Document Directory

14 Jun 99 - GMO - Limp lettuces face crunch in GM trials
14 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince's Wildlife Trust seeks GM ban
13 Jun 99 - GMO - Supermarkets join forces on GM animal feed
13 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food advisers have links to biotech companies
12 Jun 99 - GMO - Church may allow GM crop trials on its land
12 Jun 99 - GMO - Now experts fear GM 'brain drain'
10 Jun 99 - GMO - Producers turn backs on GM food
10 Jun 99 - GMO - Researcher's work 'had run its course'
10 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince backs GM scientist
10 Jun 99 - GMO - £3m to rid McCartney foods of GM
10 Jun 99 - GMO - GM solution to alcohol-free beer problem
10 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food will return, says producer peer
08 Jun 99 - GMO - GM test sites fell by half in past year
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Charles's food label nears organic ideal
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Farmers set to abandon crop trials
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair shifts to 'open mind' on GM foods
07 Jun 99 - GMO - First GM farmer destroys his crops
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair asks public to keep an open mind on biotech foods
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Farmer destroys GM test site after protests
07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair softens stance on GM foods
07 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food ban would undermine British science, says Blair
06 Jun 99 - GMO - Modified corn on sale in UK 'kills' life-saving antibiotics
06 Jun 99 - GMO - Minister fears 'three heads' from GM foods
06 Jun 99 - GMO - We don't believe our food is safe
06 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair fumes, but public backs Charles's stand against GM
06 Jun 99 - GMO - Cherie's against GM too, says the Prince
06 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair: Keep Open Mind On Gm Foods
03 Jun 99 - GMO - Getting it wrong about food
03 Jun 99 - GMO - WI joins call for five-year ban on GM food crops
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Locations of UK GMO test site on web
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Hunting crops
02 Jun 99 - GMO - The 10 questions - Government answers
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Industry condemns test site map as terrorist charter
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Advisers helped to nurture the royal concern
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Organic farm groups split over gene crops
02 Jun 99 - GMO - - Prince and Blair clash over GM food 'tampering'
02 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince opens Labour rift on GM crops
01 Jun 99 - GMO - Charles forces reverse on GM foods
01 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince doubts GM food safety
01 Jun 99 - GMO - GM forms of wild species 'may lead to crisis'
01 Jun 99 - GMO - Why Prince went tabloid on GM food
01 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince's GM attack upsets ministers
01 Jun 99 - GMO - New crops attract rare birds, say US farmers
01 Jun 99 - GMO - Hooligans force seed firm to quit
01 Jun 99 - GMO - First blood to anti-GM activists
30 May 99 - GMO - Monsanto sows seeds of its own destruction
30 May 99 - GMO - Prince to meet GM row scientist
28 May 99 - GMO - Euro-law to put GM food into Britain
27 May 99 - GMO - Genetically altered violet carnations on sale this year
27 May 99 - GMO - Butterflies 'killed by pollen from GM corn'
23 May 99 - GMO - Public floods Prince's GM crops website
21 May 99 - GMO - Expert urges US to act over toxic GM pollen alert
21 May 99 - GMO - Doctors on alert for GM diseases
21 May 99 - GMO - The risks of proving that there is no risk



14 Jun 99 - GMO - Limp lettuces face crunch in GM trials

By Nick Nuttall, Technology Correspondent

Times ... Monday 14 June 1999


THE traditional English round lettuce may change shape and texture in the latest advances for genetic modification. British and Italian researchers have found a way to make lettuces curlier, crunchier, faster growing and less likely to wilt.

The same genes which control how curly a lettuce leaf will grow can also be tweaked to alter the size and shape of leaf veins and the speed at which leaves develop. The development is said to be the biggest in lettuce growing since the Egyptians began modifying wild varieties 6,000 years ago.

Domenico Mariotti, of the Istituto di Biochimica ed Ecofisiologia Vegetali del CNR in Rome, whose team is working with British growers, said yesterday that the same gene modification could be made to other leaf crops to create super curly spinach, or cabbages that look exotic but taste like conventional varieties.

He said that he did not believe the research would attract the wrath of the anti-GM lobby. "Genes and promoters affecting lettuce leaves derive from plant species. The work involves over-expressing plant genes and so have no negative impact on human or animal health," he said.

Some critics of GM food fear that pollen will spread into the wild and contaminate organic crops or cross with relatives to make super weeds . Dr Mariotti said: "Lettuce is a crop mainly grown in greenhouses and does not set seeds before being consumed, so the cultivation environment is strictly controlled".

Greenhouse trials of the new gene-altered lettuces will be conducted by G's Fresh Salads in Ely, Cambridgeshire , which is working with the Italian team under a European Union programmme called Euroleaf. Chris Foulds, for the company, said yesterday: "I am sure any lettuce could benefit from this work in terms of appearance, quality and shelf life".

It was hoped to have a range of commercial varieties under commercial trials in three to four years. One aim was to improve the texture of the traditional soft, round or butterhead English lettuce, he said. It was also hoped to produce varieties with far more curl that taste the same but resemble an Italian lolla rosso.

Mr Foulds, whose company produces bagged salad products, said that another target was the iceberg lettuce with its generally straight, flat leaves. "The mid-rib of iceberg leaves bruises very easily, so the idea is to make this smaller in proportion to the rest of the leaf," he said.

The lettuce breakthrough has been made by researchers in Italy and at the University of Antwerp who are part of the European Plant Biotechnology Network. The scientists, whose work is reported in the journal Plant Physiology, have identified genes called knotted homeobox genes, from the laboratory plant arabidopsis.

These genes appear to control production of natural plant compounds called cytokinins, which play a key role in controlling leaf shape. Another "promoter" gene from peas is used to control the rate of "over-expression". Dr Mariotti said they had successfuly modified Luxor and Cortina lettuces into new shapes.



14 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince's Wildlife Trust seeks GM ban

By Jason Allardyce

Times ... Monday 14 June 1999


A major Scottish conservation body headed by the Prince of Wales has condemned the use of genetically modified crops and called for an indefinite ban on their cultivation and use in Britain .

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, of which the Prince is patron, also wants foreign GM food to be banned from this country. The trust has accused companies that invested billions of dollars into developing the plants of wanting a quick return regardless of the dangers posed to the environment.

Last week the Prince gave warning of the dangers of GM food and called for more checks on the process. A trust spokesman said the Prince was aware of its views but had no input in forming them.



13 Jun 99 - GMO - Supermarkets join forces on GM animal feed

By Marie Woolf

Independent ... Sunday 13 June 1999


Britain's supermarkets are planning to take from their shelves meat from animals fed on GM crops because of consumer concerns about possible health risks.

The move by a consortium including Sainsbury, Safeway, Marks & Spencer, Northern Foods, Nestle and Unilever, will come as a huge blow to the GM industry .

Earlier this year, Sainsbury became the latest in a string of British supermarkets, including M&S and Iceland, to remove all GM ingredients from its own-brand range of foods .

Now the supermarket giant has teamed up with food producers to ask the world's biggest grain producers to grow them GM-free crops for poultry, cattle and pig feed.

A letter from Sainsbury's head of food safety to a genetic testing laboratory in the United States, which the Independent on Sunday has obtained, shows that the company is actively pursuing a route to GM-free meat.

The move follows rising fears about the development of antibiotic resistance from GM food which could arise from feeding GM crops to animals .

Scientists have warned that GM crops containing an antibiotic resistance marker gene could harm our ability to fight fatal diseases such as meningitis, typhoid and Aids-related illnesses with penicillin.

GM animal feed, containing crops grown in the United States, is used in Britain but there are no laws requiring it to be labelled as such. "We took the decision to remove GM ingredients from our own-brand products earlier this year because our customers wanted that," said a Sainsbury's spokesman. "The logical next step is to try to find GM-free animal feed. People want the meat they eat to be fed on non-GM feed."

The Oxford Union will tomorrow debate a motion proposing that farm animals should not be fed GM material. The organisers of the debate say Monsanto, the genetic engineering compnay, withdrew from speaking on the GM animal issue "because it was afraid of losing".

Jeff Rooker, the food safety minister, also declined to speak after his invitation was vetted by the office of Jack Cunningham, who has been pushing the Government's defence of GM food. Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who sparked a furore over GM foods, will argue for a ban on GM animal feed.



13 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food advisers have links to biotech companies

by Paul Nuki Consumer Affairs Editor

Times ... Sunday 13 June 1999


More than a third of the government-appointed experts on the five key scientific committees that advise ministers on the safety of genetically modified (GM) food have links with organisations involved in the new technology.

On some committees - including the key "novel foods" committee, which effectively licenses GM crops in Britain - industry domination is almost complete with more than half the membership linked, either personally or through their employers, to biotechnology interests.

The industry bias affects even the lay members appointed by government officials to represent public or consumer interests on its five main committees.

The only "consumer" representative on the novel foods committee, for instance, is married to the managing director of Boots the chemist. The same committee's ethical adviser, although a critic of the system, receives funding from the Gatsby Foundation, a charity set up by Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, to fund education and plant science.

Alan Williams, Labour MP for Camarthen East & Dinefwr and a member of the science and technology select committee, said: "There are some members of these committees who are paid by industry and much more balance is required. There is no reason why scientists should be regarded as having a monopoly on moral or professional integrity."

The Sunday Times examined the past and present commercial interests of the members of each of the five scientific committees that advise ministers on food safety. These are: the advisory committee on novel foods and process (NCNFP); the advisory committee on releases to the environment (Acre); the committee on medical aspects of food (Coma); the committee on toxicity of chemicals in food (Cot); and the food advisory committee (Fac). In total, 40% - or 28 of the 70 committee members covered - were found to have links with the biotechnology business. At least 13 are linked to one of the three biggest players in the sector - Monsanto, Zeneca and Novartis.

On the two pivotal committees - NCNFP and Acre - more than half the members have links to the biotechnology sector . They include Dr Philip Dale, who heads a department at the John Innes Centre researching the genetic engineering of oilseed rape; Professor T Sanders, a consultant for Nutrasweet, a subsidiary of Monsanto; and Dr Ian Garner, assistant director of research at PPL Therapeutics, a biotechnology company owned by the Roslin Institute, creator of Dolly the cloned sheep.

The food committees, although advisory, play a key part in the regulation of the food industry in Britain. Their role is to assess the scientific risks that new technologies pose to consumers and the environment; ministers cannot license products without their backing.

Critical attention was first focused on the committees' links with industry when Friends of the Earth revealed that all the 160 applications that Acre had received to carry out GM crop trials and research had been approved.

The Sunday Times investigation also analysed the backgrounds and interests of "consumer" representatives on government food committees. Of the 19 individuals covered, not one was employed by the Consumers' Association, Britain's largest and most respected promoter of consumer rights.

"We are not happy about the whole structure of government food committees because of their industry bias," said the Consumers' Association.

The Rev Michael Reiss, ethical adviser to ACNFP, said he thought the system was flawed and "genuinely lay people" should be given seats on advisory committees. "Also, at some point you need to involve the sceptics on these committees," he said. "For reasons of fairness, expertise and public confidence, the whole spectrum of public opinion must be included."



12 Jun 99 - GMO - Church may allow GM crop trials on its land

By Victoria Combe and Aisling Irwin

Telegraph ... Saturday 12 June 1999


The Church of England's farmlands may be used for trials of genetically modified crops, bringing the Church into direct conflict with its future Supreme Governor, the Prince of Wales.

The Church is to hold urgent ethical debates after its commissioners said yesterday that they had been approached by the Ministry of Agriculture requesting a site to rent for trials including GM crop tests.

The Church's official stance, published last April, has been broadly positive towards GM crops. However, the Rev Richard Thomas, communications officer for the diocese of Oxford, yesterday predicted a "huge outcry" from congregations if the commissioners endorsed experiments on their land.

In an article the Prince of Wales wrote for The Telegraph last year,he said that genetic engineering "takes mankind into realms that belong to God and to God alone". His views appear directly to contradict those of the Church's Board of Social Responsibility, which argued strongly in its four-page April briefing document that GM experiments should continue, with careful monitoring.

Mr Thomas said that the report had not filtered down to the wider Church. Its contents, he said, would provoke a "vigorous debate". Church Commissioners confirmed yesterday that they were holding discussions with Maff. The Ethical Investments Group, which advises the commissioners, will debate the issue next month.



12 Jun 99 - GMO - Now experts fear GM 'brain drain'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Independent ... Saturday 12 June 1999


Scientists have warned that the public could lose the services of Britain's best scientific advisers on GM technology over unfair accusations that they are too close to the biotechnology industry.

The anti-GM food lobby has claimed that senior scientific advisers to the Government have a vested interest in promoting GM issues because of research grants their institutes receive from biotechnology companies.

Although the members of scientific advisory committees have to declare any personal and "non-personal" interests - which covers research funding to their institutes - critics claim that commercial funding leads to unofficial promotion of GM food and crops.

