The LYNG meeting
Complete Transcription of Meeting to Discuss Farm Trial of Genetically
Modified (GM) Fodder Maize
At Lyng Village Hall, Norfolk On 10th July 1999
Present: Professor David Baulcombe (Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes
Centre), Des DíSouza (AgrEvo UK Ltd), Peter Melchett (Norfolk Farmer and
Executive Director of Greenpeace UK), Dr Sue Mayer (Director of Gene Watch),
Chair ? Paul Howell (Former Conservative MEP for Norfolk), + meeting organisers:
Karly Graham, Jo Page (in audience)
Paul: Ladies and gentlemen, itís a few minutes past half past seven. I was asked to Chair this meeting about three days ago, and I will Chair it, because the subject is obviously, as your presence demonstrates of enormous interest. And of course itís not just of enormous interest her in the village, Lyng but nation-wide and itís right and proper that the debate takes place. The issue is one of great importance and one which rightly should be aired properly. My job tonight will besimply to be the Chairman - to be entirely neutral and to allow both sides to present their case as they wish to. My intention therefore is to offer each speaker the chance to speak for five minutes. I have to say that I am not going to be exactly strict, because in my experience of that is that it diminishes debate, rather than adds to it. But I would ask the speakers if they could to try their best to keep within that five minutes. And then we will open the issue up to the floor, and that will be your chance. I hope you will help me as the Chairman. What we want here is information, and to have an informed debate. What I donít want is anyone on trial. I am aware and I had a Ďphone call from Mr Brigham yesterday. I know him well and heís not on trial. What he is engaged in is entirely legal, and it would have been perhaps rather difficult for him to be here. So I hope that no comment will be made about that, and I would like to put that to one side.
What we do have are four speakers and the order that we have chosen is Dr Sue Mayer, I think your going to launch off. Dr Mayer is a director of Gene Watch, and youíll be telling us no doubt a bit more in a moment. Then we are going to hear from Professor David Baulcombe from the Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre in Norwich. Then Peter Melchett will speak. He is a Norfolk Farmer (at least he describes himself as that) and an Executive Director of Greenpeace UK. And finally Mr DíSouza from AgrEvo UK Ltd, will be speaking again in that order. So ladies and gentleman of the panel if you would like to start off, with Sue Mayer, we can begin the proceedings.
Sue: Thanks very much and thanks very much for inviting me to come here, and for everybody coming on such a beautiful evening. I think it does show, as the Chairman said, the extent of concern and interest that there is, and I certainly find that when I talk around the country. And what we are talking about here particularly this evening is the farm scale trials ? the large experiments which have started to take place around the country this year, where the size of the trials has increased to eight to ten hectares, depending on the crop. And what I just want to talk about is why Iím concerned that these particular trials are scaling up and being rushed into rather than being driven by scientific questioning in a proper way, but have been done perhaps as a politically expedient measure to get the industry happy with the increasing size of the trials. Now I want to explain to you my concerns about the structure of the trials.
But I should just very, very briefly, so youíve got some background before I go on, is tell you what these trials involve.
There are three crops now that are being involved, oilseed rape, and maize, which is the one that is being grown locally which are genetically modified to be tolerant to a herbicide, called glufosinate. And these are made by AgrEvo, both the crop and the herbicide., and thereís also recently, sugarbeet which has also been put on farm scale trials, which is resistant to another glyphosate which is made by Monsanto. And the trials that are being conducted with oilseed rape and maize are being funded by the government to the tune of just over, and will last about four years probably, just over £3,000 000 of tax payers money.
Now in the past, I have been one of the people who have criticised and said that with smaller scale trials, they donít give the full information that we need to predict wider environmental impact. So how can I now be questioning, when we have scaled up the size of the experiments, how can I be questioning that? Should I not, as a scientist by training, welcome it as a way of gaining more knowledge? Well there are three things that I want to very briefly go through.
And that is - firstly, that the scale of an experiment , the size of the experiment is only one dimension of the problems that we have with assessing genetically modified crops in this country. The second is that we have this whole issue of gene flow and genetic pollution, which these trials have nothing to do with, that pollen can spread a long distance from oilseed rape and maize. And then I want to finally just very quickly ask whether the trials can actually succeed on their own terms? Which is to look at whether these crops and the use of herbicides with them are harmful to bio-diversity, to the insect life, and the plant life and the birds and so on who depend upon them.
So, firstly that size isnít everything, and one of my real concerns is that suddenly we have scaled these things up, from small trials in fields and laboratories and there are a lot of shortcomings that have been with those experiments. Theyíve looked at economic traits. Theyíve looked at each GMO in isolation from each other and theyíve been very short term ? one or two years - simply not long enough to look at the ecological impact. So increasing the size now I think is the wrong moment. We should go back. We should assess what weíve done on a small scale and see how we could do those properly, before we think about doing things (experiments) on a very large scale which simply canít be contained in any sensible way.
The next thing is, the second thing is this issue of gene flow, which is an extremely important issue, which we have to tangle with, I think, as a society. We have learnt about oilseed rape for example over the last ten years, that cross-pollination to other crops and one off species is inevitable. I mean, that will happen and thatís not disputed anymore. Predicting where and what frequency is extremely difficult though, so we have this issue of whether it matters to non GM farmers, to our plant life in the future, or to our organic farmers. And this, of course is the same with maize, as we have no wild related maize species, but there are people farming maize who may want to make non-GM maize for the non-GM market or organic farmers. And these farm scale trials although there will be some monitoring of gene flow from them, theyíre not basically designed to answer those questions. And, you know, they are on a large scale, theyíre not containable, is this the way to go, at this particular stage, to actually have those risks, potentially being realised, in the environment?
And then finally there is whether these trials can succeed in their own right? What they are trying to do is to study the diversity and abundance of plants and invertebrates, the insect life, in these fields of herbicide tolerant crops. And they want to look at comparing GM and non-GM fields to see whether they will actually be different in their bio-diversity and they are planned for four years. The protocol isnít clear yet. This first year is simply to try and work out some of the experimental protocol so its difficult to be precise about this.
The Steering Committee that has been established to oversee it, has only recently come into being in June, and yet all the sites were decided and sown before they came into post. And they have no control over the management practices, which are controlled under industry guidelines, and certainly the barriers will not prevent things like gene flow. But will we be able to answer the questions? Iím not sure that we will, though we are being told or are led to aspire to the fact, that this will prove whether these crops are safe or not.
Will we be able to detect differences? Will there be the statistical power? Do we know the relationship between insects and plants and bird species, which depend upon them? How easy is it going to be to extrapolate?
I really feel that we have rushed into these trials, while I welcome
the recognition at long last that some of us have been arguing that these
crops could have a serious impact on bio-diversity, this scaling up to
farm scale has just happened far too quickly, and I believe that
itís got much less to do with actual science and looking at these issues
seriously and not exposing us to risks unnecessarily and much more to do
with appeasing the industry, which has to please its share holders, has
to see there is some progress in terms of scale. And these areínt
t issues that are going to be resolved by science alone ? theyíre about
how we want to produce food, and what risks we want to tolerate from that.
So basically, we need to have the space and the time, not the pressure
of getting more and more acreage of GM crops. So I hope that in this
debate today, youíll be thinking about those issues, and thinking how we
can have this debate and question whether this is the way we want to produce
food in the future.
Paul: Our second speaker speaking is from the other side, will be Professor David Baulcombe. Professor if you try and stick to five minutes.
David: Like the previous speaker I would like to thank you for the opportunity of being able to come and talk to you this evening. What I would like to do in my five minutes is if I may move a little bit beyond the issues raised by this immediate trial that you are discussing here and just think about the whole technology in its totality, because as was mentioned in Britain at the moment, we have just a few crops, a few types of genetically modified crops. But actually the technology goes a lot beyond this, and I think, as I will try and explain, itís I believe a very important technology. I think the technology will bring enormous benefits to agriculture in Britain, and to agriculture world wide. And itís very important that the debate, whatever issues that surround the plants that are being grown in Britain at the moment is not a debate which really contaminates and prevents progress in some of the very important areas of research that have been going on beyond these types of genetically modified crops. So in all of the discussions about genetically modified crops, we hear a lot of phrases, and we have them on this document that youíve got here ? "More complete destruction of wheat species, irreversible damage to the countryside". And I have to say, as a scientist and somebody whoís been working in this technology, working as an academic scientist, and thatís the basis from which I work, these are not phrases that really relate to the technology as I see it. What I see in this technology is,for example, from the GM crop growing that is happening in the United States at the moment, is a technology which has enormous potential benefits.
So for example in the United States if we can look there, look at what is happening with the GM crops that are being grown over there, cotton and corn in particular, the amount of insecticides being applied to those crops as a result of growing genetically modified insect resistant plants has decreased enormously, but levels of insecticide being applied to those plants now is down to the sorts of levels that were last used in the 1940ís. And this has had enormous environmental benefits, benefits for bio-diversity in the fields that involve those trials.
I understand that there is a report to be released shortly by the US Environmental Protection Agency pointing out that as a result of growing genetically modified corn and cotton insect resistant plants, its been no longer necessary to apply insecticides, broad spectrum insecticides on a large basis and as a result there has been an increase in the diversity of insect life, there has been a corresponding increase in the diversity of small mammal life and thereís been corresponding increase in the diversity of birds of prey in those areas of the United States. This is an environmentally benign technology. It can bring us enormous potential benefits, and so letís have a debate about it, but letís make sure that we donít throw out these sorts of potential benefits in the process of having that debate.
Another example - research thatís being done in publicly funded institutes ,the Rothamstead Institute in Hertfordshire, a continuation of research carried out in The Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge when that was a government research institute, has led to the genetic modification of wheat, so that it has improved bread making characteristics. Now, many of you who are farmers will probably be aware that we still import a substantial proportion of our wheat from North America because it is needed for bread making processes. It hasnít been possible to, by conventional breeding, to produce the Cultivars that will satisfy the bread makers, but by genetic modification it has been possible to do that and those are now in experimental trials at the moment. So again, locally produced food - surely thatís got to be something we should aspire to - surely thatís got to be an environmentally benign good thing to do? This is something that can be produced by GM technology. Another example - work in my own laboratory, developing disease resistant rice Weíve genetically modified rice, weíve produced transgenic rice which is resistant against a disease which is a serious problem, which causes real hardship for farmers in West Africa and actually in other parts of Africa too.
