The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA 

 
5th March 2004

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

An Open Letter to Tony Blair on the Commercial Growing of GM Crops in the UK


We, the undersigned organisations, who between us have a combined membership 
of approximately eight million British citizens, call upon the Government to 
respond to the concerns of our members and supporters, as well as those of 
the public more generally by not allowing the commercial use of GM crops in 
the UK at this time.

In May 2003 we wrote to the Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State 
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs outlining our main concerns about 
the GM Nation? public debate.  In particular we were concerned that it was 
unclear how the views of the public would feed in to the decision-making 
process and we asked for assurance that the results of the debate would be 
fully taken in to account when the UK adopts its position on the 
commercialisation of GM crops.  The impression given at the time was one 
of consultation without inclusion.

In the light of the recent leaks from the minutes of the Sub-Committee on 
Biotechnology (SCI(BIO)) meeting held on the 11th February 2004, we are 
dismayed to learn that, although the Government clearly recognises public 
opinion is against GM food, it is now considering how to develop a "coherent 
strategy on promoting biotechnology in the EU"[1], against the wishes of the 
majority of its citizens.  

We are also dismayed that the Government appears to be focussing its attention 
on how "opposition to GM might eventually be worn down"[2], rather than 
addressing the many legitimate concerns that people have about GM technology 
and incorporating these concerns into its decision-making.

Therefore we believe the government has failed to consider the evidence 
before it.  In particular we are concerned that:

   *.. The scientific and economic evidence available does not support 
commercialisation of GM food and crops at the current time.  Not enough is 
known about the broader implications including the impact on health, the 
environment, and society to justify the possible risks involved in introducing 
this technology irreversibly into the food chain. Significant gaps in 
scientific knowledge were highlighted in the GM Science Review.
 
  *.. Public opinion has been consistently wary of GM food and crops.  
Any decision to commercialise GM in the UK at this point would further 
undermine confidence in the Government's willingness to take seriously the 
views and concerns of its citizens
 
  *.. The only beneficiaries of introducing GM crops to the UK at the 
current time would be the agricultural biotechnology industry.  The main 
supermarkets, food manufacturers and caterers have responded to public 
concern and made it clear that they have no intention of using GM 
ingredients for the foreseeable future
 
  *.. The issue of public choice to grow and eat non-GM products is 
paramount.  Before the Government can consider agreeing to GM crop 
commercialisation, it must introduce strict regulations governing 
co-existence to prevent contamination of non-GM crops.
 
  *.. In addition, the biotechnology companies that produce and stand to 
profit from GM crops must be held liable for any damage their products 
may cause. The Government must introduce a system of strict legal and 
financial liability for environmental and economic harm arising from 
contamination before GM crops can be commercially grown in the UK. 
We would be happy to meet you to discuss our concerns if this would be 
helpful.

We look forward to your early reply.
 
Kim Lavely, Acting Director, Consumers' Association
Ed Mayo, Chief Executive, NCC
Sue Mayer, Director, Genewatch
Tony Juniper, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth
Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation, National Trust
Clare Devereux, Director, Five Year Freeze Campaign
Professor Tim Lang, Chair, Sustain
Barbara Gill, National Chairman, National Federation of Women's Institutes
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Minutes of the Sub-Committee on Biotechnology meeting, 11th February 2004

[2] Minutes of the Sub-Committee on Biotechnology meeting, 11th February 2004



Carrie Stebbings
FIVE YEAR FREEZE CAMPAIGN
The Genetic Engineering Alliance
94 White Lion Street
London
N1 9PF
Tel: 020 7837 0642/01273 822700
Fax: 020 7837 1141
 
carrie@fiveyearfreeze.org
www.fiveyearfreeze.org



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