A significant proportion of the Government's food advisers have declared both personal and non-personal interests, which range from paid freelance consultancies to being in an academic department which receives industry funding.

Almost every academic member of the Food Advisory Committee (FAC) and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) has declared non-personal interests, which could appear to conflict with the objectivity of their advice.

However, Sir Colin Campbell, chairman of the FAC, said such interests do not affect the impartial nature of the advice these scientists give. "The accusation that members have commercial ties is a sweeping generalisation," he said.

There is a danger that scientists, who give their advice on an unpaid basis, will step down from government committees because of the nature of the unfair accusations levelled against them, Sir Colin said.

"The accusations are sometimes malign in the way they are phrased. If these scientists are trawled through the press with such accusations, they will leave," he said.

Professor Janet Bainbridge, who chairs the ACNFP, said all links between scientists and industry are open and transparent. Furthermore, if a subject is to be discussed at a committee meeting, anyone with vested interests has to leave the room.

"As the chair of a committee I want the best scientific advisers I can get and, if this criticism goes on, the scientists are going to say 'I don't need the hassle'. They are not in it for the money after all," she said.

Over the past 20 years, since Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister, overhauled science funding, scientists have been encouraged to seek financial support from industry to bolster public research grants. This means that many of the best scientists almost invariably receive commercial grants, said Professor Catherine Geissler, head of health sciences at King's College London and a member of the FAC.

She has declared non-personal interests because members of her university department receive industry support. "There is a great deal of pressure to bring in funding from any source," she said.

Doug Parr, scientific director of Greenpeace, said: "Realistically, the argument saying that you won't find a good scientist without industry connections is almost certainly right. An obsessive focus on industry connections is unhelpful."

Discredited scientist hits back at critics

Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who caused a furore by claiming that the public are guinea pigs in a mass experiment into genetically modified food , is planning a fightback against attacks on his credibility.

He plans to release on the Internet this weekend the confidential reports of the six anonymous referees who were commissioned by the Royal Society to assess his work on rats fed GM potatoes.

The public, he said, will be able to make up their own minds on the Royal Society's conclusions damning his work, which were based on the reports of the six referees.

Dr Pusztai, a former scientist from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, claimed in a television interview last year that the potatoes stunted the rats' growth and damaged their immune systems . A panel of named experts drawn together by the Royal Society said on the basis of the six anonymous reviews that Dr Pusztai's work was fundamentally flawed and that no meaningful conclusions could be made.

Dr Pusztai was in effect discredited and further humiliated by Sir Robert May, the government's chief scientist, who in a radio interview described his work on GM potatoes as "garbage".

Dr Pusztai said yesterday he views the Royal Society investigation as a "kangaroo court" that failed to look at all the evidence he gathered on the GM potato experiments. "I'd very much like to know the names of these referees. I don't regard them as my peers unless I know who they are," Dr Pusztai said. "I've published 276 scientific papers. I know exactly what I'm talking about because I've refereed scientific papers all my life. I don't think the Royal Society has a leg to stand on."

Dr Pusztai said he has submitted a research paper on the GM potato experiment to a scientific journal but he has not as yet heard whether it will be published. He said that if he cannot publish the research in Britain, he will attempt to have it published in the United States where the climate was "less biased" against him.



10 Jun 99 - GMO - Producers turn backs on GM food

By Charles Arthur and Jonathan Glennie

Independent ... Thursday 10 June 1999


Britain's food producers are in headlong retreat from the use of genetically modified (GM) soya in their products after a consumer backlash against the technology, The Independent has found.

Almost all the major producers have taken steps to eliminate GM soya and maize, or derivatives of them, from their products . The development will push up the producers' costs by as much as 10 per cent, and may mean that foods specifically incorporating GM elements will not appear on retailers' shelves in Britain for at least two years.

But Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, which is one of the biggest food companies, said yesterday that the reintroduction would not happen until consumers, and then retailers, seem eager for it. He added that in time there would be GM products available that offered a price or other advantage to shoppers and retailers.

Only a handful of companies are now using soya that is not specifically from non-GM sources. This marks an almost complete reversal of the position a year ago.

Yesterday Northern Foods announced formally that it was stopping using GM ingredients , a move revealed by The Independent last month. The decision is a blow to the Prime Minister , Tony Blair, who has repeated backed GM technology, since Lord Haskins is considered to be among his favourite businessmen.

Lord Haskins said he was unimpressed by the pressure that producers have experienced from retailers. "I'm ashamed at the way the retailers have wobbled," he said. "They should have given their customers choice [through labelling]." But he told the BBC's Today programme that the company was bowing to buyer pressure. "I think it's clear that consumers don't want to buy GM food," he commented.

He added that there was no incentive to use GM materials at present : "There's no price attraction, there's no product attraction at the present time and in that sense one is forced to renounce genetically engineered produce."

A similar ambivalence has been expressed by the huge food group Nestle. The company announced in April that it was removing GM ingredients from its products, including its baby milk . Yet its chairman, Peter Brabeck, said last month that GM food is "the technology of the future" and added: "Building a wall against it is not a sensible strategy."

But in the face of consumer and retailer pressure, food producers have had to examine the source of products such as soya and maize.

In the United States, GM varieties are mixed with conventional ones after harvesting. About 30 per cent of soya grown there is genetically modified.

European labelling requirements mean that such mixed harvests should be labelled as GM - even if they only contain tiny amounts of the GM product. This has caused huge problems for retailers and producers, as shoppers have shunned GM-labelled products.

The reaction has been swift. In the past week both Walker's, the crisp maker, and the cereal manufacturer, Kelloggs, have shifted so that they now declare that their products come from "non-GM sources" . Walker's said last night that it "is confident in our suppliers' control of the origin and variety of soya", while Kelloggs said that the maize used in its cereals comes from non-GM growers in Argentina.

A week ago a survey by Friends of the Earth found that 24 of the biggest 30 food producers in the UK were moving completely to non-GM sources . Kelloggs and Walker's were among those whose positions were unclear. Last night only Associated British Foods, which owns brands such as Kingsmill bread, had not publicly clarified its position.

Meanwhile only a couple of the foods remaining on supermarket shelves - notably a Sharwood's Chinese recipe with stir-in soya sauce - contain soya requiring labelling as GM. Yesterday Rank Hovis McDougall, its manufacturer, said: "Although we are confident that the GM soya used in this product is safe, we plan to move away from it as soon as we are able to find a suitable alternative."

Lord Haskins said that the door would not be closed on GM produce forever, and criticised the Prince of Wales, who has recently spoken out against GM technology, as having "power without responsibility".



10 Jun 99 - GMO - Researcher's work 'had run its course'

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Thursday 10 June 1999


There was no option but to suspend and ultimately retire Dr Pusztai, his former institute insisted yesterday.

Dr Pusztai was already eight years past retirement age and, after the potato scandal, there was no work left for him, said Dr Andrew Chesson, who heads a research division at the Rowett Research Institute.

He had lost the confidence both of his colleagues and of the industries sponsoring his non-GM food research, said Dr Chesson. His research had been rejected by two groups of scientists, including the Royal Society, and he caused world confusion with inflated claims.

Dr Chesson added that experiments Dr Pusztai claimed to have completed to support his theories had not been done. But Dr Pusztai says he has documentary evidence to support his case . Meanwhile, the Royal Society defended itself yesterday against accusations by the Lancet of "breathtaking impertinence" in opting to review Dr Pusztai's research when it was unable to obtain Dr Pusztai's own full account of his work.

Stephen Cox, executive secretary of the Royal Society, said the review, which concluded that the research had produced no evidence of harmful effects of GM potatoes, was "not about Dr Pusztai". "We have not criticised him. It is the science we are talking about."

The Rowett and Dr Pusztai do agree that there ought to be more research on the effect on mammals of eating genetically modified food. Dr Chesson said: "What Dr Pusztai was trying to address was good. I share his doubts about the way in which some of these materials are evaluated."

He said there ought to be such studies, but the Rowett is no longer doing any nutritional studies of the type Dr Pusztai was conducting.



10 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince backs GM scientist

By Charles Clover and Aisling Irwin

Evening Standard ... Thursday 10 June 1999


The Prince of Wales has told Dr Arpad Pusztai, the Government-funded scientist suspended last year for saying that genetically modified food was not safe, that he was cruelly treated by the scientific establishment and deserves an apology .

Dr Pusztai, who was suspended on Aug 12 by the Rowett Research Institute, near Aberdeen, spent an hour and 35 minutes at Highgrove last week with his wife, Dr Susan Bardocz, who still works at the Rowett, briefing the Prince on his concerns about GM food.

Dr Pusztai had a 37-year career abruptly halted by the institute two days after disclosing on a World In Action programme that rats fed on a kind of GM potato had displayed shrunken internal organs and damaged immune systems.

The results of the experiments he and his team of 18 scientists were conducting have yet to be published in a scientific journal, though he hopes to do so in the next few months. Since last summer the full weight of the political and scientific establishment has been focused against Dr Pusztai , who has published more than 250 scientific papers and is regarded as an expert on lectins (poisons found in bulbs and uncooked beans).

Dr Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office minister, has described Dr Pusztai's GM findings as "comprehensively discredited", and Sir Robert May, the prime minister's chief scientific adviser, accused him of "violating every canon of scientific rectitude".

A study of his results by the Royal Society reported that his work was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it". Dr Pusztai has been supported by some colleagues and by environmental groups.



10 Jun 99 - GMO - £3m to rid McCartney foods of GM

by Ed Harris

Evening Standard ... Thursday 10 June 1999


Sir Paul McCartney has added his voice to the protest over GM foods by ordering that every trace of genetically modified ingredients be removed from his late wife Linda's range of vegetarian meals - at a cost of £3 million.

Sir Paul is responding to claims on the BBC's Newsnight programme that small traces of GM food products were found in the Linda McCartney Foods range. The GM soya used was found to be less than 0.5 per cent, Sir Paul said, but even that amount is "unacceptable" to his family.

The company is also throwing its weight behind the campaign to ban GM foods. Packs will come with a slogan urging the shopper to "say no" to GM foods . Prince Charles voiced his concerns over so-called "Frankenstein foods" earlier this month.

Policy at Linda McCartney Foods is strictly anti-GM and now all soya ingredients have been dropped . The meals will be made with wheat - for which no GM alternative is being grown.

The ex-Beatle said today: "We have established a trust with our customers and we have taken these steps as an honest move to preserve that trust. It is also important to us to maintain consumer choice - like us, many people do not want to have GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food . Earlier this year, people were dangerously close to having no choice in that. We have made these moves to give people their right of choice back."

The Linda McCartney factory in Norfolk has been shut down and steam-cleaned to ensure that it is a GM-free zone and the new range of foods has been tested for GM contamination, Sir Paul said. The decision has cost the company more than £3 million.

He added: "Our aim is to be the purest food company in the world and we are doing all that we can to ensure that. Although we unfortunately live in a GM world - which I wish we didn't - we are totally against GMOs , which is why we are now actively campaigning against GM food with this slogan on the packs - Say No to GMOs .

"As far back as 1995 Linda was saying 'I'd rather have my food grown by Mother Nature than by the chemical industry' and we are sticking to that benchmark that she laid down."

Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer last year, launched her vegetarian range in 1991 and by last year had sold 400 million meals. The firm has a 23 per cent share of the market.



10 Jun 99 - GMO - GM solution to alcohol-free beer problem

By Robert Uhlig

Telegraph ... Thursday 10 June 1999


Alcohol-free beer that tastes no different from full-strength beer could be on sale soon after scientists found why non-alcoholic varieties taste "off".

Researchers in Belgium found that the low-temperature process used to brew low and zero-alcohol beers was at fault and suggested that a genetically-engineered yeast could be the answer.

Low and non-alcoholic beers are brewed at 1°C, a temperature that fails to ferment some unpleasant tasting ingredients in wort, the mixture of ground, malted grain and water used to make beer. At higher temperatures, the ingredients ferment to create alcohol.

Philippe Perpète, who led the research said: "The worty 'off' flavour of alcohol-free beer comes from chemicals that would ordinarily have been transformed by the yeast."

Scientists at the Brewing and Food Industry Laboratory of Louvain University believe that a genetically-engineered yeast would ferment ingredients at low temperatures without producing alcohol. However, says New Scientist, the European food industry is wary of any genetically-engineered ingredient. M Perpète said: "No brewer is ready to use it."



10 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food will return, says producer peer

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor ##Times ... Thursday 10 June 1999

Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, said last night that people would eventually demand genetically modified food because it would mean lower prices.

The Labour peer said he was confident that there would be a significant difference in price between GM and non-GM foods. "Then people will be given a choice and if the food is safe and of acceptable quality, why shouldn't we use it? I bet I can say now which the housewife will choose.

"Most rice in China is GM and my guess is that anyone holidaying in the US or in Europe will be eating GM food or food containing derivatives."

