Post by Old Codger
Wales set to ban GM crops
Mar 18 2008 by Steve Dube, Western Mail
PROPOSALS by the Welsh Assembly Government will effectively ban
genetically modified crops from Wales.
New regulations, if adopted, will set Wales apart from England in
applying a strict "polluter pays" principle that will put an end even
to trial plantings.
GM companies have consistently resisted efforts to make them accept
responsibility for "leaks" of GM material and Defra's proposals for
England stop short of pinning liability on the operator or permit
holder in the event of environmental or economic damage.
But in Wales the WAG proposals make GM companies like Monsanto and
Bayer and the farmers who plant GM crops legally liable for
contamination or "genetic trespass" - even if they have a licence and
even if scientific knowledge at the time leads them to believe the
material was harmless.
The move puts clear water between the administrations in Cardiff Bay
and London and takes Welsh opposition to GM science to new levels.
"We have a particular commitment on GM," said Wales Rural Affairs
Minister Elin Jones.
"It was reinforced by the One Wales Government programme last year
where we have a commitment to ensure the maximum restriction of GM
crops in Wales.
"We are now consulting on implementing regulations that reflect our
aspirations and promoting the concept that the polluter pays."
The consultation period ends in mid-May, and Ms Jones said she did not
foresee any particular difficulties in taking a different course from
England, where GM crop farmers would become liable in the event of
contamination on the Welsh side of the border.
"Border issues will arise along any boundaries between EU countries,
but it's the right of this Assembly Government to exercise the powers
we have to pursue our political aspiration," she said.
"This is supported by a number of environmental groups and certain
farming interests also want us to retain our GM free status."
The supporters include the Farmers' Union of Wales, which is a member
of the GM Free Alliance - a group of environmental and countryside
organisations which includes the RSPB, Friends of the Earth Cymru and
GM Free Cymru.
Organic farmer and FUW vice-president Brian Walters said the threat of
cross-contamination was one of the major concerns that led the FUW to
oppose GM crops.
"Obviously it would be completely unfair if a non-GM farmer's income
suffered as a result of wind or insect-borne cross-pollination that
was beyond their control, and we welcome WAG's suggestion that a more
pragmatic approach be taken in Wales," said Mr Walters.
"The draft Welsh regulations provide security for Welsh farmers,
whereas Defra has left English farmers that are put at risk out in the
The GM Free Wales Alliance has written to Elin Jones to congratulate
her and the Assembly Government on what they describe as "the latest
step in the protection of Welsh farming and the Welsh environment".
Brian John of GM Free Cymru said he expected the other devolved
administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow the Welsh
"There is a degree of frustration that Westminster continues to vote
in favour of GM approval at EU level despite the reservations that the
other three authorities have," said Mr John.
"Westminster always pushes a pro-GM agenda in the EU, despite the fact
that it's not the majority view but a distinctly English line."
Mr John said anti-GM campaigners were delighted with the Welsh
"The GM industry has always refused to accept liability on the basis
that if something is harmless, as they say it is, they can't be liable
if something goes wrong," said Mr John.
"The Welsh regulations say that neither the state-of-the-art nor the
legal permit defences can be used and is exactly what we and bodies
like the RSPB have been asking for."
A spokesman for Monsanto said the proposal was inconsistent with EU
guidelines on co-existence with conventional and organic crops.
"These specify that member state rules should respect the right of
both non-GM and GM farmers to grow the crops of their choice," he
"Furthermore, since approximately 85% of compound animal feed
throughout the UK already contains imported GM ingredients, due to the
large shortage of home produced protein, we would have concern that in
the long run this proposal would put the majority of Welsh livestock
farmers at a serious competitive disadvantage, and merely drive
livestock production overseas."
He said the cultivation of GM crops is increasing world-wide, with
more than 100 million hectares grown every year by 10 million farmers.
"Most of the world is moving on from the tired old debate of 10 years
ago and accepting that biotechnology has a place to play alongside a
range of farming methods," he said.
