DO YOU FANCY EATING GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) FOOD?
Without preventative action, you will be eating it.
DO YOU THINK WE ARE PROTECTED FROM GM?
We are now very vulnerable to GM crops being grown here and to more GM foods being imported.
With TTIP (the US/EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ‘free trade’ agreement) US Agribusiness expects to get its GM products (animal feed, human food and crops) into the EU market.
US/EU ‘regulatory harmonisation’ is the core of TTIP. In the US, it is estimated that 70% of supermarket processed foods contain GM.
EU citizens’ resistance to GM food is considered to be a ‘non-tariff barrier’ to trade, which TTIP is intended to overcome, although, as with much in TTIP, this is being concealed in EU regulatory change in preparation for the transatlantic agreement.
The pro-GM UK government is the main promoter of TTIP in the EU, and is keen to open the UK to GM.
With international corporate pressure ‘legitimised’ via TTIP, EU regulations changing and a very pro-GM government, we are vulnerable.
‘Co-existence’ of crops
The claimed possibility of ‘co-existence’ of GM crops with conventional crops and organic farming is a myth. Cross contamination is unavoidable.
Scotland and Wales wish to be GM free. As an island country we can potentially minimise cross contamination from any GM crops grown on continental Europe.
GM crops and chemicals used on them are potentially detrimental to wildlife, essential to food crop production and natural pest control.
GM chemical use, with GM crops, is resulting in the growth of ‘super weeds’ that require ever more chemicals to be applied.
Monsanto, along with BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical Company, Dupont, and Syngenta are the big Biotech Corporations, dominating the agricultural input market – ie the world’s seed, pesticide and biotechnology industries.
In the US, Monsanto has successfully kept regulation low by donating to politicians and promoting the appointment of people who work for them to positions within the US Government (the ‘regulatory revolving door’).
As well as food and animal feed, a large part of the North and South America GM crop is for biofuel, and ‘Bt cotton’, genetically transformed to produce insecticidal toxins, is grown in America, India and elsewhere.
What is changing?
Recent EU law changes, promoted by pro GM UK Governments and pro GM UK MEPs and MPs (lobbying by vested-interest Agribusiness is a major factor), are facilitating GM entry into the EU and the UK.
In the late 1990s/early 2000’s UK activists, donning white protective suits and removing GM plantings every time they were attempted, led the EU in GM resistance. The result was a de facto EU ban on GM because people in the EU did not want it. The strong UK public opposition was proven.
But in 2003, the US, Canada and Argentina made a formal complaint about the ban to the World Trade Organisation. In 2006 a WTO panel judged the EU ban to be ‘trade-restrictive’ and a breach of the EU’s trade liberalisation commitments. The EU did not utilise the WTO appeal mechanism.
Since then, there has had to be product-by-product assessment of GM crop and GM food entry into the EU.
Faced with the contradiction between the WTO ruling and EU public opinion, the EU bureaucracy and politicians have delayed applications.
Now, the corporations and advocates of GM are pushing for the speeding up of the existing assessment mechanism, against the backdrop of a predefined TTIP aim of ‘regulatory harmonisation’.
With the TTIP ‘harmonisation’ element, the EU’s precautionary principle is coming under lot of pressure in how GM products are assessed.
In a further development, the European Parliament recently (January 2015) approved an EU Directive allowing individual member states to refuse a GM crop, after it has been accepted for entry into the EU generally. Resistance at the EU level of entry will be weaker if member states can subsequently refuse a crop coming into their country.
In the UK, we currently have a pro-GM government that is the main promoter in the EU of TTIP, and is keen to open the UK to GM. We also have a general election.
This means that we, in the UK, are now very vulnerable to having GM crops grown here and GM foods coming in – unless we make it very clear that we do not want them, and that we will not accept a government that is facilitating them being brought into the UK.
Please ask your Parliamentary candidates where they stand on GM. We need public debate that includes transparency about lobbying.
Websites for further information:
Genewatch, Corporate Europe Observatory, GM Freeze, GM Free Me
Friends of the Earth Europe, StopTTIP uk (Food page)
Leaflet produced by StopTTIP uk StopTTIP.net
* We currently have very little GM crop cultivation within Europe. There are some small scale field trials of GM crops in the UK, but none grown commercially.
* There are already around 30 million tonnes of GM animal feed (predominantly GM soya and GM maize) imported into the EU each year – to feed pigs, poultry, dairy and beef cattle, as well as farmed fish. Most UK supermarkets no longer guarantee their products are not from GM-fed animals. Food products from GM-fed animals are not labelled as such. Under TTIP, a shift to labelling products from GM-fed animals would be subject to challenge.
* In contrast to the US situation, the direct human food supply in the EU is still largely GMO free. There are a few food products for sale in the UK with GM ingredients, which should be labelled according to EU labelling regulations. (Surveys show that around 40% of takeaway meals are cooked using GM cooking oils and while caterers are required by EU regulations to tell customers this, the majority do not).
GM food okay?
Many people do not want to eat, or for their children to eat, GM food. Some people think that GM is okay if it means using fewer chemicals. However, some GM crops are genetically engineered to withstand being heavily sprayed with herbicide chemicals. Thus a lot of chemicals are applied to the GM food/animal feed crop.
While the EU has the Precautionary Principle enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty (products not allowed unless proven to be safe), the US has the so-called ‘sound-science’ approach (products allowed unless harm is proven). ‘Proof’ comes from scientific testing, but industry funding for research is a major factor, as is the ‘revolving door’ between industry and regulator jobs.
Science is an active knowledge system in which new discoveries are made almost every day. Scientific evidence is always incomplete and uncertain. The responsible use of scientific evidence, therefore, is to be precautionary. This is all the more important for technologies such as genetic engineering, which can neither be controlled nor be recalled. So the precautionary principle really is sound science.