Now there is no other solution to this disease. And as I say, people do suffer real hardships from this. I am not going to say starvation and famine, but there is certainly real hardship suffered by farmers as result of this disease. And itís a very wide spread disease, there is no conventional solution by conventional breeding that can produce results within the next ten to fifteen years. Using GM technology it has been possible to develop that solution. Now, are we going to turn our back on this type of technology, the sort of technology that can bring those sorts of benefits because weíve got local concerns here? I agree that we need look at all of the concerns but surely lets look very hard at the benefits as well of this technology..
Another example, its often spoken that GM technology is a technology thatís in the hands of big business, that can only be used by big business and it will feather the nests of big business. Now Iíve got nothing for or against big businesses, but the technology actually lends itself to small businesses. It lends itself to being worked at by non-governmental organisations, by charities ? itís a technology that can be carried out on a small scale. For example again another example from disease resistance - in my laboratory we have been able to isolate a disease resistance gene out of the potato and working together with scientists from The Potato Research Institute in Lima, Peru, what we are now doing is transferring that disease resistance gene not into one new Cultivar, so this is the potato gene, going into other potatoes, weíll will be able to transfer it into twenty different Cultivars and do that within the space of two or three years. Now, this is not something that could be done by conventional breeding. Its not something that needs to be done by big business, its being done by us, an academic laboratory. Itís being done by a consultative group research institute in Lima, Peru. Itís the sort of thing that would be relevant to potato farmers in the United Kingdom, so this is a benign and potentially beneficial technology.
And what I would like to say again and again is lets not turn our backs
on this technology. Letís try and look at the potential benefits
of it. I share the aspirations of the organic movement I think, I
want us to have an environmentally sustainable agriculture, and I think
that for us to be able to do that, we need, itís a challenge to be
able to do that, we need to take on board everything weíve got, in order
to have an agriculture which is competitive globally and which is also
environmentally sustainable. I like to think that we
can have organic food on one hand ? itíll be expensive. We
could also have some which we could maybe call organo-genetic food.
It would be genetically modified food, it would have many of the benefits - it would be free of pesticide residues, it would satisfy a lot of the environmental concerns that one has about technology. Why canít we do this, why canít we have a constructive debate about using the beneficial aspects of this technology. Its been a very polarised debate so far and I think it would be a good thing if one of the things to come out of the meeting this evening, was a more constructive debate about the benefits of GM technology. Thankyou.
Peter: Thank you Chairman. Iíve got a horrible summer cold, so Iíll come and stand a bit closer to you, but I will try and not infect you all. Anybody at the back wants to come and sitÖ? Can you hear alright? Iíll do the best I can. Thank you very much for inviting me tonight. Wonderful to see so many people here Iíd hope that youíd be willing to send a message to the government and the chemical company AgrEvo and to your local neighbourhood growing this genetically modified crop that you donít want it.
My personal view, Greenpeaceís view is that it should be destroyed. It should be destroyed as quickly as possible, it should be pulled up, it should be got rid off. And I want to try and explain why. This is unnecessary. Itís unwanted by the British people certainly and itís unpreductable. Itís unnecessary because if you want to do experiments of this sort, you can discover mostt of what they want to try and discover from these trials in a laboratory, contained. Donít forget that these genes are alive, when theyíre in the environment, just like a grey squirrel or a rabbit, or when the Romans brought pheasants to Norfolk, they are there forever. You canít recall them, you canít get them back again.
Itís unwanted - a recent Mori poll we conducted at Greenpeace showed that 79% of people in Britain do not want experiments on genetically modified crops out in the environment. Nearly 80% donít want these experiments done at all.
Its unpredictable. People do not know for sure what will happen. Just down the road here, in Lyng, with this crop, people donít know what effect it will have, for example on the soil of the field itís planted in. Hardly surprising, because we still know very little about the microphylls, the tiny, weenie things in the soil. Whatís there? Weíve identified about 20% of what actually there. So how on earth anyone can say that they know what a genetically modified crop is going to do to things that we donít know and donít understand? Its clear its unpredictable. A good scientist will always admit that an experiment is being done because you cannot predict exactly whatís going to happen, and this is on your doorstep as an experiment.
Two more fundamental reasons why this crop should be destroyed ? there is absolutely no need for this stuff, no-one wants it, none of the British supermarkets are going to be buying genetically modified food. None of the big food companies are going to be buying it. We are working at Greenpeace with Tescoís, the biggest supermarket in this country, to identify non GM sources for all their own brands. Sainsburyís, Marks and Spencers, every big supermarket is doing the same, but so are companies like Kelloggís, and Heinz, Burger King, all of these big companies are now desperately sourcing non-GM supplies. So of course what we do by doing these field trials is put at risk farmersí livelihoods because you risk genetic pollution from this stuff, which then makes these things unsellable because the people, the customers donít want it.
And the other fundamental thing, thereís no need for it, but itís taking us in the wrong direction. We all know that there is a huge and growing demand for organic food in this country. Marks and Spencers who went into organic and then out of it and then went into to it again, is now having to import 100% of the organic food they sell. We import 70 ? 80% of organic food in this country at the moment. Even things like swedes, turnips and parsnips, organic crops are imported into the UK.
There is a huge demand. The supermarkets, if any of you have noticed this, when they are selling organic food, you very rarely, if ever see a two pint carton of organic milk, its all in one pint cartons. A lot of the vegetables are packaged in quite small quantities. The supermarkets are terrified of running out. Thatís what they are trying to do when they sell you organic food, sell you as little as possible so they donít run out. They donít want empty shelves for fear customers will go and buy organic food elsewhere. Thatís how big the demand is and thatís the route that clearly British agriculture should be moving down. We are going to have 30% of organic production in the European Union overall in twenty or thirty yearís time, if current trends continue. It will be less in this country unless we get a move on, so even more will be imported by then..
And genetic modification and organic donít mix. The Soil Association who are responsible for organic, who give it that sense of security, a symbol that people believe in, the supermarkets are backing, say that genetic modification contamination is unacceptable in organic crops ? and contamination is inevitable. The Governments own report produced just down the road in Norwich, by the John Innes Centre, has said that contamination is unavoidable. What they want to do is work out is how much is acceptable. The organic movement is saying itís not acceptable because people donít want it, and they are responding to what people want.
Now this is all very big and global, and huge chemical companies, I was thinking whether I could try and bring it home on a sort of local scale, and just think about whatís happened to agriculture. We have been farming for four or five thousand years, (human beings), But I wanted to shrink that down, letís say to forty or fifty years, and just talk about Lyng. So we wonít talk about British agriculture or world agriculture, put it on a local basis. And letís say for the sake of argument, if you can just bear with me with this for a minute, that in Lyng you were very good raspberry growers, and you had a raspberry jam production, and for 40 or 50 years youíd been growing raspberries and producing raspberry jam. And youíve had your ups and downs, as agriculture has had over the last four or five thousand years, there have been sometimes you had no raspberries, you were very short, there was disease, there were problems. But overall you kept going. It was sustainable, in modern jargon. You could go on growing raspberries year after year, farming century after century. And then about six months ago, some chaps arrive with white coats on and say weíre going to industrialise your raspberry production in Lyng. We donít think much of it, very old fashioned. Weíve got a lot of new chemicals, some big machines, new smart factories, lots of metal shiny things to make raspberry jam ? itís going to be really good and modern. And this is just six months ago this happened, on my forty-year timescale, (shrinking it all down). So they come along, and all goes pretty well for the first couple of months. So lets say they came in, when would it be? In January. They arrived in January this year.
January, February things go pretty smoothly. By March one or two people in the village notice that things are going wrong. There are, for example, the peregrines that used to hunt across the raspberry fields have disappeared. Sparrow hawks are not seen in the village anymore. By when, by about April people are getting slightly more worried, most of the hares have disappeared from the raspberry fields, no skylarks nesting in the corner of the raspberry cane bit, where they have nested for the last forty years. Tree sparrows more or less disappeared from the village, gone. English partridges declined, used to be shot in the raspberry cane fields, no longer shot anymore, not enough of them to be worthwhile doing so. And people begin to ask questions about our new modern raspberry factory and its production facilities. Meanwhile of course half the village have lost their jobs, because the shiny metal machines and all the rest of it, is much more efficient at producing raspberry jam. Incidentally there is only one variety of raspberrie jam being grown in the village now and only one sort you can buy rather than lots and lots of varieties that there used to be. So you have people out of work, youíve lost your wildlife and so on. What else has gone on? Well thereís one little corner of the village, where there is a couple called Fred and Doris who are having none of this. And theyíre still growing raspberries the way theyíve been grown for the last forty or fifty years in Lyng, and theyíre making Fred and Dorisí Raspberry Jam, weíd call it organic raspberry jam probably. And theyíve still got the odd skylark nesting there and one or two tree sparrows. And in fact bird watchers, Ďtwitchersí, when they go along the coast, often come back past Fred and Dorisí raspberry cane fields, to see these what are now rarities in Norfolk, like tree sparrows. And theyíre sort of on the bird watching list.
Peter: Okay, Iíll just come to it, got carried away with my raspberries. Now whatís happened in the last day or two, is some people have come along in some even whiter coats, with even more sophisticated technology, and theyíve said - weíve got a new revolution. We can make things even better than we have in the last six months. And in the meantime everyoneís woken up to the fact that Fred and Doris are the only people in the village who can actually make some money out of raspberry jam growing anymore. They probably notice because the Prince of Wales popped in on his way to Sandringham, and said hello to them. And theyíve probably noticed because Marks and Spencers came banging on the door and said weíre desperate to get hold of the Fred and Doris Organic Raspberry Jam, please can we have some of it?
Now what youíre being given is a choice, between whether that
sort of farming, the Fred and Doris one where thereís a public demand,
carries on or whether we continue with what the scientists at the Science
Museum who have debated about this subject call the Ďescalation in the
war against natureí And it canít go on as it has, this period of
intensive agriculture. Everyone accepts that - even the chemical companies
which is why they are going for genetic modification. But you do
face a stark choice; you have to go one way or the other. You canít
fudge it down the middle. This stuff is alive. It will get
out and it will make organic farming in this country impossible.
It will make our organic produce un-sellable. Genetic pollution isn;t
something that you can contain, and itís because we face that stark choice
and its because this public money should be going to organic, and not to
modernising the raspberry fields even more, that we think these field trials
should be stopped and I think that AgrEvo should advocate tonight to pull
this crop up and destroy it, and lets get on with a sustainable, popular,
sellable agriculture. Thank you.