He spoke out after his company decided to stop using GM ingredients and all derivatives - except for a cheese rennet - in the face of demands from retailers, including one of its main customers, Marks & Spencer. He accepts that the firm had little choice, given the "hysteria" about GM products and the clear message from consumers that they did not want them.

Lord Haskins, who chairs the Better Regulation Task Force, backs the technology and said: "I'm ashamed at the way the retailers have wobbled." He believes that in time his firm will again use GM products. "We would only do that, however, when the public realised they were getting a benefit. At present they do not."

His company has undertaken painstaking work to replace GM soya with non-GM soya from Brazil, while GM maize from the United States will be replaced by European maize.

Significantly, too, Northern Foods is dropping GM lecithin , used in the manufacture of most chocolate, confectionery and chocolate biscuits, and replacing it with a soya lecithin from South America.

Geoff Andrews, Northern Foods's chief scientific adviser, confirmed last night that the only GM product it still used was chymosin, produced to provide a non-animal rennet for use in vegetarian cheese. "There is no viable alternative to chymosin at present and we have decided to continue to use it to allow consumer choice. It is used in all our Goodfella's pizzas, ready-made vegetarian meals with cheese, Eden Vale cottage cheese, or any other vegetarian cheese," Dr Andrews said.

The company had used GM maize in ready-made meals and frozen burgers. A wheat starch will be used instead.

Firms pledge to stay natural

As well as the leading supermarket chains that have declared their own-brand products free of genetically modified ingredients, several other companies have come out as GM-free or are pledged to remove all GM ingredients and the use of GM derivatives .

They include Unilever, Tate & Lyle, Associated British Foods, Rank Hovis McDougal, Cadbury's, Nestlé, Unigate (St Ivel), Dairy Crest, Premier Brands, Glanbia Foods, United Biscuits, Express Dairies, Kraft Jacobs Suchard, Heinz, Best Foods, Weetabix, Kellogg's Ready-to-Eat Cereals, Trebor Bassett, Greggs and Devro.

Diageo, which includes Pillsbury and Burger King, Sun Valley Foods and Walker Snack Foods, is removing GM ingredients but is reviewing their use of GM derivatives.

Allied Domecq, which makes Baskin Robbins ice cream, and Dunkin Donuts are reviewing the position, and MD Foods intends to clarify its stance soon.



08 Jun 99 - GMO - GM test sites fell by half in past year

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

Independent ... Tuesday 8 June 1999


The number of trial sites of genetically modified (GM) crops in Britain has halved since last year, a survey has found. But biotechnology companies say this is because their tests are almost complete.

An investigation into the number of GM trial sites registered with the Department of the Environment this year to grow GM crops - such as herbicide-resistant varieties of oilseed rape, sugarbeet and winter maize -has found only 148, compared with 309 in 1998 .

Jonathan Matthews, of the Norfolk Genetic Information Network, said yesterday that many of the sites taken out of use in the past year were in his county.

He said: "When farmers sent replies to us we were very surprised at the range of concerns they expressed."

He thought that the farmers had been disappointed by yields of the modified crops and their low marketability.

However, two big biotechnology companies, Monsanto and AgrEvo, who sponsored half of the registered trial sites last year, disputed the claim yesterday. They said the reason the number had fallen was that their programme of testing was almost complete.

"The reason that the number of trials we are doing has fallen isn't some inability on our part to get farmers to co-operate," said Clive Rainbird, a spokesman for AgrEvo. "We have been doing small-scale trials on these crops since 1993, and those have provided all the necessary data for the government departments involved. The amount of data required is dropping off - so the number of trials we are doing has fallen from 64 last year to 45 this year."

Marketability was not an issue, he said, because none of the crops was being grown commercially. Farm trials had to be completed before the Government would license the crops for commercial growing.

Monsanto offered the same reason for the number of its trial sites falling from 100 last year to 38 this year.

"Many of those sites were demonstration sites, to show partners in industry what the crops actually looked like," said Tony Combes, a spokesman. "Having seen them one year, they don't need to see them again."

However, the figures will be used in the bitter debate over GM crops, which has already been heightened this week by the news that a farmer in Wiltshire had to destroy a 25-acre trial of herbicide-resistant oilseed rape on the orders of his farm's trustees. They had faced a threat of losing the income from their adjacent organic farming fields amid fears of GM contamination.

The farmer, Fred Barker, was strongly in favour of both the trial and GM crops, but was obliged to spray the field with paraquat weedkiller to destroy them. The Soil Association said the chemical had been used in a way that did not affect the farm's organic crops.

Biotechnology companies are now seeking farmers who will conduct trials of winter-sown oilseed rape , but landowners appear to be increasingly reluctant to allow tenant farmers to take part, fearful of trespass by protesters against GM. It emerged yesterday that Robert Kenyon, who owns a farm near Arborfield, Berkshire, had overruled his tenant farmer and withdrawn permission last week for the planting of a trial site of three acres of GM forage maize developed by Monsanto. The company said the trial had merely been "postponed".

Such disputes are likely to become more common in the months ahead.



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Charles's food label nears organic ideal

by Peter Gruner

Times ... Monday 7 June 1999


The environmentally-friendly food company founded by Prince Charles is becoming almost totally organic.

Duchy Originals , set up in 1990 to encourage more sustainable farming methods, has now switched almost entirely to organic ingredients. Best known for its biscuits made with wheat and oats grown on the organic farm at Highgrove, it aims to promote responsible husbandry of the land and environmentally-friendly production while generating funds for the Prince's charitable causes.

In the case of the biscuits, until now, the wheat and oats were organic but the sugar, butter and flavourings were not. Now the organic sugar cane is coming from Paraguay and the organic butter from Europe .

From this month most of the products in the range, biscuits, breads, preserves and a new soft drink, Lemon Refresher, will be organic, certified by the Soil Association .

The company removed soya lecithin last year from chocolates to avoid risk of genetically modified ingredients creeping in and a new organic line will follow in time for Christmas and the millennium gift market.

"We took the step of testing all our products to confirm their GM-free statu s, and as an additional precaution we went as far as securing a long term supply of GM-free soya for the pig feed for our free range sausages," said a spokeswoman for the company.

The sausages are the exception to the all-organic rule, but they are still made from pigs reared without growth promoters and grown to Duchy Originals welfare standards in East Anglia.

The Duchy range comprises hand-picked companies, including Walkers Shortbread, Crabtree and Evelyn, Ackermans, west London baker La Fornaia and Mr Lazenbys sausages.

The newest line, Lemon Refresher, is made by Orchid Drinks and based on a recipe from the Highgrove chefs.

"Ideally we'd like to go totally organic with British ingredients," the spokeswoman added. "But there's a shortage of organic raw materials."



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Farmers set to abandon crop trials

By Ian Herbert and Charles Arthur

Independent ... Monday 7 June 1999


Farmers growing genetically modified (GM) crop trials are considering abandoning the experiments because eco-activists who attack the farms keep ruining conventional crops by mistake.

Farmers and biotechnology companies say that in a third of cases activists tear up test versions of new conventional crops instead of GM ones, which are outwardly identical. The damage costs thousands of pounds.

In the past few they have torn up crops at dozens of the 300-plus sites around the country conducting GM tests. But they have failed to stop any trial.

"Thirty per cent of the damage by GM activists in the past two years has been to conventional crop trials," said Roger Turner, chairman of Scimac, which represents plant breeders and growers. "There's a delicious irony about it: by delaying the tests on new conventional crops, the protesters make it more likely that GM crops will get market approval first."

On Friday the Royal College of Agriculture (president: the Prince of Wales) decided not to test GM crops at its farm. Mike Limb, the farm's director, said that "we would not want to be exposed to the antics of unruly protesters running amok."

New strains of conventional crops go through the same rigorous test regime as GM ones, and may be tested on the same farm. Activists often work at night and GM tests sites may be as small as a suburban back garden - so they are easy to miss.

In Kings Newton, Derbyshire, farmers and scientists now erect signs on non-GM test sites, pleading with activists to spare them. "We know they will be coming across the fields but we cannot erect 10 foot fences," said one farm worker.

David Hames, the farmer at Lodge Farm in Kings Newton, said he now has reservations about the future use of his land for GM testing. "When I let the testing company have space here I didn't know that much about GM crops but I know more and feel differently now.We have become the targets, even though this work is experimental." Activists did £18,000 of damage to new crops at his farm last year.

Last week, CPV Twyford, of Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, became the first company to quit testing, saying attacks on fields of trial crops were costing it thousands of pounds.



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair shifts to 'open mind' on GM foods

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor

Independent ... Monday 7 June 1999


Modified foods: Prime Minister softens line but warns of dangers of UK losing its present lead in biotechnology

Tony Blair softened his line on genetically modified foods yesterday, when he denied being an advocate for so-called "Frankenstein foods" and insisted he merely wanted to keep "an open mind".

The Prime Minister's approach, in an interview on BBC Television's Breakfast with Frost programme, was in marked contrast to his attack last month on the "media hysteria" about GM foods. His rethink follows the Prince of Wales's broadside over the Government's handling of the issue.

Several Labour MPs have warned party whips that they are receiving a stream of complaints from the public about the Government's strong support for the industry. "It's the number one issue," one backbencher said yesterday. "People are very worried about this."

Mr Blair insisted that banning GM foods would risk throwing away Britain's lead over other countries in biotechnology, at a time when Germany was spending hundreds of millions of pounds on catching up.

"Britain is at the leading edge of this new technology, particularly in relation to medicines. It could indeed be the leading science of the 21st century," he said.

Denying suggestions that the Government was a "great advocate" of GM food he said: "I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind."

Mr Blair said it would be a mistake to ban the new technology , a move which might be proved wrong in 15 or 20 years time. "At the moment I think the jury's out, which is why we've got to have these trials and have scientific evidence done very, very carefully indeed," he said.

He appeared to acknowledge the Government was out of step with public opinion , saying no politician wanted to be in that position. "I know it's a very unpopular thing to say, but sometimes it's important to say to people look, there is another argument," he said.

"We have to proceed according to basic evidence and not simply say because people talk about Frankenstein foods , we chuck the whole thing out of the window."

When challenged by Sir David Frost, Mr Blair did not deny a report in The Independent on Sunday yesterday that his wife Cherie privately shares Prince Charles's concerns about the safety of GM foods.

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, who has adopted a more sceptical stance than Mr Blair over GM produce , said yesterday that Prince Charles had "an important contribution to make " and that the Government was anxious to talk to him. Mr Meacher admitted there were "very great uncertainties" about the new technology. "I'd be the first to recognise that the existing level of research does need to be supplemented," he told GMTV. "We need to continue monitoring and regulating in the most stringent way to be absolutely sure."

He insisted that biotechnology should not be rejected, but said the public was quite right to be concerned about it. "It would be quite wrong to dismiss all the concerns.... There is a genuine and perfectly proper concern... about this."



07 Jun 99 - GMO - First GM farmer destroys his crops

by Geraint Smith

Evening Standard ... Monday 7 June 1999


The farmer who agreed to having the country's first large-scale trial of genetically modified crops on his land has destroyed them with weedkiller.

Captain Fred Barker says the trustees of his family farm at Hannington in Wiltshire forced him to end the trial because they are opposed to the Government-run experiment and were unhappy that other crops on the farm were to lose their organic status because of the trial .

Capt Barker sought advice from the Environment Agency about how to destroy the crops. On Saturday, he applied the weed-killer they had suggested. He regretted having to abort the trial, and said he believed strongly in GM technology.

The 26-acre crops of GM rapeseed were planted at Easter. Farm trustees are there to safeguard the land and its cultivation for future generations.

Capt Barker told Radio 4's Today programme that he was "gobsmacked to be summoned to London" last Thursday to be told that the trustees were insisting that he end the trial. "They gave me a three to none majority that they did not want it to continue," he said. "I had no choice. I believe strongly in GM food, I think it is fascinating, and I am convinced it is the future of agriculture. I think in 20 years we shall all be growing it.

"The trustees looked at the broader view of the land, the children who live on the land and the neighbours than I did as the farmer planting the crop. I am not saying they are wrong. I am just sad that my beautiful trial, which was looking so wonderful, is dead. I was very proud of it, in fact."

The company which developed the GM crop seeds, AgrEvo, said it was "deeply disappointed" that the trial had been aborted. It said the trial was designed to answer vital questions about the effect of GM crops on the environment.

Friends of the Earth said the decision to terminate the trial would be a bitter blow to the Government , which was supporting it as one of six GM trials. Last month, a seed company withdrew from all GM crop trials because of attacks by environmental campaigners. CPB Twyford, based in Cambridgeshire, said protesters had caused thousands of pounds of damage to its crops.

Other farmers in Cambridgeshire have consistently refused to get involved in the trials for fear of reprisals by protesters.

"It's not just that they destroy the crop," said one. "It's that, in order to get at the crop, they damage other crops, fences, hedges - you name it."

