effects of GM plants.  For an article: "When is a moratorium not a moratorium?"

UK shoppers want GM foods banned from stores

An NOP survey just published reveals that the majority of customers from all the leading UK supermarkets are opposed to the stocking of food containing GM ingredients.  Objections to GM ingredients for customers of each chain were:

Marks Spencers:65 % 
Somerfield:  63 %
Safeway:  61%
Sainsbury's:  60%
Tesco:  60 %
Asda:  56% 
Co-op:  56 %
Morrison's:    54 %
Kwiksave :    53 %

Prince Charles again warns against GM crops 

The Prince of Wales, addressing an audience of farmers, scientists and academics, while opening a university research centre in Belfast, said he believed agriculture had "lost its soul", but could be saved by organic farming. He spoke of his sympathy for Britain's small farmers and rural communities struggling to survive - and warned of the dangers of rushing into genetic crop-farming.  "It would be a tragedy of immense proportions if we repeated the same mistake and became obsessed with genetic crops only to learn our mistake in 30 years' time." An article by the Prince of Wales on genetic engineering: Seeds of Disaster

Printers pulp Monsanto edition of Ecologist

An edition critical of Monsanto, the multinational genetic engineering company, was pulped by the Ecologist's printers without notice for fear of legal action from the litigious corporation. Zac Goldsmith, co-editor and son of the late Sir James Goldsmith, commented "We are shocked and amazed. We have a long history of being forthright about environmental issues and attacking powerful organisations, yet not once in 29 years has this printer complained about or expressed the slightest qualms about what we were doing." 
See ngin’s articles section  for an article from the pulped edition of The Ecologist and details of how to obtain your own copy of the reprinted edition