Paul: Our final speaker, and I will give him eight minutes if he wants it is Dr DíSouza from AgrEvo.
Des: Thank you Mr Chairman, good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you also for the time to be here this evening. I have a few facts and figures to give you and I would also like to read out a statement Mr Brigham, the farmer, has asked me to read out on his behalf, as he chose not to be here this evening, and I will do that at the end of what I have to say.
A bit of background about me. My family is from India, I was born in Kenya and lived there until I was ten. Came to this country when I was ten years old, I have a degree in horticulture from Bath University. Iíve worked in the crop protection industry and agriculture since 1980. And Iíve been involved in biotechnology project at AgrEvo since 1993 in the UK. The company has been researching into biotechnology for between fifteen and twenty years. Our main business today is crop protection, weed-killers, the products that control diseases and insects in crops in the UK and around the world. We expect in the UK, that in the future genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops will probably make up about 10% of our business. The rest of it will continue to be in traditional pesticides. We are working in other biotech areas, some of the areas that David Baulcombe has mentioned, on the food perspective. We have eight thousand employees around the world , 900 in the UK, and we have a turnover of one billion pounds and yes, weíre in it for the money.
There are many conservationists employed by AgrEVo in the UK . I believe you donít have to be a member of Friends of the Earth or any other organisation to care for environment and I hope that everyone in this rooms cares for the environment without needing to belong to an organisation. Many of those are employed and work for AgrEvo. We are long term player in this business and have been for some time and we do not operate with bad science for that reason.
Why do we need agriculture in the UK? You will know that it is to produce staple foods that we eat on a daily basis, be it bread, potatoes or sugar produced in this country. Why pesticides? Industry has developed since the war to produce enough staple food of a high quality ? safe food and affordable food. I rang my mother-in-law in London today, to find out what their food bill was in 1950, just after the war. And her husband brought home twelve pounds per week, three pounds a week went on housekeeping. She did it all for three quid, she was quite pleased when she told me that today. Thatís 25% of household income was on housekeeping. Thereís not many people here I hope, who are happy to put twenty five percent of their income into food on a weekly basis, and modern agriculture has contributed towards that to a big extent.
Technology within the pesticide industry has led to more affordable food. We have got better chemicals today than we had forty years ago, with products which are more environmentally friendy than they were forty years ago, and we have products which allow us to better target the problems farmers have in their fields. And biotechnology is the next step in this technology if we as consumers have a desire for our food to be produced with less chemicals. If anyone thinks that this country can move to 100% organic production, it may feed five million people in the UK, it will not feed fifty million.
Why the farm scale trials? The regulations that we work to have been in place just before we started those trials. The government advisors assessed that the work we wanted to do was safe enough for us to start those trials in the open. We have done a lot of work over the years, field trials in the open in the UK since 1993, for six years now.
The data that we have generated from those trials, and from work in laboratories around the world and in the UK, have shown no risks to humans or the environment compared to current agricultural practice, and thatís why these trials were deemed to be satisfactory to go ahead by government in the UK and in Europe.
The specific herbicide that will be used on the genetically modified crops, has already been used in the UK since 1991. The same herbicide has been used on about a million acres of UK agriculture in that time with no environmental problems. What we are looking to do is to use that same herbicide within specific crops - oil rape, maize and sugar beet - to allow the farmer flexibility of how he controls weeds, and we see also from that the potential for environmental benefits, in addition to reducing his loss of production.
The field scale trials have been started to answer specific questions raised by English Nature and the RSPB. The only way you can answer the questions that they have raised is to do those trials on a field scale. Iím afraid you cannot do them in a laboratory, in a glass house to assess long term effects and the effects on earthworms from rotational impacts within the farm rotation system. Very few farmers in the UK will grow the same crop in that field year after year after year. Some do it for wheat, in some parts of the country, but generally in Norfolk, its rotations of different crops.
The trialsídesign was designed not by industry but by independent scientists. The government is paying for independent scientists to monitor earthworms, beetles, wild plants, weeds within those fields and in the environment for the next four years. They are comparing genetically modified herbicide tolerant maize crops grown in this area compared using the specific herbicide with a non GM variety sprayed with herbicide thatís approved today. And I looked at those trials, studies a week ago, and there are more weeds in the GM field than there are in the non GM because in the non GM the farmer had to apply the herbicide before the weeds were up and there you have ladies and gentlemen a sterile field. With this technology you have an opportunity for the farmer to delay the application and to allow weeds to be there as a food source for insects and for birds and higher mammals.
Some fact and figures about maize: letís talk about pollen and letís talk about cross pollination. Please be aware we should differentiate between pollen spread and pollination. Theyíre related but not linked that closely as some people might say, or the words that are put in the press sometimes.
Facts about maize: there are no wild relatives so it can not cross pollinate with any wild relatives of the maize plant. It doesnít survive generally the UK winter. Bees do not generally forage in maize crop. But maize does produce a lot of pollen. One flower on a maize plant will be pollinated to be able to produce a cob, but that one flower is most likely to be pollinated by another flower on the same plant or by pollen from a flower on the adjacent plant, rarely from the plant in another field. Pollen is heavy from a maize crop but it will travel with wind but data has shown that within ten metres, whatís that, 10 yards say of a field, 90% of the maize pollen has fallen onto the ground. Within hundred metres of that maize field 98% of the pollen has fallen on the ground. So we then have to deal with 2% that might be transported by wind ? where could that go? The other thing to be aware of is that maize pollen, which I hope is what youíre particularly concerned about with the maize crop herehere, maize pollen has a short viability ? some people say about thirty minutes. After thirty minutes its dead and cannot pollinate with another maize flower.
So how likely is GM pollen going to be to pollinate with non GM maize field in this area? To look at that we have to look at standards that they use for seed production in Europe, Maize seed isnít produced in the UK, its produced in France. For basic seed production you need 99.9% seed purity for a variety to be called a variety by name. 99.9% purity. In France with basic seed production, with a two hundred meter isolation distance from any other maize, a crop has never failed to achieve the 99.9% purity, 99.9% purity with a two hundred meter isolation. The reason for that is probably because pollination does not occur, pollen may spread but pollination does not occur. Probably because if little pollen actually reaches another field, probably because if it gets there its unlikely to be viable to pollinate, and perhaps also because the pollen thatís in the air has been diluted in the air by all the other pollen thatís flying around, from grass and other crops that would be in the air at the time. All those factors dilute the pollen that might be there, and that might still be viable.
Each maize cob will have hundreds maybe thousands (Iíve never counted them) of kernels on a cob. If one pollen grain travels and is successfully viable and goes to one flower, you will end up with one GM kernel on a cob. Work done by scientists regarding a trial that was done in the Southwest last year ? there was big controversy about an organic sweet corn crop next to a maize trial, the indications were that perhaps one kernel in a thousand or maybe even one kernel in forty thousand would be a GM seed.
Consultation is an issue for you all and I would like to say what I hope that we are looking for is consultation and not the anarchy that is going on in this country and the trial destruction that is happening, legal trials that are taking place, and anarchy that was taking place in Bristol, I gather earlier today, over a road building programme.
At Cereals 98, and I quote to you, someone who was there who destroyed a trial, at the Cereals 99 plot, a couple of weeks ago. The quote is " we wanted to show farmers that if they plant GM plants they will be ripped up". And on that basis farmers like Mr Brigham are helping this industry get the answers that we are all looking for. As far as local consultation is concerned we together with Mr Brigham contacted the EDP, who ran a story to make the community in the area, throughout the circulation of the EDP, aware of the trial. Mr Brigham himself contacted his immediate neighbour with farm land before the trial began. He went public with the EDP even though his friends said he was crazy, he didnít need to tell anyone about it, but he wanted to do that. The nearest organic businesses he was told to his farm are at Reepham and Bintree. At the Norfolk Show he met with Bill Starling of the Soil Association and the two farmers who have those organic businesses at Bintree and Reepham and they have said to him that they see no risk to their organic businesses from the trial that he is helping the government conduct.
In conclusion, public support is needed for these trials, I can quote you a MORI poll that shows that 69% of people, almost 70% of people said that they wanted the trials to go to completion so that the public can have the answers to these trials. Thereís polls and thereís polls and thereís polls and there are some for the other side of this debate as well. The trials need to go ahead to completion. We need those answers, they will help the farmers; they will help the community. Those are my statements, I would like now to read out Mr Brighams statement, if I may, word for word, as he has written it.
"The Brigham family can be traced back over four hundred years in Lyng. The present familyís parents and grandparents started farming in Lyng Easthaugh in 1926. At the moment there are five members of the family in the business, from two generations, fully active on the farm.
It has always been our aim to improve the holding for the next
generation, and to this end we have farmed the land with a large number
of livestock which produce adequate farmyard manure to allow us to grow
crops such as maize with very little artificial fertiliser. Over
the last few years we have planted nearly 45 acres of trees and several
hundred meters of new hedge. We have also created a fishing lake
from worked out gravel-pits which has been described by fishermen as the
best carp fishing lake in the country, marrying leisure with a conservation
area. The farm is home to a large number of birds and
mammals, including oyster catchers, several types of geese, shell ducks,
four species of owls including barn owls, numerous skylarks to name but
a few. We offered the land for these farm trials because we
believe there is a need for properly and independently monitored and controlled
trials, to answer the questions so many are asking. It
is our belief that there are enormous environmental benefits to be had
from genetic modification but feel it is necessary to make sure there are
no downsides. It is vital that this trial goes to completion.
We can only assume that those people who would seek to destroy these trials
are afraid that the results may prove them wrong. Britain got
left behind when we rejected new techniques in cattle breeding. It
has cost our farmers a lot to catch up and we must not allow this to happen
again". Thank you.
Paul: Ladies and gentlemen, now my job gets a bit tougher. What I would like to do very. very briefly is try and concentrate your minds onto the issue. I can sense the feeling of the meeting and so can the speakers, and many of you may well have come to this meeting with your minds already made up, entirely made up. You came to the meeting knowing all the answers, and certain of your position. My second point was going to be that which was made Mr DíSouza. This is Lyng in Norfolk and I very, very much hope everyone in Lyng wants this meeting to be civilised and certainly doesnít want to see any of the anarchy which has taken place anywhere else in Britain as regards illegal acts. Iím going to say that absolutely now, because the language has got quite close to that, and we have seen some anarchy elsewhere. This canít be an issue which is dealt with by anarchy; it has to be an issue dealt with by reasoned and proper debate. So I think with those two comments, I am going to quickly, very quickly summarise the position as we see it. Very, very briefly, our first speaker spoke of the haste, the haste of moving forward to field size trials, and the concerns about whether that haste was right and proper.