The location of GM trials, including grid references, is freely available as a public document, although the accuracy of some of the references was called into question recently when it was discovered that one of them was somewhere in the North Sea.

Environmentalists want a four-year moratorium on the licensing of GM crops - a demand the Government has refused. It says deciding when licensing is safe is a matter for the judgment of scientists not the expiry of an arbitrary period of time.



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair asks public to keep an open mind on biotech foods

By Roland Watson, Chief Political Correspondent

Times ... Monday 7 June 1999


Tony Blair tried to calm public fears about genetically modified foods yesterday as he insisted that the Government was not an advocate for the biotech industry .

Mr Blair said he appreciated people's concerns but urged them to keep an open mind. However, with genetic modification at the cutting edge of current scientific development, particularly in medicine, the Prime Minister said that it would be wrong to ban "what could be the leading science of the 21st century".

He said: "We have to proceed according to basic evidence and not simply say, well, because people talk about Frankenstein foods we chuck the whole thing out of the window."

After the Prince of Wales's impassioned attack on GM foods last week and his previous private clash with the Prime Minister over the issue, Mr Blair said that he could not be certain that genetic modification was the way ahead.

He said that he was no scientist, but that there was enough scientific evidence pointing to the potential benefits as well as the potential pitfalls to continue experimenting.

Britain was currently leading the way in biotech development, he said, with countries such as Germany pouring billions of pounds into their own efforts to keep up. And it would be wrong to jeopardise that while the case either way was unproven, he said.

Mr Blair told BBC Television's Breakfast with Frost: "I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind. If we suddenly ban all this, throw it out, we could find in 15 or 20 years' time that we'd got it wrong."

He declined to be drawn on reports that Mrs Blair agreed with the Prince of Wales in opposing GM foods.

"If I start discussing what Cherie and I talk to each other about at breakfast, I'm going to get into a lot of trouble," he said.

But he insisted that Britain had one of the toughest regulatory regimes covering the field in the world.

He added that the Government had not licensed any GM foods since it came to power two years ago.

Genetically modified rice 'can combat blindness'

A type of rice rich in nutrients to combat the blindness suffered by thousands in the developing world has been genetically engineered by scientists (Nick Nuttall writes from Rome).

The rice has been gene altered using DNA from a yeast or soil bacterium to produce a substance which, when eaten, turns into Vitamin A. The work is set to transform the health and quality of life of millions of people throughout Asia and other parts of the developing world where rice is a staple.

The breakthough has been made by a team at the Institute of Cell Biology in Freiburg, headed by Dr Peter Beyer. The scientists, whose findings will be published soon, have isolated a gene from a common bacteria which, when put into rice, allows it to make compounds called caretenoids.

The breakthrough is just one of a string of developments to emerge from a plant biotechnology programme funded by the European Commission. Many of the programmes findings will be unveiled this week at the Phytosfere 99 conference here.

Professor Peter Bramley, of the division of biochemistry at the University of London's Bedford College and a member of a Europe-wide plant genetic engineering group, yesterday hailed the find as an important step in the battle to fight disease and blindness in the developing world.

"Rice contains few nutrients. Caretenoids, which are what the team have managed to make rice produce, are precursors of Vitamin A. There is a huge problem of Vitamin A deficiency in the poor parts of the world and this causes blindness," he said.

The current furore over gene-altered crops in Britain is over herbicide-tolerant crops which, critics claim, only benefit farmers, producers and chemical companies while threatening the environment.

The conference will also hear details about gene-altered plants which turn blue in the presence of radiation pollution.



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Farmer destroys GM test site after protests

Guardian staff and agencies

Guardian ... Monday 7 June 1999


Britain's first and largest crop trial of genetically modified foods ended today when Captain Fred Barker destroyed GM crops on his land with weedkiller.

The move was welcomed by environmentalists . Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Jean Saunders said: "We are very happy that Captain Fred Barker has bowed to public pressure and destroyed crops on his land. We feel the government has moved into trials of GM food hastily and without proper research. We feel experiments such as these in the open air should not continue."

Captain Barker said he had reluctantly stopped the experiment on Saturday morning by dousing weedkiller on the crop because opposition to modified foods from the public and his trustees made his position untenable.

"It is with great regret that I have had to abort my GM trial," Capt Barker told BBC radio. "I have no option but to follow my trustees' wishes in destroying the crop." Stopping the experiment, he said, was like "losing a child".

An enthusiastic advocate of GM science, Capt Barker readily volunteered his 3,000-acre family trust-run farm in Wiltshire for a government-approved trial in which 26 acres of GM oilseed rape was planted. The scheme sparked an outcry from the start and even Prince Charles - who rode out with Capt Barker while master of the Vale of White Horse Hunt in the late 1980s - last week criticised the tampered crop in a front-page article in the Daily Mail. The Prince - whose Highgrove home is a stone's throw from Capt Barker's farm - is a fierce opponent of GM science. His article highlighted the similarities to the BSE crisis and criticised the lack of research into the long-term effects of the GM revolution.

The final straw for Capt Barker was an ultimatum from the Soil Association warning that the remainder of the sprawling farm would lose its organic status unless the tampered seeds were destroyed. Capt Barker also farms 250 acres of organic field beans.

''I believe very strongly in the technology and the bio-tech industry and also all the work that has gone into these trials," Capt Barker said. "However, the trustees of my family settlement have very different views and have all along not been in favour, but recent events have made them come out against this GM trial. ''Therefore, I have no option but to follow my trustees' wishes in destroying the crop."

The open-air test crop was planted in April after the government authorised 140 sites for outdoor trials. The aim of the trials is to assess the effects on farmland wildlife and organic crops of growing herbicide-tolerant GM crops and not to make food for commercial use. The agro-chemical giant AgrEvo planted GM seeds in a central 26-acre site with a 50-metre ''no man's land'' separation border from the next field. Ninety acres of unmodified crops acted as a control around the test site which has been inspected by five government scientists.

Controversy arose almost immediately, when ecologists claimed AgrEvo had breached guidelines for publicising the experiments . Companies seeking to plant GM crops are legally obliged to publish details in local newspapers. AgrEvo advertised the plantings only in the Gloucestershire Echo, scarcely read by locals and not sold in the nearest village shop.

The firm later agreed to take out extra adverts in the wider circulated Swindon Advertiser to quell the outcry. But neighbouring organic farmers and beekeepers who feared contamination by cross-pollination have constantly called for the ''Frankenstein food'' to be scrapped. Prime minister Tony Blair this weekend appealed for people to keep an open mind on GM foods, but stressed he was not an advocate. He warned that banning the trials would risk throwing away Britain's world lead in a potentially crucial new technology.

Scimac (Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops) - a formal grouping of farmers, plant breeders, the seed trade and biotechnology companies - said that other trials would go on.

''It is extremely disappointing that the preparation and work involved in establishing this site, and the resulting data, have been lost, the group said. "But it in no way affects our commitment to answering the questions surrounding GM crops. 'The remainder of this year's farm-scale plantings are still in place, and will form the basis for continuing evaluation of the ecological effects of GM cropping.''



07 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair softens stance on GM foods

Nicholas Watt, Political Correspondent

Guardian ... Monday 7 June 1999


Tony Blair yesterday signalled a significant softening of his support for genetically modified foods when he declared that "the jury is out" on whether they are safe to eat.

After months of intensive campaigning by ministers on the benefits of GM foods, the prime minister indicated that he has heeded growing public opposition when he admitted that he was horrified when he first heard the term.

"The first time I heard about genetic modification the term [was] so terrible," Mr Blair told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost. "You think, my goodness, what on earth is going on here. You think of Dr Strangelove."

The Prince of Wales, who spoke out against the genetic modification of crops last week, reportedly told friends that Cherie Booth spoke of her worries about the health and environmental impact of GM crops over lunch at his Highgrove estate last September.

In the interview yesterday the prime minister refused to comment on his wife's thoughts, joking that he would "get into a lot of trouble" if he spoke about their private discussions.

But Mr Blair said that he understood such fears, as he attempted to recast himself in the role of a neutral observer on the issue of GM foods.

Mr Blair said: "We're in the position, as the government, where it is almost as if people say you're the greatest advocates of GM food. I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind."

His comments appeared to be a carefully orchestrated attempt by Downing Street to shift the government's stance after the Prince of Wales's intervention. Downing Street was deeply concerned in private about the impact on public opinion after the prince described genetic modification as potentially dangerous.

However, Mr Blair remains committed to pressing ahead with research into genetic modification because of its potential benefits and because he did not want Britain to lose its lead in the field to countries which are pouring millions of pounds into research.

"At the moment I think the jury's out, which is why we've got to have these trials and have scientific [research] done very, very carefully indeed... But I do say to people, to ban the whole thing on the basis of what are often pretty sensational reports would be a mistake," he said.

A senior Downing Street source insisted last night that the government's policy on GM foods had not changed: "The prime minister is attempting to frustrate any attempt to put him at war with the Prince of Wales. He made clear that he does not think it is sensible to ban something that could be one of the most important scientific developments of the next century."

But Michael Meacher, the environment minister, fuelled speculation that the government is changing tack when he admitted that there were "very great uncertainties" about the new technology.

Speaking on GMTV, Mr Meacher said there would have to be more research into GM foods. "I'd be the first to recognise that the existing level of research does need to be supplemented," he said.



07 Jun 99 - GMO - GM food ban would undermine British science, says Blair

By Robert Shrimsley, Chief Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Monday 7 June 1999


Britain could be overtaken by Germany in the cutting edge technology of the next century if the Government caves in to demands for a ban on genetically modified foods, Tony Blair said yesterday.

The Prime Minister warned that Germany was "pouring literally hundreds of millions of pounds" into biotechnology to try to catch up with the UK, which is at the leading edge of scientific research. Mr Blair said GM foods were only one aspect of biotechnology and indicated that blocking the development of the science in any area could undermine British research in other related spheres.

He said: "Genetic modification has many different areas, for example in medicine, and Britain is at the leading edge of this new technology... it could be the leading science of the 21st century." But Mr Blair's wife Cherie is understood to share the Prince of Wales's concerns over the health and environmental impact of GM crops.

Asked about reports that she was not at one with him on the issue, Mr Blair did not deny that there might be a disagreement. Mr Blair said: "I think if I start discussing what Cherie and I talk to each other about at breakfast I'm going to get into trouble." The suggestion that Mrs Blair was concerned about GM foods was circulated by friends of the Prince of Wales, who last week publicised his own objections in an article in the Daily Mail.

Although Mr Blair insisted that he was not taking sides, he said it would be bad for British industry to give in to the public outcry over GM foods. Urging people to keep an open mind, he said: "I just worry that we have to proceed according to basic evidence and not say because people talk about Frankenstein foods we [should] simply chuck the whole thing out of the window." Mr Blair warned of the risks of banning GM foods and biotechnology research and "then finding in 15 or 20 years that we'd got it wrong".

Interviewed on BBC television, the Prime Minister said: "We are in the position as the Government where it is almost as if people say 'you are the great advocates of GM foods'. I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind. All I say to people is just keep an open mind and let us proceed according to genuine scientific evidence."

Earlier yesterday, Michael Meacher, the environment minister known to be sceptical about GM foods, emphasised the need for more research, saying there were "very great uncertainties" about the new technology. Speaking on GMTV he said: "I'd be the first to recognise that the existing level of research does need to be supplemented. We need to continue monitoring and regulating in the most stringent way to be absolutely sure."



06 Jun 99 - GMO - Modified corn on sale in UK 'kills' life-saving antibiotics

By Marie Woolf

Independent ... Sunday 6 June 1999


GM corn sold in Britain could render eight powerful antibiotics, used by doctors to fight fatal diseases including typhoid, pneumonia and infections suffered by Aids patients, useless within half an hour.

Expert advice received by the Ministry of Agriculture (Maff) as long ago as 1995 , warned that an antibiotic resistance gene inserted into a type of GM maize was so powerful that it could degrade an antibiotic in the human gut in 30 minutes .

The antibiotics are used to treat people with diseases such as bronchitis, septicemia, gangrene and life-threatening infections suffered by people with cystic fibrosis and Aids.

The leaked advice , from members of the Government's powerful Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, warned that the antibiotic resistance genes can mutate.

GM maize is already grown in the US and imported into Britain in foods such as tortilla chips.

The leaked advice has brought calls from environmentalists to ban the import into Britain of all GM food containing antibiotic resistance genes.

The week the Liberal Democrats will take the toughest stand by any political party yet on GM when they publish a policy paper on genetic modification. The party will call for the "swift phasing out of the use of antibiotic marker genes" .

"It is completely irresponsible for the Government to allow antibiotics to be used indiscriminately like confetti at a wedding," said Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman.

The Liberal Democrats will call for genetic engineering companies, such as Monsanto and Novartis, to be legally liable for millions of pounds of compensation if the food turns out to harm people.

