Government departments, academics and industry lobby and media bodies are working to push a pro-GM agenda and weaken regulations regarding GMOs and are engaged in a public relations campaign in an attempt to win over a sceptical public.
Whether via the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (see here) or the drive to weaken the regulatory framework by other means (see here), the GMO biotech sector has Britain and Europe firmly in its sights.
Lawrence Woodward on the Beyond GM website (here) says the UK government is setting time aside to clear away all obstacles to the introduction of GMOs to English farms. He reports that in a letter to Beyond GM, Defra (Department for Environment and Rural Affairs) junior minster Lord de Mauley, confirmed that:
“We do not expect any commercial planting of GM crops in the UK for at least a few years as no GM crops in the EU approval pipeline are of major interest to UK farmers… the government will ensure that pragmatic rules are in place to segregate GM and non-GM production.”
De Mauley’s letter was in response to the Beyond GM initiative ‘The Letter from America’ (here), which was delivered to the Prime Minister’s office in November. Despite the British public not wanting GM food (see here), the government’s intention is to get GMOs planted in fields and put on plates.
Woodward argues that “pragmatic rules” imply as few and as weak as possible with no rules on liability and nothing to ensure that ’the polluter pays’ in the event of organic and non-GM crops and habitats being contaminated. He also states that the last time the UK government engaged in a serious consideration of co-existence of GM, organic and non-GM crops it let Scimac, a pro-GMO industry body, write the rules and adopted them wholesale.
According to Woodward, it is likely that in its plenary session on 13th January the European Parliament (EP) will vote in favour of the proposed GMO authorisation process and thereby open up the EU to GM cropping. This so called ‘opt-out’ regulation will free up countries such as the UK, which in reality want to ‘opt-in’ and enable genetically engineered crops to be grown on their fields (see here, although the proposed policy has since been modified).