Our second speaker talked about the industry. The new biotechnology industry. It might have been the computer industry, but its another industry , the biotechnology industry. And in many ways that is whatís on trial tonight. Whether we want such an industry at all or not. Our third speaker talked about the problem of genetic flow and talked about once that gene pool is released it is unable to bring that gene pool back and went on graphically to describe the advances of agriculture and whether we have gone too far. Again the question whether the technology available to agriculture should be stopped or slowed down, and so we come back to that debate of whether the industry should exist and whether the technology should be used. Our final speaker from the industry itself mentioned again that technology -the advances agriculture has made. And I think really, that I hope summarises somewhat. The industry is there to advance agriculture. Others are saying its been advanced too much and we should go back to organic farming, and Iím not going to make any comment on that.
Peter Not soÖÖÖÖ
Paul Ö10% I think you said. But that I think is the issue, the two sides. So my job now is very simple - to open it up to you and would ask speakers if they could to give their names, and where they come from. I am rather keen to see if we have residents of Lyng. Those are the most important. So who would like to ask the first question?
Mike: My name is Mike Thurlow, the Miller from Letheringsett Water Mill,
near Holt, and I would like to ask these gentlemen why they are allowing
these to go on when there was a certain species of butterfly in the States
totally annihilated because of GM crops. They have not found the
cause of it, there is no information and why are we following the Americans
Paul: This is a question about the Monarch butterfly. How am I going to handle it? The question was direct to you [David Baulcombe].
Mike: Yes direct to them.
David: I am very pleased that youíve given me the opportunity to respond to that. There was an article in NATURE just a few weeks ago describing some experiments. One interpretation of which was that the monarch butterfly was damaged by pollen from GM maize. Actually that research was discredited by a letter published by the former Chairman of the Advisory Committee to Releases to the Environment the following week.
Anon: No it wasnít, Iím sorry.
David: And its certainly not true, even if the experiments in that report are absolutely correct, weíre not talking about annihilation here, weíre talking about an effect on the monarch butterflies in the area immediately surrounding the field.
Mike: Its extinct.
David: Its not extinct at all
Mike: In the areas where GMís are being grown, its extinct, its not there
David: Iím sorry but thatís not true.
Paul: On each question, I am going to give both sides, one person from both sides I think probably, the opportunity, so would you like to respond to it?
Sue: Well I think the research that youíre referring to has shown that there can be real potential knock-on effects on beneficial species. So the research that was done in the States, the laboratory research on the Monarch butterflies, thereís been similar research done in Switzerland which has shown that lace wings beneficial species could be harmed by eating insects which have fed on genetically modified crops which produce their own insecticidal toxin. This is one of the real issues that concerns people, it is that these effects may not just be restricted to the immediate environment, but may go through the food web, and its extremely difficult to look at those effects and predict them. Because for example with these insecticides in crops, itís very different from spraying - the insects are exposed to them the whole time. And so there is insecticide there and in the residues in the soil potentially. So itís a real problem and people are concerned about the whole bio-diversity. This is why organisations like English Nature and RSPB are saying we should have a moratorium on the use of these crops.
Des: Mr Chairman, just very quickly, insect tolerant crops are not being developed at the moment in the UK. We donít have the pest problems in maize for that particular technology to be used here. My prediction would be that we will not see an insect tolerant crop ready for growing in the UK for probably ten years. Thereís no one yet to my knowledge thatís found tolerance to the pests that we have in the UK. So you need to separate the one thatís being grown in the UK.
Paul The Monarch I think you referred to is fed on cotton.
Mike: No maize. The other thing is why is there no information coming out of the States to aid all of us. There is nothing coming anywhere, its like walking into a brick wall. Nobody would tell you anything and Iím an organic miller.
Des: If you give someone an address, I can send you some information.
Paul: The next question.
Caroline: My name is Caroline Russell from West Norfolk. I have got a question for you all really. But first of all Iíll give you some information that I think you all need to know.
Paul: We have to be brief. I think itís going to be questions moreÖ
Caroline: But it is about child health. We have formed a group and weíre calling ourselves The West Norfolk Association for Child Health. Thatís what weíre protecting and we thought the government ought to know about rethinking basic assumptions. What the government needs to know about Monsanto.
1) Monsanto purchased the Swan Chemical Company, who in 1929 developed
PCBís or Polychloranatee biphenols, which are used in lubricants, hydraulic
fluids and waterproof coatings.
2) Research in the 1960ís and 1970ís revealed PCBís and other aromatic organochlorineís to be potential carcinogens.
3) They were traced to a wide array of reproductive, developmental and immune system disorders.
4) The world centre of PCB manufacturing was Monsantoís plant at St. Louis, Illinois, in the United States.
5) East St. Louis has some of the sickest children in America.
6) The city has the highest rate of foetal deaths and immature births, the third highest rate of infant death and one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the USA.
7) Dioxin is prevalent in all the sludge tanks from the chemical company, and I know what we all think about Dioxin with this latest case from Belgium.
8) Monsantoís Agent Orange has higher concentrations of Dioxin than that produced by Ö chemical, the defoliants other leading manufacturer.
9) Monsanto uses studies to minimise its liability in all cases.
10) Bovine Growth Hormone is linked to Prostate and Breast Cancer, because of the residue of Antibiotics in milk.
Jo Page: Excuse me, Mr Chairman, can we limit this to discussion about the maize crop?
Caroline R: Ordinary consumers and normal people who try to right the wrongs of these large corporate organisations are branded as terrorists, hooligans or vandals and nothing could be more wrong. The only way to feed the world is to educate the separate populations so that they can work in harmony with their land and their natural resources to modernise sustainable agricultural developments and practice.
Paul: I think thatís enough. Weíre never going to get everyone in.
Caroline R: This last point. We have got a primary production that once you alter the genomes, you can not get it back, like Lord Melchett said and we are risking our childrenís health, I mean asthma, cancer, weíve got a large populationÖ
Paul: What your point is, is that big business has been making agricultural capital and causing problems for a long while, that is your point, not mine, your point and the history of their problems in the past, may well be problems of the future with genetically modified crops. Thatís more or less it.
Anon: We live in the 21st century, not in the 18th century you know.
Paul: My difficulty is that I have my views but I canít express them. Itís really the whole industry thatís being questioned here.
David: I think that if one thinks in terms of the technology and one of the points I was trying to make is that this technology is not necessarily wedded to big businesses and actually with the climate of debate which is going on at the moment, actually in some respects, not necessarily here but in some respects irrational debate, is creating a situation where the only people who are doing this technology are going to be big business. I think that we need to have a rational debate so that organisations other than big businesses, so that governmental organisations, so that small companies can get involved in this research. If we create this climate where we are forced to retrench, or where the technology is forced to back away from ? the industry is forced to back away from a very beneficial technology, the only people left playing this game will be AgrEvo, Monsanto and a few other large companies. If we can have a constructive debate about this, the technology will be used to your benefit and to everybodyís benefit, by smaller companies, by non commercial organisations, and really I think thats the climate that we should try to create.
Peter: Chairman, I think you were going to give one to each side werenít
you. I thought Iíd just remind you of that. Chairman you said,
and I think the other side have talked about anarchy, and youíre right,
there is anarchy here. We are suffering from something which is completely
out of control. What is out of control is the behaviour of
the big chemical companies.
First of all, nobody asked any of you as far as I know, before this field was planted on your doorstep, whether you wanted it. Its true the farmer went to the EDP after it was planted, once it was in the ground, once it was a fete accompli. But I donít call that consultation, maybe it passes for consultation in Lyng but I frankly doubt it. That is being presented with the facts after once something has been done. Now thatís true in Lyng at your level. Looks whatís happened to this country or to Europe. What happened there was Monsanto and one or two big other multi-national companies, American companies mainly, decided that they were going to put genetically modified soya and corn into commodity crops ? into huge big ships in other words and mix it with conventional stuff. That means as a farmer, any of us farming, unless we are organic farmers, feeding our cattle right today in Norfolk unless weíre feeding them with grass, are feeding them with compound mixtures, which have got GMOís in it. We have no way of knowing, its not labelled, its not segregated, we are not told and when you go to the supermarket to buy the stuff youíre not being told. Now thatís anarchy. Thatís unacceptable behaviour. What the woman said was right.
Iím glad our Chairman supports me in wanting to bring it to an end as soon as possible.
Des: For the record, Peter Melchett, AgrEvo and other companies also support, because I am a consumer, and I want that choice, that I support the need for labelling and segregation of these crops. Consumer pressure has begun to force it on the Americans.
Anon: Why has it taken three years?
Des: I canít say, we support it from a European and UK perspective, and weíre going to grow these crops in a segregated way in the UK, so the choice will always be there.
Paul: Thatís important, the choice will be there. Now over to the gentlemen on the left.
Brian: My name is Fred and my wifeís name is Doris.
Laughter and applause
The name is Brian Baxter. Forty years ago my wife and I bought some derelict property and we have created over forty years, a little a small holding on that property. Weíre very proud of it. For the last twenty five years I have never used any chemicals of any sort at all. Our animals live to a ripe old age. We are pretty fit and we grow some of the finest food in Norfolk. Let me say I am very very proud to live in Norfolk. I love Norfolk and wish Mr AgrEvo had not come to Norfolk to try his trials out because I am very, very worried about these trials that are taking place in Lyng. I would just like to ask one question, and that is - who do I get my compensation from if anything goes wrong with these crops?
Do I go to Mr AgrEvo or do I go to Mr Brigham? I would like to know, because at the present moment, I know that my neighbours who have got 300 acres of carrots on my doorstep, which they are continually spraying every day, and how anybody who can eat those carrots can think that they are doing them any good, I can go to the NFU and say that their spray drift has come across onto my land, and I will do so if it happens. But today I donít know what is going to happen if there is any pollen drift from this crop in Lyng and I am very, very concerned about it and no compensation could compensate forty years of hard work, on land which I know very, very well and I can grow perfect crops on without any of your technology or anything else.
