OPEN LETTER from GM Free Cymru
to: Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA
16th April 2008
Dear Prime Minister
We have been intrigued to see recent press coverage of your remarks relating to GM crops and foods. It is reported that you believe that GM crops have a considerable role to play in the alleviation of global food shortages in the future. Possibly you have succumbed to the deluge of recent pro-GM propaganda from the biotechnology multinationals and trade organizations (1). But we also fear that you have been given partisan, unscientific and out-dated information by your advisors, and we ask you urgently to reconsider your position on this.
GM lobbyists have been promising the miracles of GM technology for over 2 decades. These people are in possession of a solution in search of a problem. To date they have seriously failed to deliver on all of their promises relating to enhanced farm incomes, improved nutrition, increased yields, better pest control etc. Billions of euros have been invested across Europe, and millions of pounds in the UK, and still this technology is rejected by consumers, farmers, and policy makers all over the world. That is because there are NO consumer benefits: food made from GM crops is not cheaper, healthier, tastier or more attractive to look at, and neither does it extend shelf life (2). So why should anybody bother with it? Has anybody ever asked for GM food in preference to non-GM food?
It is true that the era of cheap food is over - on account of rising production and fuel costs, and the diversion of huge quantities of food crops into the biofuels market. However, this also shows that we should be moving away from oil and chemical based food production such as GM and embracing sustainable methods like organic and low- input farming - based on renewable energy use and carbon reduction strategies.
From a farming/food standpoint, international experience of GM cultivation has demonstrated the following:
1. Yields have not increased as promised (3). In fact, since the hybrids used for GM breeding programmes are not necessarily the highest-yielding varieties, GM crops often perform worse than their non-GM counterparts. Many studies from around the world have shown that apparent yield increases are short-lived and are based upon carefully selected comparisons with less effective non-GM lines.
2. Reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers has increased - not decreased as promised (4). This is now confirmed by abundant studies, in spite of a constant stream of lies from the GM industry. The great majority of GM crops in the market place are designed for herbicide tolerance and for "chemical management" scenarios; it is through sales of complete seed / herbicide packages that the GM corporations make their money.
3. Weeds and pests have developed resistance to GM crops and pesticides resulting in 'superweeds' and 'superbugs' that need even larger amounts (and an increased range) of herbicides and pesticides for their control (5). The "toxic chemical farming" scenario is thus reinforced, with unforseen ecological consequences.
4. There have been problems with cross contamination and cross fertilisation between GM and non-GM crops. These have led to sometimes lengthy law suits and are a potentially explosive problem if more GM crops are planted (6). It is now recognized that the coexistence of non-GM and GM crops is impossible. GM canola, which has many wild relatives, is impossible to contain (7).
5. This technology is expensive and costly for farmers and makes them more dependent on the agribusiness giants in order to sustain a livelihood. They are "tied in" to corporate dependence by strict patent laws and "technology use agreements." They cannot save seed, and they cannot dispose of their harvests except through approved channels. Monsanto and other corporations employ quite brutal patent enforcement methods in all neighbourhoods where their GM crops are grown (8).
6. There are proven health risks associated with GM technology (9). There are many instances of domestic animal deaths following consumption of GM crops. Many independent studies have found damage to the internal organs of animals fed on GM components, and they demonstrate that the public is rightly very seriously concerned about GM food safety. Advisory bodies such as ACRE, FSA and EFSA still refuse to acknowledge the serious nature of these findings, and stand widely accused of gross negligence.
7. GM technology has not reduced levels of world hunger as promised. In fact, it has made poor farmers more indebted and less self sufficient, and consequently more vulnerable than ever before. Bankruptcies associated with BT cotton in India have caused many thousands of suicides (10).
8. Consumers throughout Europe have consistently voted against growing GM crops. There are now thousands of "GM Free regions" across Europe, and a growing GM resistance movement (11). Consumers are aware of the failure of the GM industry to deliver on its promises, and they know that GM crops and foods bring them no benefits whatsoever. For many years the UK government has been telling people that GM crops and foods are safe and essential; now it is time for the government to start listening instead.
9. It is seldom acknowledged that one part of the "global food control" strategy employed by the GM multinationals is the purchasing of seed companies and their catalogues and the phasing out of locally adapted varieties (12). This means that biodiversity is irreparably damaged, and that vast swathes of countryside are planted with GM crop monocultures and with GM varieties that are ill-suited to local environmental conditions. This endangers food security and increases the risk of future famine (13).