However, Novartis has defended its BT-maize, which was one of the first genetically modified products in agriculture, as "completely safe".

"The risk of antibiotic resistance in medical practice is not affected by BT-maize. This conclusion has been reached by all expert committees who have studied this question," said a spokesman.

But a letter written to Maff in 1995 by a scientist on the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes warned that the maize could produce resistance to several key antibiotics.

"I have been reliably informed that the production of this enzyme would result in resistance not only to ampicillin, but also to the other penicillins active against gram negative bacteria, namely ampicillin, amoxycillin, piperacillin, mexlocillin, azlocillin, micillinam, carbenicillin and ticarcillin," the letter says. "This gene is in [an] active state of evolution and may undergo mutation."

Another letter from a scientific adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture in 1996 states that the antibiotic resistance marker gene could, in the gut of a farm animal or human, "be sufficient to degrade the normal therapeutic dose of ampicillin in about 30 minutes".

Doctors use these penicillins to treat salmonella, meningitis, bronchitis and infections which are life-threatening to cystic fibrosis and Aids sufferers. They also save the lives of people suffering from endocarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart.

"Food containing these dangerous antibiotic resistance genes are coming into the country. If other countries are banning it on health grounds, why aren't we? " said Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth. "This just shows how the Government in this country is putting business interests before public health interests."



06 Jun 99 - GMO - Minister fears 'three heads' from GM foods

by Simon Trump

Times ... Sunday 6 June 1999


A Labour minister is choosing not to eat genetically modified food because by consuming it "you could end up with three heads" . Kim Howells, the minister for consumer affairs, admitted his concerns last week as he revealed that to avoid any risk he grows all his own vegetables on an allotment at his home in Pontypridd.

"It tastes so much better and you know where it has come from. With that other stuff [GM food] you could end up with three heads ," he added in jest, although he made it clear that he prefers not to eat it. His wife, Eirlys, eats only their home-grown vegetables.

For the past year Howells has been cultivating an allotment at the bottom of his garden, which he rents for £36 a year. Speaking as he tended his broad beans, he said: "It keeps me sane. I come down here and empty my mind. It's my therapy." He admitted that in the Commons his attention sometimes wanders to whether his beans are being attacked by slugs.

A former communist, Howells is said within Westminster to be allowed the freedom to speak his mind because Tony Blair finds him entertaining. His opinion on GM food, however, is unlikely to amuse the prime minister, who supports the introduction of GM crops.

Blair has refused to endorse a moratorium on GM food and was said to be "seething" when the Prince of Wales last week publicly repeated his fears over the issue. Ministers have been ordered to toe the government line on GM foods and keep any reservations to themselves under the collective responsibility rule.

Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth, said of Howells's remarks: "I don't know about three heads but it certainly shows the two faces of government . Even ministers won't swallow their own line on GM foods."

New research may vindicate Howells's stand. Scientists in California are to publish results of tests which reveal that GM soya beans are less nutritious than their conventional counterparts . Its authors claim their findings undermine assertions by biotech companies that GM crops are not inferior to naturally grown foods.

A study by the Centre for Ethics and Toxins, an environmental group, will report that two varieties of Roundup Ready soya beans marketed by Monsanto, a leading provider of GM crop seeds, can contain up to 14% less of certain nutritional components , These are thought to offer some protection against diseases such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

"I think we have a blockbuster here because we have shown there are significant differences in the GM soya bean," said Marc Lappé, co-author of the report. "I think this is the smoking gun people have been waiting for."

Monsanto said data showing that Roundup Ready soya was substantially equivalent to other varieties had been published three years ago and had not been challenged by other scientists: "It was approved by the FDA on this basis. If these scientists have data that shows the test used by government regulators is inadequate or unreliable, they should tell them."



06 Jun 99 - GMO - We don't believe our food is safe

Joanna Blythman

Independent ... Sunday 6 June 1999


It's no wonder that public confidence in what we eat has plummeted to an all-time low

First it was just poultry and eggs that we had to avoid. Now it's pork and beef, and a growing list of seemingly innocuous Belgian foods, like chocolate truffles and croissants, which are being removed from supermarket shelves following the latest European scare.

This scandal, caused by a Flemish firm selling to farms animal feed contaminated by dioxins, and kept secret by Belgian politicians in the know , is part of a tradition of European agricultural disasters. There was Spain's record on illegal hormones in meat ; there was the case of the 400 Spaniards who died after eating contaminated cooking oil. Let's not forget the antifreeze in Austrian wine , or Italy, the country where boys grew breasts after eating veal .

Consumers in this country would feel comforted if Britain were ringfenced to avoid such disasters. But the UK presided over the mother of all food disasters - BSE . It's now 10 years since Edwina Currie found her salmonella eggs , and even longer since Professor Richard Lacey warned about the listeria bacteria he found in 25 per cent of supermarkets' ready meals. Four years ago, the government had to issue health warnings about UK carrots after tests revealed they might contain organophosphates residues way over the "acceptable daily limit". The following year, apples got the same "danger" tag. By 1997, deaths from a new, virulent strain of the familiar E. coli bacteria, (0157), were attributed to the condition of animals being transported to slaughter, and to unhygenic practices in butchers' shops .

At the same time, repeated surveys underlined the food poisoning potential of British poultry - anything between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of birds at point of sale were, and still are, contaminated by pathogenic bacteria , capable of causing serious illness and even death.

So what are we to make of these food fiascos? Consumer faith in the safety of food has dropped to an all-time low, as has public confidence in the food and farming regulators. The jury is still out on the validity of public fears over human health risk attached to eating GM foods. But the chance of boycotting GM foods seems slight now that Roundup Ready GM soya is turning up, illegally and unlabelled, in foods such as Tesco's pizzas.

There are those, such as Ian Gardiner, policy director at the National Farmers' Union, who think we should be phlegmatic. "Like any industry [this] is run by human beings who make errors. Systems are designed to prevent these slipping through the net, but they can't always work. You can't just seize on one incident and say the system needs changing. We can only aspire to making as much of it as safe as we can. and correct errors as quickly as possible."

According to Greenpeace, these food disasters show up agriculture as a bankrupt system. "The Belgian government tried to hide what was going on, as our government tried to hide BSE," says John Sauven of Greenpeace. "The truth is these problems are endemic to industrial agriculture . If we try to continue with this unsustainable system, then the crises will continue to be more frequent and more catastrophic."

Animal welfarists offer the same diagnosis. "Factory farming treats farm animals like production machines. They suffer immensely, and the conditions in which they're kept promote the rapid spread of bugs to such a degree that public health and the environment are threatened," says Philip Lymbery of Compassion in World Farming.

This critique was first voiced less than two decades after intensive farming supplanted more traditional pre-war agriculture. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, her indictment of pesticides in the environment. In the interim, we've had the agrochemical industry's so-called Green Revolution, predicated on hybrid crops and pesticides - which have failed to "feed the world's starving" - while the West has built up huge beef mountains and milk lakes.

Now GM food is promoted as the next Green Revolution. This time round, though, the idea that food technology equates with progress, is making the public suspicious - a feeling sharpened by the government's support for the GM food project.

Consumers who are weary of "defensive shopping", of scrutinising labels for production methods and provenance, are latching on to organic food as a safe haven. Sales of organic food are doubling year on year. "There is a consumer revolution underway," says the Soil Association's Patrick Holden.

The food business, however, is uncompromising: organic food, it says, won't feed the world. Christopher Haskins, chairman of one of the UK's biggest food companies, once declared that organic farming was "an ornament of rich countries' agricultural systems".

He added: "An organic global food chain would create instant, catastrophic world famine."

But academic research shows that far from exacerbating famine in developing countries, organic and low-input farming methods could meet the challenges of soil erosion, groundwater pollution and rural disintegration - a legacy of chemical farming methods.

The clean-up bill for BSE alone has cost the UK taxpayer £4.1bn. Factory farming is subsidised by the Common Agricultural Policy, and water com- panies have to clean up intensive farms' pollution. Food in this country has been cheap - but at what price cheapness?

Joanna Blythman's book "The Food Our Children Eat' (£7.99), is published by Fourth Estate.



06 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair fumes, but public backs Charles's stand against GM

By Rachel Sylvester, Marie Woolf and Geoffrey Lean

Independent ... Sunday 6 June 1999


On Wednesday, as controversy raged over the Prince of Wales's comments about genetically modified food, Charles's closest advisers on the environment gathered for lunch at Highgrove. The Prince was bullish that day as he strode through a field of wild flowers, beaming at photographers. In private, at the six-monthly meeting of his group, he was no less delighted with the coverage. As they tucked into organic vegetables grown on the estate, the coterie agreed that his article in the Daily Mail had been a spectacular success, highlighting yet again an issue of particular concern to the Prince and at the same time aligning him with public opinion.

But that was not all. The advisers - who included Commander Richard Aylard, his former private secretary, Richard Sandbrook, founder of Friends of the Earth, and a new recruit, Dr Simon Lyster, head of the wildlife trusts - then turned their attention to the future. Each guest gave a five-minute presentation suggesting ways in which Charles could continue to promote the environment. Last week's intervention may have been the Prince's most vocal foray into politics, but it is not going to be his last. On the issues he feels strongly about, friends say he intends to say what he thinks, however uncomfortable that might be for the Government. The decline in rural communities, the erosion of traditional country life and poverty among farmers - all difficult areas for Tony Blair - are likely to feature heavily in future speeches or articles.

Both Downing Street and St James's Palace insist that reports of a "stand-up row" between the Prime Minister and the Prince about genetically modified food were "overblown". But the two men had discussed the subject, not just at a meeting in St James's Palace five weeks ago but also at a Highgrove lunch in September; according to Royal advisers, the Prince got the distinct impression that Cherie Blair, who was also there, was far more worried about the new technology than her husband .

Charles's decision to restate his concerns just days after Mr Blair had dismissed media "hysteria" over the subject was certainly embarrassing for the Government. There was panic among its strategists on Tuesday morning because Jack Cunningham, who is supposed to speak for the Government on this issue, was away from his desk, relaxing at home. Michael Meacher, the environment minister who is more sceptical about the benefits of GM crops, was sent on to the Today programme instead. He was privately delighted to be given such a free rein - "it gave him a bit of space to take a more cautious line", a close aide said. Today, on GMTV, he will say that the Government is "anxious" to talk to the Prince about his concerns.

The timing of the Prince's article, shortly after the Government's high-profile attempt to allay public fears, was a coincidence. He had been asked by the Daily Mail to write a piece more than two months previously and agreed the publication date two weeks in advance. And St James's Palace insists that the Prince was only reiterating views he has held for years.

The trouble is that a lot of the things which interest the Prince have also moved to the centre of the political stage ; however apolitical it might have seemed two years ago, GM food is now definitely a Government matter. It is also something which has divided the political parties, with the Tories urging greater caution on the Government. Some Labour insiders suspect that the Prince might have been influenced by his conservative, if not Conservative, circle of friends and advisers. The first draft of the Daily Mail article was put together by Elizabeth Buchanan, his assistant private secretary, a staunch Conservative who used to work as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher. She is on secondment to the Prince from Bell Pottinger, the PR company owned by the Tory peer Lord (Tim) Bell.

But the Prince's office insists that he is not getting into party politics. "A lot of the things the Prince of Wales has said over the years have suddenly become popular. Years ago he was the potty Prince, talking to his plants; now everyone is interested in the environment," one adviser said. "He's not going to stop talking about things just because they become politicised." Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association and an unofficial adviser to Charles, believes the Prince just has an "uncanny knack" of spotting issues. "He sees the significance of things before even the experts do and raises questions. That is an entirely responsible use of his power and influence."

It is no coincidence that the Prince went public about something which has become of increasingly wide public concern in recent months. A concerted effort is being made to humanise Charles, to make the man and woman in the street understand him. This week's trip to a Versace fashion show and photocalls such as the one in the Sheffield benefits office, based on a scene from The Full Monty, are all part of an attempt to make him more down to earth. When he goes to Scotland, his advisers want him to visit drug rehabilitation centres dressed in a suit rather than being pictured strolling around Balmoral in a kilt. Just as the hereditary members of the House of Lords have chosen to challenge Mr Blair on issues on which they can be "peers and people" against the Government, so Charles's circle wants to align their man with the concerns of his future subjects. "The target of the Daily Mail article was Middle England," one adviser said. And Charles hit it: by Wednesday lunchtime the Palace had received 800 e-mails from people supporting his stance. For once, it began to appear that Charles could perhaps be the "People's Prince" in the way that his wife was once the "People's Princess".