Paul: Brian - Iíll just explain, that we know each other very well and we fought an election together, 1979,
Brian: I found that politics were not worth it.
Anon: He found that out aswell.
Paul: Frankly so did I. I think the point has again been made to you all, agriculture has developed through a series of advancements in technology, from which, and it may be debated, we have benefited. 25% of our income we are told went on food in 1950, today its 11%. People are buying that produce, produced by that technology, spray technology. I am not taking a view, but thatís what your question is.
Anon: Whoís going to pay his compensation?
Brian: No, my question is compensation.
Des: You have to relate this question Mr Baxter to, the production that you have in your holding, and what is required from technology in agriculture, to produce food that everyone else can buy, you may be selling your food locally, but obviously canít be feeding too big a community. So there are differences in scale. The issues of liability are under big discussion in Europe and globally. And thatís where it will be decided as to where the level goes. All I can say to you is that, AgrEvo, the insurance that covers us, for the technologies we have worked with, the technologies that we are working with in research.
Brian: So you are saying that you will honour any (inaudible)
Des: I am telling you a fact of what our insurance covers us for liability ? an issue that is being discussed. Currently within European law their saying there is no need for separate, as I understand it, any additional clauses relating to biotechnology used in food production, compared to any other techniques, and those debates are continuing and will continue for some time.
Sue: These are debates that indeed have been going on for sometime, about who will pay if there is any harm that comes to the environment for example. And Iíve been following this debate for nearly ten years now, and throughout that, the industry have resisted at every possible opportunity the introduction of being made liable should there be any harm that results from it. And I think that this tells us an awful lot about how they feel about the risks and whether theyíre willing to pay for them.
And again they are continuing to fight that and so the answer is that no-one will pay for you or for anybodyís environment that becomes damaged as a result of this. There is no environmental liability for this technology. And so all of us, and our children and our grandchildren will pay for it.
Paul: At the back, a persons hand went up.
Gerald: Iím from Lyng and my name is Gerald ÖÖÖ I think there is a bit of hypocrisy here amongst a lot of people really. I feel that we talk about research and agriculture and other areas, and yet we are quite prepared to go along with other things, which desperately effect our environment, such as using a car. Iím sure that most of us, or some of us inevitably have come by using a car, which .. is of desperate concern to the environment and how about the other man, well known in the area, around my aread, that produces "bootiful" turkeys and the environment they have. I donít hear a lot of concern about that, a lot of talk about broiler turkeys or broiler chickens. And although I can understand why people should be concerned about research in agriculture I feel that maybe other things have been swept aside, and we think "well ok, its alright, donít worry about that, Iíll go have my McDonaldís, Iíll go and drive into Norwich, Iíll go and do whatever it is - I donít worry about that, but yet something has happened and I think oh dear this is a sort of dreadful thing, a sneaky thing, some sort of pesticide, some sort of sneaky thing. What I am really trying to say, is that I think there is a bit of hypocrisy going on somewhere or another.
Paul: Well this is a public debate and Iím quite prepared to take statements, and I donít think that there is anything really there to answerÖ
Peter: Well yes I there is something there to be answer because I think
thatís wrong. There are some terrible global problems facing
the environment. I work for Greenpeace. We work in forty countries
all over the world, we have an office in China for example, we have people
working on the toxic and nuclear problems in India and other places in
southeast Asia. Weíve just launched a campaign to try and save the
rapidly disappearing rain forest in Brazil, part of the lungs of the planet,
on which all of us depend. So yes there are these huge problems
and yes many people are trying to do what they can, when they can to do
something about them. And yes of course we all live in the
modern world, and I got here driving a car this evening from Ringstead,
and I donít think thatís hypocritical. I wouldnít have got here frankly,
its reality. And we have to deal with reality, and the reality that
the people of Lyng have to deal with is that on their doorstep there is
a trial, of a technology, which many people feel will run unacceptable
risks, and which is unnecessary. And the Chairman said in summing
up one of the earlier discussions about organic and labelling that there
would be choice ? there wonít be choice. You will not, if this technology
goes ahead and gets a hold in this country, be able to choose to buy organic
food grown in UK. That choice will be denied you. The Governments
own advisors from John Innes in Norwich have said that absolutely clearly.
So these are important issues, they are not the only important issues but
theyíre important enough clearly for a lot of you to feel itís worth giving
up a nice sunny Saturday evening to come and debate it, and I am personally
Des: I donít think itís appropriate for Peter Melchett to say unacceptable risks. The technology we are working with has more regulation around this technology than many other industries today that we are utilising in our everyday lives. We believe that the food that you are eating and the soya and the maize are deemed to be safe if not safer than conventionally grown maize and soya. Thatís not my words but words from very respected scientists in the biotechnology industry. Are there unacceptable risks? What we as consumers all have to do is put the risk into perspective, between drinking a cup of coffee that holds 10% of a lethal dose of caffeine to eating a burnt piece of meat or toast, which has immense carcinogens in it, to using calomine lotion, which could never be registered as a pesticide because its so toxic, to drink raspberry juice that would never be registered as a pesticide because it too toxic, to eat a potato which could never be registered today if I came from Peru and bought the potato in this country to be registered , the food would not get through the regulatory system, because the regulators would deem it to be toxic tor you and me. So itís putting risk into perspective along side everything else that we do in our everyday life. Be it those that think about recycling bottles and paper, to those whoíd like to but never quite get round to it, and think maybe next year. And thatís maybe the comment that the gentlemen over there was making.
Anon: I donít use any of those.
Paul: Iím going to try and get right at the back..
Bob: Iím Bob Holland and I am a rare creature, Iím actually from Lyng, and this is a question from both sides. It seems to me that thisgenetically modified trial are being funnelled down to three crops, sugar beet, maize and oilseed rape. All of which this county has an preponderance of of ? its almost a mono-culture or tri-culture if you like. When are actually going to use the stuff for our common good and put it in the proper food chain when youíre sure of it? And isnít it about time Greenpeace had a look around at the sea of Yale that covers Norfolk, never mind the genetically modified six acres down the road?
Paul: What was the actual question?
Bob: The question is if you can do this stuff, we will stand by it, but why donít you put it into something, which is not heavily subsidised by the governmentís pool?
Paul: Its about area aid payments on oilseed rape and things like that.
Des: That wasnít the basis that we started the research at, we didnít look at which were the most heavily subsidised crops in Europe and then say we will develop those.
Bob: It turned out that way.
Des: It may seem that way but we worked out that those are the major European crops that this technology would be of benefit.
Bob: If you can grow potatoes in Peru, you should get your arse over to Lincolnshire, were (inaudible)
Des: A gentleman from The Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) said at a meeting at the East of England Show, said they have many thousand of acres of arable land and they also grow a thousand acres of organic crops and they wanted to grow them side by side in the future, and what he asked for at that meeting was for someone to breed him a potato that was resistant to blight, so he would not have to spray any chemicals on it, rather than these are his words not mine, using Copper Sulphate, which is a natural chemical which is known to kill earthworms and other things. We got to improve and work from one to the other
Bob: AgrEvo and Greenpeace should be working together not sneering at each other.
Des: I would love to.
Sue: The reasons that we are seeing these trials with herbicide-resistant sugarbeet,, oilseed rape and maize was because for the companies that developed them, they were very easy to do, and so AgrEVo very conveniently produced crops which were resistant to the same chemicals that they produced. Itís the ideal sale pitch. You control the crop and you can sell the chemicals in a package. And Monsanto make theirs and other companies make their chemical packages. Thatís the reason and they are big crops and you can make more selling more chemicals.
Bob: I have loads of time for Greenpeace and loads of time for people who can move technology on, and this is technology moving on.
David: I would just like to support what you say there if we could have a constructive debate about how this technology is introduced and used in the country. It can be used in potatoes, it can be used in wheat in Norfolk, it can be used to deal with disease resistance problems as well as herbicide resistance problems, it can be used to affect the quality traits of the plants you are growing, it can be used to bring about an awful lot of benefits and it will only happen for the benefit of the farmers and the people in Norfolk if we can have a constructive debate about this.
Peter: Let me just make one suggestion for a constructive debate. These farm scale trials are going to cost about £3.3million pounds of your money, taxpayers money, thatís apart from the money the chemical companies are putting into them. The Organic Aid Scheme, which helps farmers over the first few years of converting to organic production, which as I said there is a huge demand for is running out of money, - I thinks it runs out of money this week or next week. That £3.3million would top up The Organic Aid Scheme, and meet the demand, the huge demand. Many farmers in Norfolk ? I am converting to organic at Ringstead. Iím one of them who got in, I was lucky. Many people are not going to get into that scheme because the government has run out of money. Why donít AgrEvo and Sainsburyís and other people agree that they will fund these trials if they really want to do them, and let the public money go where the public demand is - into organic farming.
Paul : Can I just bring the temperature down a little bit. The debate is really going away from the specific field trials, which is what we came here for, the meeting was called because of a field trial. Itís a much wider debate, and the wider debate is the debate that is there. Do you want that wider debate, I am in your hands, Iím entirely in your hands. Or do you want me to try and bring it back to specifics of knowledge, knowledge and information about the field trial here or is it all one?
The group agreed that it was all one.
Anon If itís grown in Lyng it can spread to the rest of the country.
Paul: Lets take the next question, please.
Mrs Ramsey: Mrs Ramsey, a rare person from Lyng. Can I get back to the field trials? I would just like to know a little bit about what actually happens to these crops. You explained to us about the pollen, and how it can move a hundred yards and so on, but what actually happens when this crop is harvested? Do you ? itís fodder crop - is it going to be fed to animals? Do you keep the crop? Can you just explain to me the logistics of exactly what is going to happen to this crop?
Des: From this years trials, the produce of these trials will be destroyed. It will not go into the food chain.
Anon: Will that be guaranteed?
Des: The government has said that food, these crops will not go into the food chain.
Anon: Will you be saving the seed to produce more of these crops?
Des: The government has said food will not go into the food chain. It will be destroyed.
Anon: Including the seeds?
Des: ÖWill be destroyed
Mrs Ramsey: So what happens next year? Do you use the seed?
