Friday 3rd October 2003
Last week the results of the "GM Nation?" public debate were revealed and they showed that the British public overwhelmingly rejected the growing of genetically modified crops in Britain: 86% were unhappy with the idea of eating the stuff and 84% thought they would damage the environment.
The biotech companies are no doubt gutted that their expensive PR and marketing hadn't mislead us all into swallowing their 'GM is great' crap. So what did these biotech bullshitters have to say for themselves? The biggest biotech company in the UK is Bayer CropScience and Paul Rylott, head of the company's BioScience Unit, is also - what a surprise - chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Now if you haven't got a problem with that, you'll be cool about his appointment earlier this year to the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Council (AEBC), the government's advisory body on GM crops in the environment. He complained that "public meetings do not equal public opinion" which is pretty odd considering him and his chums had filled special consultation focus groups with people who had previously thought that GM might be a good thing. But unfortunately for them even these groups rejected GM crops! The report concluded: "The more people engage in GM issues, the harder their attitudes and more intense their concerns." The report also highlighted the fact no-one trusts the biotech companies with 93% of respondents believing GM technology was driven by profit rather than public interest.
Last week a national day of action against Bayer, saw their phones/ faxes/emails blockaded and sites in Cambridge and Widnes targeted. In Widnes the protesters managed to shut down work for a bit. So worried were Bayer that an announcement went over the tannoy to employees to close and lock all doors and windows. Even the security guards locked themselves in their office, which makes one wonder what they're actually paid for... Two protesters managed to speak with the manager who told them "rest assured, you have sent a ripple through Bayer CropScience."
This ripple turned into a wave when a couple of days later Bayer announced that they were pulling out of GM crop trials in Britain - the reason given being that "They are always ripped up." More proof that direct action works. But this isn't time to get complacent and think that GM crops are dead and buried. For a start Bayer have only announced that they are pulling out of trials until conditions are "more favourable". As the biggest GM crop company in Britain they're also pushing ahead with the commercialisation of GM crops. So the anti-GM campaign is set to roll on, with much 'field work' and many more actions planned.
A recently leaked report assessing the GM farm scale crop trials revealed more surprising good news for anti-GM campaigners - it showed that two out of the three varieties under trial caused significantly more damage to the environment than conventional crops. The full report is due out on the 16th October and it seems likely to be a bumper harvest of anti-GM facts. This follows two other reports commissioned by the government, which were critical of GM - showing there was no economic necessity for them and highlighting the potentially dangerous environmental effects. Combined with the public rejection of GM this is causing pro-GM Tony Blair, if not to reverse his policy, then at least to
consider slowing down.
However Tony maybe able to avoid making himself even more unpopular if new EU and international trade laws make the banning of GM crops by any country illegal. In Europe there's currently a moratorium on new GM crops being grown, but this is due to end, and the European Commission recently ruled that no country or region can rule itself GM free. This has all come following intense pressure from the US, who are taking the EU to the World Trade Organisation courts saying the moratorium and even labelling food as GM is a barrier to trade. Europe's caution has already cost the American biotech companies an estimated $30 billion. So if the US gets its way you might never know if you're eating GM foods.
The so-called free market may well force GM crops into the fields and down our throats. To stop this we'll have to take to the fields for a bit of decontamination gardening and targeting the companies producing the unwanted GM products. Time to have a field day, folks!
Take up the Green Gloves Pledge to decontaminate GM crops:
www.greengloves.org or write to Green Gloves, 16B Cherwell Street, Oxford, OX4 1BG.
For more on the campaign against Bayer see www.stopbayergm.org or phone 07092 036576
Publicity day against Bayer - October 11th.
Electronic Blockade of Bayer - October 13th - contact Bayer to tell them what you think of GM food, phone: 01223 870312, fax:
01223 872142 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Noise Demo. 13th November from 10am outside Bayer's Newbury office, Strawberry Hill, Newbury. Bring whistles, horns, drums, etc. For transport details contact the Stop Bayer campaign.
Tickets for transport from Brighton (£5) from The Cowley Club, London Road. Transport from Leeds email: email@example.com
Tractors and Trolleys against GM in London, October 13th. Demo against GM crops - drive a tractor or push a trolley through the streets of London. Info: 0808 800 1111 www.tractorandtrolley.com
'Don't Worry It Is Safe to Eat - the True Story of GM food, BSE and Foot and Mouth' talk by the author Andrew Rowell Sat 1st Nov, 11am, at the Cafe' Diplo, French Institute 17, Queensberry Place, SW7 London. Booking in advance helps the organizers £2 non-members/£1 members 0709 234 8726 firstname.lastname@example.org
Corporate Watch have detailed briefings on the three companies involved in GM crops: Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta - www.corporatewatch.org.uk/genetics/genetics.htm
To read the results of the GM Nation debate see www.gmpublicdebate.org.uk