10. The GM corporations and the trade associations seeking to extol the virtues of GM crops are adept at spreading disinformation, practicing corrupt science in the approvals process, and vilifying scientists who seek to undertake independent research into GM crop safety and environmental impacts (14). They have shown over and again that they cannot be trusted, and yet governments unaccountably continue to accord them respect, and seek to "enable" their corporate global ambitions.
11. It is not just hydrocarbon prices that are rocketing upwards in the "peak oil" scenario. Petrochemical and feedstock prices are also rising inexorably, and Roundup (the weedkiller for which most GM crops are engineered) has doubled in price in the last twelve months (15). GM farming will soon be seen as an expensive luxury, if not an absurd aberration, caught up in an inexorable inflationary spiral.
12. The GM industry, aided and abetted by the Government, has been partly responsible for a decline in scientific ethics and a disastrous decline in the public acceptance of science. Sir David King claims that Britain has "lost" inward investment worth £2-3 billion because of our failure to adopt GM technology (16); on the contrary, because of the GM industry's strategy of "contamination by stealth" the UK taxpayer has already had to pay a substantial bill for the monitoring and remediation of contamination incidents involving failed and unauthorised GM varieties found in the food chain.
13. Those who own GM crop and agrochemical patents refuse absolutely to accept liability for damage that might be caused to farming neighbours and members of the public, arising out of genetic trespass and contamination. Such risks are also uninsurable, as no insurance companies will provide cover (17). It must be concluded that in their view the risks of damage and litigation far outweigh any possible benefits that might come from GM crop plantings. In that context, it would be an act of sheer madness for any government to permit any commercial GM planting in the UK to go ahead.
In short, there is not the slightest chance that GM crops and foods will do anything to alleviate future problems associated with water shortages, famine and unrest and instability in the Developing Nations. If GM crops are forced on unwilling or reluctant recipients, there will be strongly negative consequences for public health, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. Corporate feudalism will be extended, and there will be dramatic social, political and economic consequences for all of us.
We urge you to accept the points made in the recent IAASTD report and to endorse a pattern of agriculture which is sustainable, independent of high chemical and energy inputs, and responsive to local needs and aspirations. This means that GM technology will have to be consigned to the scrap heap, where it properly belongs, even if Monsanto and the other biotechnology corporations squeal about their global ambitions being thwarted and even if a few GM technologists are forced to do something more worthwhile with their time.
Dr Brian John GM Free Cymru
(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html? in_article_id=559965&in_page_id=1770
(2) www.foodethicscouncil.org/files/SUcostsandbenefit02-03.pdf http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3057431.stm www.foe.co.uk/pubsinfo/briefings/html/20021107114407.html http://eapi.admu.edu.ph/eapr006/mcdonagh.htm
(3) www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/ gm_crops_increase_pesticid_13022008.html http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/gmlemmings.htm http://www.soilassociation.org/Web/SA/saweb.nsf/ 848d689047cb466780256a6b00298980/3cacfd251aab6d318025742700407f02! OpenDocument
(4) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCIPU.php http://wwww.biotech-info.net/technicalpaper6.html http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ EIB11/
(5) www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/aug/18/food.gm www.btinternet.com/~nlpWESSEX/Documents/Monsantosuperweeds.htm http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4159/is_20030629/ai_n12741503
(6) www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jan/22/pollution.gmcrops http://www.i-sis.org.uk/isisnews/i-sisnews11-15.php http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805
(7) www.i-sis.org.uk/STGMfree.php http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/jul/18/gm.food1 http://www.gmfreecymru.org/documents.htm
(8) http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805 http://www.opendemocracy.net/ecology-foodwithoutfrontiers/ article_1817.jsp
(9) www.seedsofdeception.com/ www.geneticroulette.com/ www.i-sis.org.uk/GM_Free_Europe.php http://www.i-sis.org.uk/gmFailuresContinue.php
(10) http://www.cathnews.com/news/409/doc/15colgm3.doc http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6594 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/gmFailuresContinue.php
(12) http://www.seedalliance.org/index.php?page=SeminisMonsanto http://www.combat-monsanto.org/spip.php?article64
(13) www.i-sis.org.uk/AGMW.php www.twnside.org.sg/title/service78.htm
(14) http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice14March2007.htm http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/company.htm http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/exposed.htm http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/syngenta.htm
(15) http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/mar/30/farmers- feeling-roundup-spike/
(16) Sir David's figure, widely reported in the media, has no foundation in fact, and it has not been backed up by his office in spite of frequent requests. In any case, it is dishonest to use such a figure in the absence of a proper cost-benefit analysis. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html? in_article_id=496681&in_page_id=1770 http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8750
(17) www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/liability_gm_crops.pdf http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/CSMgmo.htm http://www.rics.org.uk/csm/