Des: No there will be fresh seeds brought in. The seeds for these trials were brought in from outside of the UK. The maize seed isnít produced in the UK. Rhe oilseed rape was also brought in from outside the UK. And it will come from outside of the UK next year. The debate is still with government, with the maize. If the herbicide is approved in time for next years trial on the maize, for example. If the variety is registered. We already have the European commercial clearance for that crop to enter the food chain, but only if we have the herbicide approval and the variety registered. Then next year there is no legal reason why the maize could not go in as fodder to be fed to cows. Only if those three are in place would that happen.
Anon: Are the results of the tests on the the wildlife in the area to be published? What information will we have?
Des: The steering group that I think Sue mentioned will be overseeing the methodology of these trials starting next year, then I think the results will be reviewed and they will decide what will be an appropriate time for the results to be published, but it will all be published. Now whether they are going to to publish the interim results after one year, or wait for two yearís data, or three or four years, I do not know. I donít know if theyíve actually said that themselves. The data will be made available, but it will only come through the steering committee, which includes members of certainly English Nature and I think RSPB are on there, and a whole range of independent experts, including ecologists and plant scientists etc. You will get that information as a member of the public, its taxpayers money thatís going to it and you have every right to get it and you will get it.
Anon: Why destroy the crop?
Des: This year the variety thatís grown is not registered as a variety, so you can not sell a variety commercially. The seed wasnít sold to the farmer. The government asked us to provide the seeds to the farmers and to provide a specific weedkiller free of charge to the farmer to use on those fields, because they knew that the crop was going to be destroyed. So this particular year the government decided that. But even if the seed was sold to the farmer, it couldnít be sold to the farmer because its not registered as a variety. So it has to be destroyed, thatís for the maize.
For oilseed rapeseed it doesnít have the regulations to allow it enter the foodchain yet. So for different crops, there are different phases for the regulatory processes, and until each specific crop, (winter rape, spring rape and maize), until each crop has got the three specific approvals, the variety, the weedkiller, and the European consent, we need all three before that crop can enter the foodchain.
Sue: Could I just say that the destruction of the crop involves not removing it all from the fields, that the residue is plowed into the land that remains.
Des: One option is the forage maize could be ploughed back in and I believe that the oil seed rape will probably be required to go to an approved landfill site and be buried, as is recognised as an appropriate way to destroy it. I donít know if the steering committee has decided or whether itís government who will decide how it will be destroyed. But those are the options available ? maize will rot down , it does it over winter and the seeds wont be there to germinate the following year, so technically there is no reason why you couldnít just plough in the maize residue thatís left.
Audience But that doesnít destroy it
Des Thatís just one option, thereís no technical reason why, it may well be governed by the Steering committee , it may be decided that it may be chopped and burnt in an incinerator, but thatís not a decision of industry.
Anon: You canít quantify the chemical reactions that will happen.
Peter: Is this not the sort of thing that might have been discussed or decided before the crop was planted rather than Ö. itís unbelievable.
Des: Why is that relevant?
Peter: Because, on your terms, this is a scientific experiment to test whether this stuff causes dangers. As you know, my feeling is that it is taking agriculture down the wrong road altogether anyhow, but just taking it on your terms, youíre doing a scientific experiment to see if this stuff causes dangers and you havenít yet worked out what to do with the stuff at the end of the growing season. Are you going to plow it in, is it going to rot down? Even in those circumstances, the genes are still capable of being transferred, you donít know whatís going to happen to those genes in the soil for example. This is really an unknown, its unknowable, There isnít the scientific hypothesis about whatís going to happen even.
Des: Has anybody in this room not eaten some genes today?
The meeting as a whole thought that this was an inappropriate question.
Anon farmer: You say that the crop will be destroyed, how can you possibly destroy any crop, when you always get volunteers from any crop, unless theyíre saturated with some other chemicals to kill it off. I mean potatoes and everything, you always get volunteers every year.
Des: The maize does not survive the winter there wonít be volunteers from that but what will be required is that with any trials weíve done since 1993, the fields have to be monitored for a minimum of two years, that requires several visits back to that field d and if there are any volunteer seeds that have come up, they have to be removed before they flower, and before they can set seed again.
Anon farmer: You know as well as I do, I work on a piece of ground not too far from here, and there is maize crops grown there which we grow for cover crops, look at the quantity of maize heads which are picked up by carrion, by crows and thing like that and carried off and by the deer - they pick them up and take them through into the woods to feed off. How are you going to control that? You canít control that.
Peter: And another problem which many farmers, particularly those of use who grow sugar beet farmers are familiar with, its not just the crop, itís the soil, are you going to control every farm vehicle that goes in and out of that field for the next few years, as you would if it had risamania and it was growing sugarbeet for example?
Des: Perhaps the audience may not be aware that the gene thatís being bred into these varieties came from the soil. That soil bacteria that it came from has been in the soil for millions of years. The soil bacteria in the soil is already known to interact with plant root of many species over millions of years. Thatís how they survived by symbiosis in the soil. So we have taken the gene from a naturally occurring soil bacteria and put it into the plant. So it ends up in the soil, you eating an unwashed carrot, potentially could be eating that same soil bacteria today anyway. So perhaps I should have made that point clearer.
Sue: There are other genes as well in there arenít there? There are the cauliflower mosaic virus genes and destructive ampicillin-resistant gene, and some other ÖÖ. genes and so to suggest just that oneÖ
Peter: This is likely to becomeÖ
Sue: I just thought that we should just get the facts right.
The meeting agreed and applauded.
Des: The cauliflower mosaic virus is something you eat on cauliflowers every day as well.
Peter: Thats inside a protein coat. When you have it in an organism as part and parcel of an transform gene, is not in a protein coat so therefore itís a lot more effective.
Chair: Iím going to take a question from Mr Jordan. Heís been trying to get in for some time.
Cliff: Thankyou Mr Chairman. My name is Cliff Jordan. Iím the leader of the Breckland Council, and Brecklands policy is a moratorium for five years because of the confusion , I have explained why Iím a bit confused tonight. We have organics ? youíre saying about organic. If I take a packet of parsnip seed, grow one lot without chemicals, and one lot with chemical, that side is organic, and this side isnít. If you have a genetically modified crop in a packet and I grow that lot with chemicals and that lot without, are you saying that they are not organic?
Peter: Depends on how much of that side moves over to that side, whilst this sideís growing.
Cliff: Thatís five mile away from this side, but thatís genetically modified.
David: Are you going to guarantee me that no deer orÖ
Cliff: There were no guarantees, what Iím asking is a straight question because that is the confusion, and I have to say that is the confusion when we discussed it in the council. The confusion is not just modified by a chemical, but attaching that to the other side of organics, as the ruination of peoples livelihoods. What your actually talking about is varieties, isnít it, modified varieties and you can grow those modified varieties organically canít you, thatís the truth isnít it? And this confusion doesnít add to the argument, thatís why we asked for a moratorium, to stop and explain to the public, because your beginning to really worry them, because the arguments are getting all muddled.
Peter: The Soil Association, who are the key body for setting the standards for organic foods, would say no. If you take a genetically modified seed and plant it in organic certified soil, (donít forget the soil has to be cleaned of chemicals over a two, three, four year period or whatever it is), and there has to be an agreed rotation for organic farming. Itís a complicated, sophisticated, modern system, organic farming. Its not just a question of putting a seed in and knowing what to do to it. But if you met all those criteria, the Soil Association would say if the seeds genetically modified then the food would be genetically modified and wouldnít be organic. It wouldnít meet the organic criteria in Europe or in America, and you may be interested to know in America they had a huge debate about this, where the governmentís agricultural service wanted to change the definition of organic to allow just what you said, and they had more objections to that than any other proposal that the agricultural department in America has ever put forward and they have dropped it. So its not allowed, as far as I know, anywhere in the world.
Paul: Let me take a question fromÖ absolutely, right.
Anon farmer: Excuse me Mr Chairman, I have to be somewhere else, thankyou.
Claire Robinson, John Innes Centre next to speak.
Claire: My name is Claire Robinson, Iím not local, Iím from Hethersett. I am a member of Greenpeace and work at the John Innes Centre, so you might say that I am a bit of a hybrid anyway.
But I think really what we need to look at is both the potential benefits and the potential risks. We heard earlier there is a need for more information, certainly weíve had a lot of information in the papers, in the media, most of its by and large designed to sell papers. Lets look at what other information isnít there. What about conventionally bred crops? As part of the method of getting greater variety in conventionally bred crops, techniques that are used are chemical, radiation Muto-genesis. These plants are bombarded with either chemicals that induce mutation randomly throughout all the genes in the plant ok? Not just one or two changes as a result of GM. But these conventionally bred crops, this technique is accepted. All these mutations, hundreds, maybe thousands, its unknown, its not tested for, they do not have to go through the same rigorous procedure as GM crops. We donít see this in the newspapers. Now why is it that we are happy to accept conventional bred crops in this way, but not GM crops, which probably have far fewer mutations, but have to go through a much more rigorous, lengthy procedure for evaluation?
I would like to ask a couple of questions. Why is it that such crops if grown without chemicals, which goes back to your [Cliff Jordanís] question, may be full of mutations, why are they not organic? Or rather why are they organic? Why are GM crops grown with chemicals not organic and ones without chemicals also not organic?
Thatís a question I would like to pose to the whole panel is should all new varieties of crops, how ever they are produced be subject to the same rigorous evaluation, because we donít know what mutations are in there, if they have been produced by these conventional chemical, radiation Muto-genesis methods, how should they be evaluated. And whatís more who should pay for that? Just as a final point, after Iíd like that question answered then, I would like to say I am employed at the John Innes to provide information. If people have questions, thatís my role there. Iím impartial, Iím not trying to sell GM. Thankyou.
Paul: Right, does anyone want to field that?
Des: From my perspective I would love for there to be a level playing field on this technology. The rigorous regulations that are required for GM crops and therefore the ingredients that go into make GM food, I said earlier, we believe are some of the rigorous in the world, for the use in this technology. I would love technology that is used for genetically modified crops and foods, for non-genetically modified crops and foods, and for organic foods to all be tested to exactly the same rigorous standards, and theyíre not. There is no requirement, the chemicals that, if an organic farmer wishes to use and needs to use copper sulphate, or Bordeaux mixture or nicotine, or pyrethrum, within his organic property, which he is allowed to do by the Soil Association - heís allowed to use chemicals, which are natural, but some of the most deady poisons in the world today are natural. They have never been tested and yet they can be used on those crops. I donít know if there is any advice on how many sprays, how often, how close to the harvest, maybe there are, I donít know enough about it. But those foods they grow have never ever been tested, and never ever go through the same testing regimes to check to see if there are microtoxins in wheat that hasnít had a fungicide on it, because the wet fusarian infection in wet weather. Whether there are ÖÖ toxins, whether there is Botulism with its spores within other foods. There is no testing that I am aware of. I would love a level playing field for all of this technology. If that could start today, I am a hundred percent for it.