This outspokenness is going to continue. The Prince had originally planned to use the Daily Mail article to launch a new international commission to investigate the GM industry's claim that their crops could help to feed the world's poor. The idea was to bring together a team of experts, under the chairmanship of Sir Crispin Tickell, a Government environment adviser, to look into one of the apparently most attractive aspects of biotechnology. The commission was to have worked closely with the International Institute for Environment and Development which has done pioneering work on how traditional, organic farming methods could greatly increase production in the Third World. It was originally going to be launched in February but this was postponed "to let the dust settle" during the outcry that month over the findings by Dr Arpad Pusztai that GM potatoes seemed to have damaged laboratory rats.

Two weeks ago, Prince Charles cancelled the idea, following the publication of several other reports on the same subject - but the plan shows the extent to which he is determined to pursue his interests.

The Prince's advisers insist that the commission was not abandoned because of pressure from Downing Street. Certainly, Charles is not afraid to take on the Government if he thinks this is necessary. Top of the agenda next is the countryside, again another tricky issue for Tony Blair. And again it is of concern to the public. And if the Government thinks this issue is of short-term concern to the royal family, it should think again. Prince William has just been elected Secretary of the Agriculture Society at Eton.



06 Jun 99 - GMO - Cherie's against GM too, says the Prince

By Rachel Sylvester and Geoffrey Lean

Independent ... Sunday 6 June 1999


Cherie Blair is worried about the safety of genetically modified food, according to the Prince of Wales .

Prince Charles has told friends that the Prime Minister's wife privately shares his concerns about the health and environmental implications of GM crops . This contrasts starkly with Tony Blair's insistence that the food is safe and he would be happy for his own family to eat it.

According to Royal advisers, the Prince discussed the issue with Mrs Blair when she came to Highgrove with her husband for lunch last September. The Prince refuses to eat or serve GM food and guests are always given organic vegetables from the estate.

He claims Mrs Blair is also privately nervous about genetically modified food and would like to see more research done. Friends say he is delighted to have found an ally in Downing Street.

The revelation of disagreement within Number 10 over such a contentious issue will be embarrassing for the Prime Minister. Mr Blair is adamant that genetically modified food is safe and has blamed "media hysteria" for the growing public concern about the crops. He recently clashed in private with the Prince about GM food at a meeting in St James's Palace.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We never talk about the Prime Minister's discussions with the Royal Family and neither would we about any Mrs Blair had had." However, he stressed, "The Blair household is not a GM-free zone."

The Prince has already put the Government in an awkward position by publicly challenging its claim that GM food is safe. Last Sunday, we revealed that he was seeking a meeting with Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist whose experiments first ignited the debate over GM.

Following this, in an article last week Prince Charles raised serious concerns about the lack of independent scientific research. His intervention was criticised as a breach of the convention that members of the Royal Family do not get involved in politics.



06 Jun 99 - GMO - Blair: Keep Open Mind On Gm Foods

Press Association

Guardian ... Sunday 6 June 1999


Prime Minister Tony Blair has appealed to people to keep an "open mind" on genetically-modified food, and warned that banning the controversial food would risk throwing away Britain's world lead in a potentially crucial new technology.

He denied being an "advocate" for so-called Frankenstein foods , saying: "I'm not the advocate of anything other than keeping an open mind.

"This is an entirely new science, and genetic modification has many different areas, for example in medicines," he told the BBC1 Breakfast with Frost programme.

"Britain is at the leading edge of this new technology, particularly in relation to medicines. It could indeed be the leading science of the 21st century.

"All I say to people is just keep an open mind and let us proceed according to genuine scientific evidence.

"At the moment I think the jury's out, which is why we've got to have these trials and gave scientific evidence very very carefully indeed."

Mr Blair said Britain had a tighter regulatory framework for GM food than "virtually any other country in the world and tighter than in any other area".

The Government had not licensed any GM foods since it came to power two years ago.

He re-opened his attack on the media's reporting of the issue, apparently referring to the coverage of worrying reports of research by Dr Arpad Pusztai, which has recently been called into question by other scientists.

"To ban the whole thing on the basis of pretty sensational reports of what certain people are saying about it, I personally believe would be a mistake."



03 Jun 99 - GMO - Getting it wrong about food

George Monbiot

Guardian ... Thursday 3 June 1999


The most asinine biotechnology report ever written

Monsanto's advertising agency warned the company not to argue that genetic engineering would feed the world . But the temptation proved too great. "Worrying about starving future generations," its adverts informed us last year, "won't feed them. Food biotechnology will." It's hard to see how even a body with Monsanto's self-belief could have imagined that this claim would stand up.

For the corporation had already made its position quite clear. "What you are seeing," one of its executives explained in 1997, as his company purchased scores of seed merchants and biotech firms, "is a consolidation of the entire food chain." The vertical integration it was engineering would grant it a control over food consumption that would have made Stalin writhe in envy.

Monsanto's argument was swiftly and comprehensively dismissed . Development agencies pointed out that people starve not because there is an absolute shortage of food (the world currently produces a surplus) but because food and the means to produce it are concentrated in the hands of the rich and powerful. Corporations seeking to consolidate the food chain threatened to make this situation far worse. Monsanto, sadder and perhaps a little wiser, slunk away . But seven days ago it acquired a new and unlikely champion.

The Nuffield Council for Bioethics is a highly respected independent body, whose recommendations frequently influence government policy. Last week, its panel on the ethics of genetic engineering published its long-awaited report. Research into GM crops, the panel acknowledged, has tended to favour producers in Europe and the US. Patenting of the new technologies, it pointed out, presents "potentially serious difficulties for developing countries". But, the report maintained, if the research effort could only be directed a little more evenly, GM crops would "produce more food, or more employment or income for those who need it most urgently". "The moral imperative," it reasoned, "for making GM crops readily and economically available to developing countries who want them is compelling." This is perhaps the most asinine report on biotechnology ever written. The stain it leaves on the Nuffield Council's excellent reputation will last for years.

The panel made three fundamental mistakes . The first was to assume that the technology is neutral and could, given the right conditions, be evenly deployed and distributed. In truth, genetic engineering is inseparable from its ownership. No genetically engineered crop reaches the market without a patent. Most of these forbid the farmer from saving seed for future plantings: control of the foodchain remains with the corporation at every stage of production.

The second was its crude, even childish, supposition that any technology which produces more will feed the starving . The world is littered with the wreckage of such assumptions. Ethiopia's modern agro-industrialists were exporting animal feed to Europe throughout its devastating famine. Latin America's green revolution, Christian Aid points out, raised food production by 8% per head, but malnutrition increased in the same period by 19%. The Kalahandi region in India suffers repeated famines, but produces surpluses every year. Starvation occurs because of the distorted ownership of the foodchain.

The panel's third mistake was its inexplicable premise that biotechnology will somehow boost employment . Monsanto's leading biotech products - herbicide resistant crops - are sold with the promise that they reduce the need for labour: farmers give their money not to local labourers but to one of the biggest corporations on earth.

So why did such a distinguished panel make such evident mistakes? You don't have to look very far for an answer. While people of every kind sat on the committee, all its biotechnology experts were drawn from the same ideological poo . It is not hard to see how Prue Leith, for example, well meaning as she doubtless was, would have felt obliged to defer to the superior wisdom of the former chairman of the advisory committee for novel foods and processes, or the Unilever research professor of biological sciences. So how do we feed the world? When I suggest that the answer lies in a combination of land reform and organic or semi-organic farming , you'll think I've gone soft in the head. But Jules Pretty of Essex University has documented a quiet revolution across the developing world, in which peasant farmers have doubled or tripled their yields by modern organic techniques. They require lots of labour, no debt, and no help from predatory corporations. Only by such means can the world's poor maintain control over their food supply, and protect themselves from the technologies that the Nuffield panel celebrates .



03 Jun 99 - GMO - WI joins call for five-year ban on GM food crops

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 3 June 1999


More than 250,000 women yesterday added their voices to demands for a five-year moratorium on growing GM crops for food.

The National Federation of Women's Institutes voted overwhelmingly to throw its support behind the Prince of Wales , who delivered an outspoken attack on GM food on Monday. They also demanded that the Government should ban imports of GM foods for the same period , until consumer safety and environmental concerns have been fully investigated.

With 7,055 votes to 368 voting in favour of the moratorium at a packed meeting in the Royal Albert Hall in London, the institute delivered a major blow to Government efforts to reassure consumers about the new food technology.

The WI has more than 250,000 members in 368 local federations throughout the country and is renowned for its "traditional" approach to food and community values. The move was instigated by a motion from the Ickenham village branch in Middlesex.

Sangeeta Haindl, federation spokeswoman, said: "Lots of our branches are concerned about the issue of GM food. Local WIs are involved in many projects to improve the quality of life in their areas and food is a very important part of that. Women want to be sure of the ingredients they use when baking their cakes and cooking in general. They are concerned for their families."

In a debate which dominated the first day of the Royal Bath and West Show at Shepton Mallet, Somerset, - one of Britain's main farming shows - Joan Ruddock, the Labour MP and former minister for women, attacked farmers who grew GM crops as "sinners more than saviours".

She accused supporters of GM technology of "emotional blackmail " by claiming that the new foods would feed the world. She said: "What people in the developing world need is the opportunity to diversify their food, not be condemned in perpetuity to a mono-diet."

The MP for Lewisham and Deptford claimed that GM companies were proceeding without public consent. She said: "Why did they lobby the world's governments to introduce new patent laws for seeds? Why did they fight regulation and labelling? Why in the US did they take the deliberate and irresponsible decision to mix GM and non-GM foods?

"Why? Because unlike most of the governments which they were dealing with, they recognised the awesome implications of this science and didn't want the questions asked ."

She said, dismissing criticism of anti-GM protesters as hysterical, Luddites and scientifically illiterate: "On the contrary, it is neither ignorant nor primitive to be concerned about what we eat. Our instincts may be primeval but BSE taught us they are entirely rational."

There might currently be no evidence to suggest that GM technologies used to produce food were harmful. She said: "But we simply don't know. That is why it is no business of government to try to persuade us one way or the other."

As the controversy raged around him following his comments earlier in the week concerning GM food, Prince Charles strolled in a traditional flower meadow at Clattinger Farm, Wilts, yesterday and joked about rolling in the hay. Standing knee deep in the wild flowers, the Prince told photographers: "Perhaps you want me to recline in it. It makes a change from elephant seals in the background" - a reference to a visit to the Falklands earlier this year.

Owned by the Wildlife Trust, of which the Prince is patron, the farmland has not been treated with modern fertilisers or herbicides. Dr Gary Mantle, director of the trusts, said the royal visit was "a great opportunity for Charles to give his support to sustainable organic farming which is very much in harmony with his own feelings on GM food".



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Locations of UK GMO test site on web

Friends of the Earth

Internet ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


The locations of UK GMO test sites are now accessible on the web courtesy of Friends of the Earth at: http://www.foe.co.uk/camps/foodbio/queries/



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Hunting crops

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


The debate over genetically modified foods is now polarised between those who hail their development as the solution to our planet's demographic explosion, and those who fear an Orwellian future where our dabbling in the stuff of life will kill much more than the beautiful Monarch butterfly. Prince Charles is the latest recruit to the latter camp. Between these positions lie many confused people. However, there is one point on which virtually everyone, bar a few environmental fundamentalists, agree: more testing is needed.

There is a vast debate over the details of how, when and where GM crops should be tested. Subjects such as "isolation distance", which have until now only interested a few crop manufacturers, farmers and officials, are now a matter of burning public interest.

What worries HRH, English Nature and a growing list of organisations not known for their radicalism is that a bee can fly for miles , and on its journey it can assist the cross-pollination of GM and non-GM crops . This threatens to make a mockery of the whole idea that we can safely ring-fence the development of GM, and that this small island can accommodate both GM and organic farming. The government admits it is now looking again at this issue.

About time too. The testing of GM, its impact on wildlife and on other non-GM crops, must be strictly controlled, monitored and independently evaluated; we are not convinced that this is happening. There is sympathy for Genetix Snowball and other responsible direct action groups digging up test sites. But this offers no solution in the long term.

GM crops must be tested and it is the government's job to ensure that is done in a way which builds public confidence. The threat to the Monarch butterfly posed by GM maize was only discovered after years of widespread planting. What scares people is the irreversibility of the environmental impact of GM and that it may be discovered too late.



02 Jun 99 - GMO - The 10 questions - Government answers

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


The Guardian yesterday asked the government to answer Prince Charles' 10 fears for GM food

1. Do we need GM food in this country?

The Prince: The benefits, such as there are seem to be limited to the people who own the technology and the people who farm on an industrialised scale.

The Government: Biotechnology offers enormous opportunities for improving the quality of life in terms of health, agriculture, food and environmental protection.

2. Is GM food safe for us to eat?

The Prince: Only independent scientific research, over a long period, can provide the final answer.

The Government: That is a question for the scientists not politicians. The Government's top priorities are protecting human health and the environment.

3. Why are the final rules for approving GM foods so much less stringent than those for new medicines produced using the same technology?

The Prince: Before drugs are released on to the market they have to undergo the most rigorous testing...Surely it is equally important that [GM foods] will do us no harm.