The secret GM invasion
Published 20 November 2007
A Soil Associaition study has found that many supermarkets are
selling products from animals fed on GM crops, despite having
For over a decade, the public has rejected GM foods. Intuitive
concerns had been reinforced by the highly publicised findings
of the first Government sponsored animal trials, in which strange
lesions were found in the guts of GM-fed rats. To their credit, the
supermarkets adopted non-GM policies and, by October 2002,
they were using no GM (genetically modified) ingredients in their
Yet, for some years the Soil Association and other organisations
have been concerned about the use of GM animal feed. Due to a
legal loop-hole, although foods or animal feeds that directly
contain GM ingredients must be labelled as 'GM', there is no such
requirement for meat and dairy foods produced from animals fed
on GM crops.
Any use of GM animal feed could thus be kept hidden from
consumers. Last year, in noticeably evasive replies to letters from
our supporters, the supermarkets admitted that their non-GM
policies did not cover animal feed. The Soil Association decided
to conduct an in-depth investigation.
Our findings - presented in our report, Silent invasion - the hidden
use of GM crops in livestock feed - are deeply concerning. By
testing animal feeds and reviewing the industry's sourcing policies,
we have found that high levels of GM animal feed are being used.
73% of the feeds we tested contained some GM soya and 75% were
labelled as 'GM'. Based on our findings, around 60% of the maize
and 30% of the soya in the dairy and pig sectors are GM.
What this means is that nearly all non-organic milk, dairy products
(such as cheese and yoghurt) and pork products sold in UK shops
and restaurants are produced from GM-fed animals. So, most
consumers are unwittingly eating foods produced from GM crops
We also reviewed progress on the science of the safety of GM crops,
since the early days of the debate when there was little to go on. The
Food Standards Agency had been assuring consumers that they
would not be exposed to GM material by eating foods from GM-fed
animals. However, four studies by different scientific teams have now
found that small amounts of GM DNA can be detected in milk and
tissues from GM-fed animals.
It also turns out that the first animal feeding trials were not flukes.
Very many of the animal trials carried out since then have found
deeply worrying effects. These include toxic effects in body organs,
allergic reactions, unexplained deaths and stunted growth in the
offspring. This raises serious questions about how GM-fed animals
can be considered suitable for producing human food.
In the view of the Soil Association, there has been a failure of both
the market and the scientific advisory process. The biotechnology
industry has managed to persuade many normally clear-minded people,
sadly including many scientists, that they should support GM crops if
they are 'pro-science'.
The important fact that the science has actually emerged against GM
crops has gone unnoticed. Perhaps it would help to point out that
genetic engineering is not a science, it is only a technique. Rejection
of GM does not mean a rejection of science.
Until the scientific community come to terms with the research and
supports a responsible - and genuinely science-based - approach,
the Soil Association strongly recommends that people try to avoid
foods produced from GM-fed animals. Among the supermarkets,
Marks-and-Spencer is far ahead of the others, with all of their milk
and fresh meat produced from non-GM feed. We urge other
supermarkets and catering companies to follow their lead and to
meanwhile to label any products from GM-fed animals so that at
least people can choose.
2 comments from readers
20 November 2007
An interesting article, with some interesting implications. If the public
really has been mislead into eating GM crops for years, then surely
we would expect to see signs of this from a public health perspective?
Isn't there now a responsibility for the anti-GM lobby to produce
findings that this has had a deleterious effect on the health of the
meat-eating population? If we're going to extend the analogy,
shouldn't we all have strange lesions in our guts by now?
If not, maybe such 'intuitive concern' might be shown to be nothing
more than superstition... just a thought.
20 November 2007
The Canadian government tried to do post market evaluation of the
health of people eating GM food but abandoned it as too difficult.
Part of the difficutly lies in the lack of labelling.
There has been a documented health disaster with a GM produced
food supplement, L-tryptophan. 100 people died and 5000 were
injured, some permanently. This was only picked up and traced to
the GM produced supplement because the symptoms came on
suddenly and were dramatic. They included pain, swelling, coughs,
rashes, physical weakness, visual problems, hardening of the skin
memory problems and paralysis. It still took several years for the
disease to be identified and the source traced.
If GM foods are causing symtoms such as allergic reactions, cancer,
diabetes, organ damage, high blood pressure how would we be able
to tell? Interestingly there has been a rise in food related illnesses in
the US. In the UK there was a 50% increase in soy allergies following
the introduction of GM soy.
The whole issue is that there has been no long term testing of GM
foods. There are very few feeding studies done and many of them
show very worrying out comes. I recommend that you read Jeffrey
Smith's book Genetic Roulette for details of the studies done to date.
He lists the documented health risks of GM foods. His website is at