Sue: I think no one would want to see the introduction of foods, which do not have some sort of scrutiny. I think the reason that people are questioning GM foods is across the spectrum, both environmental and potential health impacts. And what we are doing with genetic modification is that we are changing things in ways which we have not done before. The characteristics are changing quite dramatically from being eaten by insects to being toxic to insects, from being killed by a chemical to not being killed by a chemical. And the tests that we have, although we hear a lot of people saying that they are extremely rigorous, in fact the testing on food safety is based on a system known as Ďsubstantial equivalenceí, where you compare the genetically modified crop, and its large chemical constituents, protein, amino acids for example, and you see if they are largely, substantially the same as the non-genetically modified food. What youíre not looking for in that is the kind of things people are worried about ? unexpected changes, because youíve disrupted genes. Youíre not looking for unpredicted toxins, unpredicted allergens. And so apparently the tests that you are doing, theyíre just simply, they simply canít find a lot of the things that people are worried about. They are simply arenít screening for the unexpected ? theyíre not screening for new unexpected things. So testing isnít actually as rigorous as people would like. When we first looked at how Round-up Ready soya bean was tested, what was accepted here was Round-up Ready soya bean which hadnít even been sprayed with Round-up Hadnít even being grown under natural conditions, and there still has been no data supplied to the authorities here on animal feeding, with Round-up Ready soya bean which has been treated with Round-up.
Claire: My point was that testing on GM is more rigorous than these crops produced by conventional breeding, where you have these cropsÖ
Sue: What I am saying is relevant, what I am saying is that ok, so they should be tested better perhaps. But what I am also saying is letís not pretend that the testing of GM crops is without its problems.
Claire: No, I didnít say that.
Sue: No, no, well Iím just making that point, it certainly has real problems and questions, and people simply donít see the justification necessarily, the reasons for actually running those risks.
Claire: No, I think we should broaden the testing.
Sue: I donít think anybody here would debate that there is a broader issue about how we produce our food in agriculture, and we should be looking at food safety in its widest context.
Paul: Can I just ask a question of my own, as Chairman, designed, I hope in a neutral fashion, and designed perhaps to widen the debate a little. I am acutely conscious that weíre talking about Lyng, but that is in the wider context. My question is this - we are moving towards ever closer free trade in the world. The nextÖ I make a statement, not a view but a statement. The next round of the GAP negotiations is started. Recently the Americans threatened Europe with another trade war, on growth promoting hormones in animal production - basically saying if we didnít take their methods of production, they would take retaliatory action. My question is, if we already have genetically modified foods being grown in America and in Europe, how are we ever going to stop it in Britain?
Peter: By not buying it, end of story. Sainsburyís donít buy it, Marks & Spencers donít buy it, United Biscuits donít buy it, Heinz donít buy it, Kelloggís donít buy, Burger King donít buy it, McDonalds donít buy it. McDonalds have said they wonít buy it. Somebody mentioned, you sir didnít you say that it was an environmentally bad thing to do? McDonalds in Sweden are looking for organic buns for their burgers. Thatís how fast agriculture outside the UK is moving forward. And thatís what I think we should be doing. Its thatís easy, just donít buy it. The only people who are interested in pushing this stuff down our throats, which is what they want to do, with these field trials and things, are the companies who are going to make money out of it and Iím afraid to say it, Mr Blair, who has committted himself to this stuff. Goodness knows why, he believes that the economic prosperity of the country depends upon it. Rubbish, it doesnít. Weíre ahead in medical usage but not in agriculture. Its no great benefit to this country to buy a lot of stuff from American multinational companies. But theyíre the only people who want it to go ahead. Who else does? Whoís going to buy this maize, down the road here, if it is ever grown on a commercial scale? Its not a question of a trade war, its people ? as citizens, saying how they want their food produced - what sort of food they want to see their children and their grandchildren eating. And thank goodness, neither the American government nor our own government, not the World Trade Organisation can boss us around like that.
David: I would agree absolutely with that we should not be intimidated by global trade agreements or whatever to accept a food which is bad for us, which is damaging to our environment, which people donít want. But I am confident that this food is not bad for us. I donít think - it is not going to be bad for our environment, or that the trials if they can be carried out, I donít think they will show that itís bad for the environment. I think that you are right that people should be given the choice to buy this food or not, and Iím sure that we will find when people discover that GM food is free of pesticide residues, that it has a better quality than the food they are buying in the supermarkets now, they will vote with their pockets. They will buy the stuff, but lets make sure that they have the choice to do that.
Ö.. Roberts: Hi, Iím Ö. Roberts, ex of Lyng, now over Reepham way. I believe that this technology is quite a Curateís Egg - good in parts. I believe that it has benefits. What I donít believe that it is going to be dangerous for us to eat at all. I could be wrong, but I donít believe it will. However, I have serious reservations about genetic material migrating into the environment. And I am quite certain, absolutely positive that back in the fifties, as you say when we were paying 25% of our annual income, in terms of housekeeping, that the academics in the agrochemical industry got on their hind legs and said "DDT will do no harm whatsoever". And I am equally sure that the last forty years have proved them to be 100% wrong. What I would like to ask is like thalidomide, like DDT which were used perfectly safe, weíre all sure. Huge disasters. The agro-chemical industry and the academics and indeed the government of the day, did sod all about compensating people, and its taken us years, and in fact probably never will get back to the way it was. What are you doing ? and I ask you in particular Professor personally as he is an academic in the field, what are you doing to ensure that one, it doesnít happen, and what are you doing to cover, when it does go wrong, because as sure as eggs is eggs, with technology and Iím a technologist so I do know, when it does go wrong what are you doing to put it right? Because you cant put the genie back in the (genie ? pardon the pun) back in that particular bottle.
David: What we are trying to do here is to do something which is in no way different from the aspirations of organic agriculture or conventional plant breeding. We are trying to develop ways that will allow us to grow plants, free of diseases, sustainably in the environment, so we are coming up with these new technologies. And what Iím doing is all I can do, which is to support the widest possible testing of any materials we produce, first of all in the laboratory, before they see any open fields. And then support the very rigorous testing procedures, including eventually when the time is right, large scale farm trials such as the one that is being debated here. So that the possible, or the best way of managing the new technology can be developed and I think thatís what were talking about here. Weíre not really talking about risks, because if there were any risks..
Alan: I am.
David: Ö they would have been eliminated. Any risky material will be eliminated, will not go into the field trails, there will be rigorous testing in laboratories, and then material that goes out into fields, will be material that to get the best out of it, needs to be managed properly.
Alan: Do you believe your predecessors in the forty and fifties, were any less academically rigorous than you believe yourself to be?
Anon: We are still seeing the evidence of Miximatosis here..
David: I just canít, Iím not going to support or justify these other technologies. I think that actually gene technology is different from all of these other technologies, and this is why we are having this debate. It is different in that it is, it is - so DNA from a person is chemically itís the same DNA as comes out of a plant. Weíre not dealing with dangerous chemicals that are being moved around here, so, itís, a fundamentally different technology that weíre dealing with, andÖ
Anon: Your mucking about with the very essence of life.
Barbara Brigham: Excuse me, if a deer for instance, most people that are local know me, Iím Barbara Brigham, Iím only part of the family, Iím not on the farming side. Iíve heard debates on both sides on this and Iím concerned as anybody in this room. What worries me, my husband and I are naturalists. I canít give you all the questions, if I could youíd have the answers. The questions arenít there - thatís what worries me. Now Iíll give you a hypothetical question. If a deer throughout the season, we have a lot of deer round here, has eaten the maize, okay? Now the following year, for some reason or other she doesnít have any babies or anything, okay, perhaps thatís natureís way. The year after that, perhaps she does. Is she producing something harmful?
David: I can be hundred, a thousand percent confident that that deer will not take up any genes. It will not have incorporatedÖ
Barbara: So youíve done these experiments have you, thatís what Iím saying?
David: The way that genes are moved around in nature is through sex. So it might sound stupid but its absolutely true, that deer is not having sex with the genetically modified maize plant. Therefore there is no way that, that deer will take up a gene from the maize plant.
Barbara: But you didnít know that DDT was going to make birds of prey infertile.
David: As I say I canít sayÖ
Mike: Why has it taken all these years to tell us about these butterfly species thatís going down? If itís not harmful why has it done it?
David: Its rather unfortunate that we get back to this report of the butterfly. The most significant finding from that report, was not that the genetically modified maize damaged the butterfly - it was actually that non-genetically modified maize pollen damaged the butterfly and that was the most staggering finding in that paper if you look at the information thatís in there. There were no real difference between the damage caused to the Monarch butterflies by the genetically modified maize pollen, not that different from the damage that was caused to the butterflies by the non-genetically modified maize pollen.
Paul: Right, Iím going to put a time limit on now I think, time is getting on. What I would suggest is that we take two more questions and then ask each side if they would like to sum up their case. Or to sum up, I donít see this as a particular.. you know. Thereís going to be no vote. This is about information only. But if you would like to sum up and get us back to the trial in Lyng, I think that would be helpful. But just lets take two more questions. Gentleman with his hand up.
Anon: There was an article in last weeks Sunday Times. On the front page was a Swiss company called Novatis, which I presume the Doctor would know. It said that this German maize which is pest resistant has been banned in Austria and Luxembourg because of fears that antibiotic genes contained could affect humanís resistance to disease.
Sue: Can I just say just say something about that? Because that variety of maize, the experts on the committees in the UK advise that the risks, of particularly the antibiotic resistance gene, we shouldnít take that risk, basically. They thought there was a risk and that it wasnít justified. Now in contrast to Austria and Luxembourg, our government has not banned it. They have not followed the advice of their scientists and Iím not sure why theyíre not doing it and itís a very good question to ask our representatives . Theyíre not protecting the public health.
Des: Well one fact that you will be aware of is that it will not be grown in the UK.
Sue: But it can be imported, and moved around Europe. It was grown in Spain and France last year and was mixed with other maize. And I couldnít tell you whatís happened to it in animal feed.