The Government: Before crops are approved for planting they are subject to several years of testing for adverse effects.

4. How much do we really know about the environmental consequences of GM crops?

The Prince: Lab tests showing that pollen from GM maize in the United States caused damage to the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies provide the latest cause for concern. More alarmingly, this GM maize is not under test.

The Government: Says it recognises the concerns of people who feel that there may be unforeseen long-term effects on the environment. That is why large-scale independent monitoring and testing is so important.

5. Is it sensible to plant test crops without strict regulations in place?

The Prince: Such crops are being planted in this country now - under a voluntary code of practice. But English Nature has argued that enforceable regulations should be in place first.

The Government: New safeguards and a system of enforcement have been agreed between the industry and the Government which could form basis of future statutory or regulatory intervention.

6. How will consumers be able to exercise genuine choice?

The Prince: Labelling schemes clearly have a role to play, but if conventional and organic crops are contaminated by GM crops, people who wish to avoid GM food products will be denied choice.

The Government: This Government was the first to introduce labelling for GM foods. The testing process will establish the dangers, if any, of contamination of non-GM crops.

7. If something goes wrong with a GM crop, who will be held responsible?

The Prince: It is important that we know precisely who is going to be legally liable to pay for any damage - whether it be to human health, the environment or both.

The Government: The issue of liability is being discussed but no regulations have been put in place. If a commercial GM crop is shown to have adverse effects, the Government will have the power to have it removed.

8. Are GM crops really the only way to feed the world's growing population?

The Prince: This arguments sounds suspiciously like emotional blackmail to me.

The Government: That is a question for the scientists. Govt emphasises the enormous benefits from GM crops such as pest resistance.

9. What effect will GM crops have on the people of world's poorest countries?

The Prince: Where people are starving, lack of food is rarely the underlying cause. The need is to create sustainable livelihoods for everyone. Will GM crops really help or will they make the problems worse?

The Government: Say they are taking steps to ensure that individual states have power over ability of multinationals to move GM crops and foods between countries.

10. What sort of world do we want to live in?

The Prince: Are we going to allow the industrialisation of Life itself, redesigning the natural world for the sake of convenience? Or should we be adopting a gentler, more considered approach, seeking always to work with the grain of nature?

The Government: A safe one. That is why we are proceeding extremely cautiously.



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Industry condemns test site map as terrorist charter

James Meikle, Michael White and Stuart Millar

Guardian ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


The first comprehensive map and guide to test sites for genetically modified crops was condemned yesterday by the biotechnology industry for encouraging "terrorist tactics" as the government yesterday moved to play down claims that it was at public loggerheads with the Prince of Wales on the issue.

With Downing Street putting a brave face on the prince's fierce attack on the safety of GM crops and foodstuffs, the temperature was further increased by Friends of the Earth which revealed details of a new website which will allow users to find out their nearest test centres by tapping in their postcodes or using a locator on a map of Britain.

The map, to be launched today, highlights 148 sites often more than one per farm or research facility where consents for planting have either been given (140) or are awaited (eight) (UK Correspondent note: see //www.foe.co.uk/camps/foodbio/queries/). One of the largest, at Lushill Farm, Hannington, near Swindon, Wiltshire, is just 17 miles from Prince Charles's organic farm at Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Others stretch from Somerset and Hampshire in the south to Aberdeenshire in the north. Cambridgeshire alone has 39 sites approved and three awaiting consent.

It also lists 11 trial sites under the supervision of CPB Twyford, despite the company's announcement on Monday that it was pulling out of the tests because of sabotage to its crops.

Charles Secrett, director of FoE, said: "We are not encouraging people to attack these crops but the public have a right to know where they are being grown. There is clearly a great deal of opposition to genetically modified foods and any direct action would be a symptom of this."

His organisation believes the testing programme is already in crisis but wants to increase local debate on the issue to put pressure on farmers to pull out of contracts or not offer their fields for tests in the first place. The top crops being tested are oilseed rape, on 80 sites, and sugar or beet for fodder on 54 sites.

But Roger Turner, chairman of industry body, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops, said: "We are pleased public information is available. The trouble is it highlights areas where those against GM technology feel at liberty to do a bit of crop violation."

Calling on groups leading the opposition such as FoE and the Soil Association to condemn the "terrorist tactics", he added: "They are causing a great deal of damage. Some people don't own up to having done it and those that do own up tend to be shadowy networks of environmental groups."

Crops grown from trials this year will be destroyed after researchers have completed their studies but the GM industry and ministers have still not agreed what happens in subsequent years. The first to be offered for commercial sale, probably in 2001, is likely to be a form of maize used in animal feed.

The prince's latest intervention in the GM controversy, in an article for the Daily Mail, comes less than a week after an irate Tony Blair denounced media hysteria on the subject. Posing 10 questions he said remained unanswered, the prince wrote: "What I believe the public's reaction shows is that instinctively we are nervous about tampering with Nature when we can't be sure that we know enough of the consequences."

Anti-GM campaigners leapt on the prince's remarks as evidence of how isolated ministers are on the issue. Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said: "The prince has asked all the hard questions that which most of us want answered but which the government can't answer."

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South and a leading GM opponent, said: "What the prince has done highlights the bizarre situation we are in where a member of royalty is speaking up for the people, and the democratically-elected government is defending big business ."

But last night, ministers and officials wary of picking a fight with either the royal family or the Daily Mail were at pains to stress there was no rift between Downing Street and St James's Palace. As a courtesy, No 10 was given a copy of the article in advance.

Faced with media pressure for a statement, the prime minister's spokesman repeatedly defended the prince's right to engage in "sensible debate" and to ask fair questions. But he refused any public hint of displeasure that would further prolong ministerial embarrassment over the royal intervention.

"We are perfectly content for the Prince of Wales to make a contribution to a debate which, as you know, we are seeking to encourage."

He added: "There is a desire among you all, I know, for 'Blair at War with Charles over GM Food,' but I am afraid I will frustrate you in your endeavour."

But elsewhere in Whitehall, officials involved in the battle to reassure consumers admitted they had been "irritated that he is taking quite such a public stance which gives the appearance of being against government policy".

An official said: "It is quite simple, we are not in a position to start giving blow-by-blow rebuttals to the future king of England."



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Advisers helped to nurture the royal concern

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Times ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


The Prince of Wales wrote his article questioning the safety of GM foods because he was "extremely irritated" that a government adviser had described the leaders of the Soil Association, of which he is patron, as "ayatollahs".

The Prince consulted fellow supporters of organic farming before writing the Daily Mail article. They included the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, who is president of the Soil Association and the Prince's biographer, and the environmental campaigner Sir Jonathon Porritt.

Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, was said last week by The Observer to have described organic farming as "a theological movement. It has nothing to do with biology. The people who run the movement think that if you put what they call natural poisons in the soil, that is OK.

"Yet some of the stuff they use is really nasty but is deemed OK by the ayatollahs who run the Soil Association and who rule the organic farming movement."

Such a heavy attack on an association so closely linked to the Prince's views was unlikely to be ignored. Patrick Holden, the association's director, was shown early drafts of the Prince's provocative open questions to the Government, published yesterday.

As a matter of courtesy, the Prince faxed a copy to Downing Street on Monday, but by then his views were non-negotiable. The Daily Mail already had a copy and would have known of any attempt by Downing Street to put its spin on the contents.

The main ideas were put together by Elizabeth Buchanan, an assistant private secretary on secondment to the Prince's staff from PR chief Lord Bell. She spent weeks amassing views from advisers, including Sir Jonathon, an environmental consultant for the Cheltenham-based group Focus on the Future, and Richard Aylard, the Prince's former private secretary, who is a public affairs consultant and an environmentalist.

Mr Holden, 48, was probably the outsider most in the know about the genesis of the Prince's article. The two men have known each other for 14 years. The Prince consulted Mr Holden, who has been an organic farmer for 25 years, when he first considered converting Highgrove to organic agriculture. Their friendship was sealed in January after the initial furore over GM foods and crop cultivation.



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Organic farm groups split over gene crops

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


Deep divisions have emerged in the organic farming movement over genetically modified crops, with some groups prepared to accept limited pollen contamination of organic fields.

The Soil Association wants six-mile exclusion zones set around organic farms , but other groups, including the Organic Food Federation, are prepared to accept the Government's 200-metre limit. Farmers threatened with losing Soil Association certification for organic crops are already turning to other bodies for their mark of approval.

Julian Wade, of the Organic Food Federation, said that it would be impossible to guard crops against genetically modified pollen, which could be carried great distances by bees or wind. "It won't be long before commercial GM crops are here," he said. "We do not believe a 60-mile exclusion zone will work, let alone a six-mile one."

But Patrick Holden, of the Soil Association, said: "When we say GM-free, we mean GM-free. This is about consumer choice , and 99 per cent of consumers do not want gene-altered crops and pollen anywhere near their food."

Ministers believe that existing buffer zones of 50 to 200 metres absorb up to 99 per cent of pollen produced by genetically modified crops.

The division of the organic farming movement over the issue is highlighted by the case of Captain Fred Barker, who farms at Hannington, near Swindon. He has a plot of organic beans certified by the Soil Association, but is also growing genetically modified oilseed rape for a government trial aimed at assessing the impact of such crops on the environment.

The Soil Association has told Captain Barker that he has until June 10 to pull up the oilseed rape or lose the organic certification for his beans.

"I am in a cleft stick," he said. "I have already contracted to sell the organic beans to a producer in Lincolnshire. And I have a contract with AgrEvo, who have provided the GM rape seeds, to grow this crop as part of the trials".

However, Charles Peers, of the Organic Farmers and Growers, said last night that his organisation would certify Captain Barker's beans as being organically grown.

Mr Peers said that the OGF were concerned about the impact of genetically modified crops on the organic movement, but farmers had to be pragmatic. He likened contamination of organic crops with genetically modified pollen to air pollution.

"You can't live in London without breathing in car fumes. It is a fact of life," he said. But Adam Twine, whose farm at Coleshill is within five miles of Captain Barker's oilseed rape, has written to ministers expressing his concern over possible cross-contamination.

Mr Twine, who is growing organic oilseed rape, said yesterday: "The risk is small, but there is a risk. This is going to become an increasing issue for organic farmers as more of these GM crops are planted.

"It seems bizarre that the Government is allowing this when the majority of consumers do not want it."

There are five bodies in Britain approved by the Ministry of Agriculture to certify organic produce and food. The Soil Association certifies about 60 per cent of such food, and the Organic Food Federation about 25 per cent. The Organic Farmers and Growers, the Scottish Organic Products Association and the Biodynamics Agricultural Association are smaller bodies.

Mr Holden said that the differences in requirements for certification between the bodies "could lead to a plethora of different standards and the erosion of consumer confidence and trust".

"It is a distressing development," he said. "What is at stake here is the very integrity of organic food."



02 Jun 99 - GMO - - Prince and Blair clash over GM food 'tampering'

Tom Baldwin and Valerie Elliott

Times ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


ROYAL FURY AT HYSTERIA TAUNT

The Prince of Wales clashed privately with Tony Blair over genetically modified food before launching his public attack on the risks of tampering with nature.

The Prince is also understood to have been infuriated by ministerial efforts to denigrate anti-GM campaigners , including a Downing Street accusation that they were stirring up hysteria on the issue.

At a meeting in St James's Palace five weeks ago, the Prime Minister "agreed to disagree" with the Prince, a long-time critic of GM crops and an advocate of organic farming.Although they are still understood to be on amicable terms, a senior Whitehall source suggested that the Prince's newspaper article "should be seen in the context of their earlier disagreement".

As a patron of the Soil Association , the Prince was also particularly concerned by an article written by Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, last week, in which he said that the group was run by "ayatollahs" as a "theological movement".

Yesterday the Government appeared to be beating a hasty retreat in the wake of the Prince's public challenge. Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, said the questions raised in the article had been "entirely fair" and said that there was no intention of "forcing GM food down people's throats".

Downing Street also refrained from criticising the Prince's article, a copy of which was seen in advance by No 10.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "His views on this area are well known, as is his interest. We are perfectly content for him to make a contribution to the debate, which we are seeking to encourage."

He added that well-balanced contributions were welcome, adding: "People are perfectly entitled to ask questions, but the Government is responsible for government policy. Once again, we would point out that GM foods on the market in this country are safe."

The comments were in sharp contrast to Mr Blair's last week when he condemned "skewed reporting" of the issue and dismissed concerns raised by environmental groups, similar to those raised by the Prince, as "hysteria".

In his article, the Prince attacked the lack of independent scientific research into GM crops and questioned whether the regulations governing the cultivation of GM crops were tough enough.

He ridiculed one of the Government claims, that GM food could help to feed the Third World, as "emotional blackmail", adding that the only people who seemed likely to benefit were those who owned the technology and who farmed on an industrial scale.