Claire: I think the effect, and as you say was correct, was advised in the UK that it shouldnít be passed. It was subsequently when it was submitted to European Council. But I think the reason that it was rejected by the European Council, the opposition to using this maize, was the risk was considered insignificant in generating antibiotic resistance in people, compared with the risk that arises through antibiotics being fed to livestock, and that sewage being spread around, humans taking antibiotics in vast amounts, and we all know where that antibiotic residue goes.
Sue: But that wasnít the advice from The Advisory Committee on Novel food and processes. They said it was an unacceptable risk.
Claire: No, the one person on the committee who did say, and it was a very good decision, to say "hang on", this was in earlier days", and it was a very good move to say " hang on, we donít want to use antibiotic resistance for medically important antibiotics. What is now being done is, these marker genes, these antibiotic resistance marker genes are used, there is an emphasis on using ones that are not used medically.
Sue: Ampicillin is one of the most medically important drugs in veterinary and human medicine and is used across the world.
Claire: It is, and thatís why itís a very good move to say, as a warning to industry think carefully about what you are using, you know, donít use ones that are medically important. Look for something else and thatís whatís happening.
Paul: Iím going to take the last question from I think Jo Page, the organiser.
Jo: If this trial goes ahead, does that mean that you will automatically use this site again next year?
Des: No. The scientists will come back to monitor that field, and whatever the farmer grows in rotation the next year, it wonít be a GM crop, for three years after that, it will be whatever is his normal rotation on that field. So after this crop of maize, he wants to grow wheat or potatoes, that will be grown, and the scientists will come back and monitor, the wild plants, the wild species, and earthworms and beetles within that field. These trials are designed to check if there are any adverse effect or positive benefit, on those species within the field - plants, earthworms and beetles, compared to growing a non-GM crop, and using existing herbicides. No one knows whatís happening in current agriculture. They will just compare the two. So they will just come back and monitor that field.
Jo: Might they try and do a GM trial in a different field? I mean which would year after year is going to increase the GM status of this area?
Des: Thereís no need for any more -another crop to grow on that farm in future, from as far as the trial design is concerned if thatís what you mean. If the farmer chooses to do another, on another field, there is nothing to prevent him from doing that.
Anon: Can that next crop be sold?
Karly: Will the next crop thatís grown in that land that was GM will that be sold (Des: Of course) or will it be destroyed? That will be sole?
Des: Of course.
Karly: So itís growing straight from the soil after the last GM crop, which is going to be tilled into the soil and then the next thing that comes up will be sold?
Des: To what happens to that crop thatís in there now, Iím not one hundred percent certain what the decision is.
Karly: We still donít know how weíre getting rid of the last lot, but we know weíre going to sell the crops thatís been grown in the same soil.
Des: I donít know, because these trials are not being organised by AgrEvo or any other industry member. All we have done is to provide the seed and the chemical. The independent scientists who advise government, they are the ones who designed the trials. Theyíre specialists in ecology and plant science and what happens and what becomes significant within these trials. They have designed it and theyíre managing howÖ
Karly: Youíre saying that so you sell the seeds, but your washing your hands of the results of it, thatís what it sounds like.
Des: No, no. Iíve explained that these are not industry trials. These are government-funded trials with independent scientists. There is no technical reason from the safety perspective, why the crop that was grown, if it was potato or wheat, grown on that land the following year, could not be sold. Because there is no risk to humans and the environment from that other crop being grown.
Anon: How do you know that?
Des: Because weíve been doing work for 15-20 yearsÖwe need to do that work..
Jo: Can we hear the other side on this issue?
Anon: So how can we choose if we want to eat it?
Peter: Youíre right.
Paul: Do you want to respond to that particularly? Or..
Peter: The audience have made that point better than I can..
Paul: If you want to go on for another hour and a half my rates go up. But you have been at this rather well, if I may say so, for two hours. My intention is to try and wind up. Is everyone happy that we move to that stage?
Paul: Peter would your like, or would one person from either side like to somehowÖ
Peter: They got the last word first time, so weíll have the last word this time.
Des: All I would ask you as residents of Lyng, and residents of Norfolk, this technology has benefits to agriculture, some of you may be employed in, it has benefits for the environment. It is new technology and the only way that we will identify the answer, just as Mr Brigham said in his statement, he is helping with these trials to find out if there are any down sides, because if there are, he will not grow this technology in future. We need to know as consumers if there is a risk, there might be a significant benefit for us and the environment around us for the technology. We shouldnít shut the door on it because we think thereís dangers. If thereís benefits we should allow these trials to go ahead to find out the answers, Itís the only way that weíll every know if there is a risk to the environment from this technology. And I would like and hope that you will support the view that Mr Brigham is helping the government, and us indirectly, as consumers, with this trial. And I would hope that he has no further pressure put on him by people who want these trials damaged. I am disappointed at Greenpeace originally at the start of this thing, said they wanted to see these trials ripped up. They may not support anarchy, but by using words like that they might encourage others, the same people who donít want other technologies to ahead, or who are anti-business or anti-corporate to go ahead and do these things on their own rules. My plea is for sense and scientific achievement to give us these answers. And my final thing is it would be interesting for us to may know from Peter Melchett, how on this six hundred acre farm I think at Ringstead, how thatís farmed and why he is only now beginning to apply for organic conversion of the land, and how much of that is grown non-organically, and why its taken so long?
(inaudible angry audience responses)
Anon: You have the cheek to call us anarchists, when you have been feeding that stuff...
Paul: Thank you very much, right, pleaseÖ
Anon: Sodding lot, flaming cheek
Peter: Well Iím happy to answer the personal questions. We grow, we have about a third of the farm organic now. The arable rotation grows sugarbeet, which as youíll know there isnít an organic market for. Iíve talked to British Sugar about this, and I am very hopeful. Many of you eat Silver Spoon sugar, would like to tell British sugar in Kings Lynn or wherever they are now, that you want some organic product from them, Iíd be very keen to convert so we can go. But we would use lose some yield, growing organic sugar, and we would have problems with our quota, but weíre looking at it and I hope that we will be able to convert the rest of the farm, and I am very keen that we should. And I have seen all sorts of benefits in the part of the farm that we do farm organically, both from the point of view of employment and wildlife and the health of the cattle that we have, all sorts of other things. Its fascinating to see it close up. I just want to say a couple of quick things. I think its been a fascinating evening and I have enjoyed it very much and I have found a lot of the comments and questions from the audience tremendously illuminating and learnt a lot from them. I remind you that this is unwanted - there isnít a market for it. Were not talking about something where thereís a huge demand. Its been sold to you as if it were a religion. Its not, this is a product, this is a food you go into a shop to buy and that for me the bottom line is do people want it? No. Are any of the shops in this country and food manufactures in going to buy it? No. So why is this experiment being done in your parish and a few others around the country? An experiment where there is no scientific protocol in place yet. They donít know a lot of the answers youíve have been asking, because the scientific design of the experiment hasnít been done. Theyíve rushed into it in this year. It is going to escalate. There are going to be at least sixty, if the government Ö.trial plots of this sort next year. And I tell you frankly, there are so few farmers willing to do this that the answer to JOís question is almost certainly. This parish will find trial plots (inaudible), next year, if you find one this year, because people, most farmers now are trying to get out of thisÖ.. And as you know, one of the field scale trial plots is already been destroyed by the farmer concerned already. Yes Greenpeace does support the destruction of these things, because it is anarchy in my view for the big multinational chemical companies to impose this on this country. To mix it in our food without telling us. To tell us we have no choice as they all did for many years. I went to East Anglia University, to the John Innes Centre to talk to people there ten years ago. Thatís how long Greenpeace has been working on this issue, and they said you will have to accept it, you will have no choice. It is going to be mixed in with everything, thatís whatís will happen when commodity crops like Soya and maize, get grown in this way. I think thatís anarchy. I think thatís denial of choice and I think its right for people to say we donít want this done to us, we want these crops removed, we want people to grow things that the public wants. And the public want a shift in agriculture policies. They want, not as the Chairman said stopping and going backwards, the voice of conventional agriculture. They want agriculture to go forward. They want it to go faster, but towards a future were we are growing things that our customers want. And clearly the fastest growing industry in this country is organic farming. The fastest growing bits of the food industry by miles are organic food, and thatís what we should be going for, thatís the alternative. Itís the future, its positive, its what people want, its good for the environment, its good for your health. How can people want to go on with this discredited (inaudible). Just mind boggling. And I hope that this crop will not survive until its harvested, and you will be saved the thought of having even more of these field scale trials next year, because you donít deserve them and no one in the country does.
Paul: Right, ladies and gentlemen. You have debated a very, very important issue tonight, and it is pretty clear that there are two, entirely different views of which there is a great deal of interest. I have to declare a little bit of an interest here, and that is that I have a Masterís Degree in Agriculture.
But at times this evening, I have been confused, very confused by some of the debate. I think my own confusion is mirrored in the country, and in the county. If I can just say one thing, and it comes out to me and I have written it down, time and time and time again, its science. And it seems to me thatís whatís on trial in a way is the gap between the scientific community and whatís happening on the ground. And it seems to me that even with a Masters degree, whatever that means, in Agriculture, that the pace of change is worrying everyone, and they have in their minds BSE, and they have in their minds other factors. I say it as a neutral Chair, that it seems to me the greatest problem is not getting information to the public in a way that they understand it. And that is now threatening entirely as they see it. On the other hand, the fears expressed maybe real, or may not, on either side. But again the public wants it explained to them absolutely fully, and are no longer prepared to take big companiesí words for it.
So thatís what Iíve learnt tonight, I hope youíve learnt a great deal. I hope very much that Mr Brigham will be left in peace as was asked. He is a law-abiding person and operating entirely in the law. And the way to debate this and resolve this issue, is properly through the correct procedures and not by direct action. So I do ask that that is respected, and that you deal with your protests or your views in the proper and correct way. Thank you.
Karly: I would just like to thank a very distinguished panel for coming
along this evening and putting up with our sticky little village hall,
and putting the points over so well. I echo the Chairís thoughts
on Mr Brigham and I assure you that no pressureís been brought to bear
by anyone, we have only ever written two letters, so he wouldnít harassed
in anyway and its not something we would ever encourage. But
we do encourage people if theyíree still concerned about this issue,
to still keep contacting us. And again thank you to the