"What I believe the public's reaction shows is that instinctively we are nervous about tampering with nature when we can't be sure that we know enough about all the consequences," he said.



02 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince opens Labour rift on GM crops

By Charles Clover Environment Editor and George Jones Political Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 2 June 1999


Deep divisions emerged within the Government yesterday over the development of genetically modified crops, following a challenge by the Prince of Wales to claims that they could help to feed the world's growing population in the next century.

Downing Street reacted with thinly disguised irritation to an article by Prince Charles in the Daily Mail raising 10 "unanswered questions" about the safety, ethics and efficacy of GM technology. Although the Prime Minister's spokesman refused to be drawn into a direct clash with the Prince, it was clear there is considerable anger in Whitehall at the way he has reignited the public debate on the issue.

The Prince's intervention has delivered a body blow to the Government's attempts to reassure people that GM crops are safe. But ministers fear an open clash with the Prince would serve only to intensify the controversy, so the Government's damage limitation exercise was designed to play down the impact of his intervention.

Most of the 10 questions the Prince had asked in some form before, notably in an article in The Daily Telegraph last year. But he effectively parachuted a cat into one of the Government's most hotly defended chicken coops by questioning the assertion that GM technology will be important to feed the world when its population doubles in the next century.

Asserting that the argument sounded "suspiciously like emotional blackmail", the Prince said the countries that could be expected to benefit took a different view. Representatives of 20 African countries, including Ethiopia, had published a statement denying that gene technologies would help farmers to produce the food they needed.

"They think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems... and undermine our capacity to feed ourselves," said the Prince.

Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office minister, last week praised a report by the influential Nuffield Council on Bioethics think-tank, which said there was a "compelling moral imperative" to develop GM crops to help to fight hunger in the Third World.

It is also the belief of Sir Robert May, chief scientific adviser to the Prime Minister, who told the Commons environmental audit committee last month that GM crops were essential if the world's population was to be fed in 50 years' time.

Sir Robert mocked the biotechnology company Monsanto for not making more of this argument, which he said was his main reason for endorsing GM crops. If it had not been for the green revolution, he said, bringing higher yielding crops dependent on pesticides and fertilisers, we would not be able to feed the present world population of six billion, let alone one of 10 billion.

However he conceded that most of the current problems of starvation in the world were problems of "distribution, not production".

In contesting these views, the Prince endorsed the "devastating " report by Christian Aid earlier this year which took the view that GM crops were irrelevant to ending hunger as they would be more likely to produce cash crops for export to the West, and criticised them as likely to put too much power over food into too few hands.

Where people were starving, said the Prince, lack of food was rarely the underlying cause. It was more likely to be lack of money, distribution problems - caused, though the Prince merely hinted at this, by corruption - or political difficulties, even wars.

He found an ally within the Government yesterday in Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, who said the 10 unanswered questions the Prince raised were "perfectly legitimate". He agreed that GM technology would not feed the world.

Mr Meacher said: "Prince Charles refers to the Christian Aid document, which I've read and think is basically correct. While you can engineer plants to withstand soils, which confer some benefits, the idea that this is an answer to feeding the world is preposterous."

Mr Meacher said he took a different view from Sir Robert May and that he saw family planning, poverty alleviation, land reform and water conservation - plus the spread of democratic institutions - as the real keys to feeding the world. But when it came to providing the answer to the Prince's 10 questions, Mr Meacher added: "I don't know that we can do more than we are doing."

The author of the Christian Aid report, Andrew Simms, said yesterday that the biggest growth in Africa was in luxury horticulture - "mange-tout for the Hampstead set, not meeting people's needs". The answer, he said, was neither "old-style green revolution nor gene revolution".

"The seduction of the new technology is that it is crowding out other tried and tested methods of improving yields, often at zero cost," he said. The Prince found support yesterday even among the supporters of biotechnological development.

Prof Chris Payne, chief executive of Horticultural Research International, a public sector research centre, said: "I believe GM technology has the potential to increase yield and increase quality in ways which have not been available to us before. We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. It may be that, for safety reasons, we are not able to press on with it as fast as some organisations would like.

"But I think it is naive to assume that GM technology by itself is going to feed the world. You have distribution and a wide range of political issues to deal with. It is not going to bring food to starving populations in Africa overnight. There are many more profound issues to be addressed."

Earlier, Mr Blair's spokesman said the Prime Minister, who last week accused the media of whipping up "hysteria" on the issue, was "perfectly content" for the Prince to make a contribution to a debate on GM foods, which the Government was seeking to encourage.

He said Downing Street was informed in advance about the Prince's article and shown a text. "The Prince's views in this area are well known, as is his interest in it."

When pressed by journalists at a Downing Street briefing, the spokesman accused newspapers of seeking a headline "Blair at war with Charles over GM foods". His aim was to frustrate attempts to place that interpretation on the Government's reaction to the Prince's article.

So why was the Government highly critical of other environmental activists, such as Friends of the Earth, who made similar points? The spokesman said the Prime Minister and Mr Cunningham had been criticising "one-sided scaremongering in the media".

"People are perfectly entitled to put questions. The Government is responsible for Government policy, and GM foods on the market in this country are safe. The Prince of Wales is making an important contribution to an important public debate."



01 Jun 99 - GMO - Charles forces reverse on GM foods

by Charles Reiss

Evening Standard ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


The Government today went into a sudden retreat on the issue of genetically modified food after a public challenge from Prince Charles.

Both Downing Street and the Environment Department shied away from a confrontation with the Prince over an already highly charged issue.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher said that the Prince was "absolutely right" to question the lack of control over trial crops, the lack of a compensation scheme should anyone suffer and other fears.

All the questions the Prince had raised, in an article for the Daily Mail, were "entirely fair", Mr Meacher said. He added: "I welcome Prince Charles - he's undoubtedly got a deep and passionate interest in the subject and I think he is reflecting accurately the concerns of a lot of people."

Last week, however, precisely the same questions from environment groups and others were dismissed by Tony Blair as "hysteria ". The Prime Minister condemned what he called "skewed reporting " of the GM food debate and his spokesman criticised the way in which the media barely reported positive evidence but gave wide coverage to "anything which fed the hysteria ".

Mr Blair's Cabinet "enforcer", Jack Cunningham, faced with identical questions on the BBC, accused his interviewer of pandering to "the green agenda".

Environmental groups today welcomed the Prince's article. Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett, who was himself strongly attacked by Mr Cunningham, said: "Prince Charles has set out once again the fears of most people in this country."

However, his views were rejected by Monsanto, the biotechnology giant at the forefront of GM crop development. Corporate affairs director Tony Combes said: "Dozens of worldwide regulatory agencies have decided that biotechnology crops are safe for the environment and for people to eat."

The refusal by Mr Blair to pick a fight with the Prince is politically under-standable. But it carries the risk of renewed confusion over the Government stance and charges that the Government is speaking with one voice to the Prince and taking a completely different tack with other critics. No 10, in a carefully-worded statement, sought to draw a difference between the questions from Prince Charles and the rest.

It said: "The Government has been in the forefront of calls for a rational debate on GM foods, rather than the scaremongering we have seen in some parts of the media. Prince Charles's article should be seen in that context."

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth today published a website map showing that experimental GM test sites span Britain from Somerset to Norfolk and from Aberdeenshire to Hampshire. It was feared the crops would quickly be ruined by protesters.

Mr Secrett said "We are not encour-aging people to attack these crops but the public have a right to know where they are being grown. There is clearly a great deal of opposition to genetically modified foods and any direct action would be a symptom of this."



01 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince doubts GM food safety

By Helen Rumbelow And Roland Watson

Times ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


The Prince of Wales renews his assault on genetically modified food today, describing it as unnecessary and potentially dangerous .

In a damning condemnation of GM crops he gave a warning that there has been too little testing and regulation to ensure their safety, and he fears that British society may pay for the consequences, as in the aftermath of the BSE crisis.

"Are we going to allow the industrialisation of life itself, redesigning the natural world for the sake of convenience?" he asks in an article in the Daily Mail today.

The Prince also asks whether Britain is at a "crossroads of fundamental importance", with the country on the verge of "embarking on an Orwellian future".

His attack comes four days after Tony Blair accused the media of whipping up hysteria on the issue. But Downing Street, which was shown a copy of the article before publication out of courtesy by the Prince, remained unmoved by his remarks, a spokesman said last night.

"His interest in this area is well known, as are his views. The Government has been in the forefront of calls for a sensible, rational debate on GM foods rather than the scaremongering we have seen in some of the media. Prince Charles's article should be seen in that context.

"This is a complex area and the Government is proceeding according to the best science available. GM foods currently on the market in this country are safe."

The Prince accuses supporters of GM foods of using emotional blackmail to cover up its dangers when they argue that GM crops are the only way to feed the world's growing population.

"Is there any serious academic research to substantiate such a sweeping statement?" he asks.

Instead, he said, there was a danger that the environment might be damaged by the new technology, with untold implications.

"Who is going to be legally liable to pay for any damage - whether it be to human health, the environment, or both?" he says.

"Will it, as was the case with BSE, be all of us?" He argues that scientific research is still in its early stages, but "on the basis of what we have seen so far, we don't appear to need [GM foods] at all."

"Isn't there are least a possibility that the new crops (particularly those that have been made resistant to antibiotics) will behave in unexpected ways, producing toxic or allergic reactions? Only independent scientific research, over a long period, can provide the final answer."

He is also concerned about cross-pollination.

"Since bees and the wind don't obey any sort of rules - voluntary or statutory - we shall soon have an unprecedented and unethical situation in which one farmer's crop will contaminate another's against his will." The Prince says that there is another option possible for Britain, suggesting that we should adopt "a gentler, more considered approach, seeking always to work with the grain of Nature in making better, more sustainable use of what we have, for the long-term benefit of mankind as a whole".

Last November the Prince set up a discussion forum on the question of GM foods on his Internet site and has already received 10,000 "hits".

He is planning to meet Arpad Pusztai, the scientist whose much-disputed research first ignited fears over the safety of GM foods. Dr Pusztai alleged that rats which were fed genetically modified potatoes in one of his experiments suffered damage to their immune systems.



01 Jun 99 - GMO - GM forms of wild species 'may lead to crisis'

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


Companies are developing genetically modified versions of native grasses, fish and trees which could cause ecological disaster by breeding with wild species if they were released, say Government advisers.

Development of GM versions of wild species - meadow grasses, carp, salmon, turbot, plaice and poplar - poses ethical questions far beyond those raised by the GM crops awaiting commercial release, which are relatively self-contained in their impact, according to English Nature, the Government's wildlife advisers.

A review of work on modifying wild species in laboratories around the world has led English Nature to request that the genetic modification of wild native species is discussed urgently by the new Agricultural and Environment Biotechnology Commission, the new ethics committee announced by Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office minister.

GM grasses are the latest cause for concern, says English Nature. Scientists working for two biotech companies have been experimenting with introducing herbicide tolerance into agricultural grasses used in meadows and pastures. Herbicide tolerance, for instance, would enable a farmer to spray a field and kill every plant except the crop.

Dr Brian Johnson, English Nature's biotechnology adviser, said the implications were "very serious" for Britain's meadows, 97 per cent of which have already been destroyed or substantially altered in their species composition by sprays or inorganic fertiliser in the past 50 years.

He said: "We are very concerned that these companies are working on products which if placed on the commercial market with no restriction - which is certainly the intention - would hand to farmers the ability to create monocultures very cheaply.

"You could do it, for example, by direct drilling the seed in old pastures, waiting for the seed to germinate and then simply spraying off the old pastures. The implications are potentially very serious for wildlife because we know that a large proportion of our farmland wildlife is just hanging on.

"And many of our pastures, though they appear fertilised and very green, may have 15 or 20 species growing in them which are of great use to wildlife, particularly birds. There is a whole range of insects which feed directly on those weeds and a series of others which feed on the nectar and pollen."

If grasses were engineered to be insect-resistant, it was feared they could lead to a "super race" of grasses that were insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant.

In addition to two companies working on grasses, English Nature knows of 10 laboratories globally working on transforming trees and 14 modifying fish . These have the same capacity to cause ecological havoc as grasses, because once released they cannot be recalled.

Dr Johnson said genetic engineering held the solution by preventing the interbreeding of engineered crops with wild species. "There should be no release of GM native plants until it can be guaranteed they cannot cross-pollinate with our wild plants."

English Nature also wants the commission to look at trees modified to produce BT toxin, a mild insecticide. Work is known to be going on producing insect-resistant conifers.

Prof John Beringer, outgoing chairman of ACRE, the main regulatory committee for releases to the environment, said yesterday that he shared many of English Nature's concerns about GM grasses, fish and trees. He said: "It is entirely logical to ask for a really serious discussion as to whether this type of technology should move forward."

Introduction of non-GM exotic species in the past had rung "major alarm bells". The introduction of Nile perch into Lake Victoria led to the extinction of several species of native cichlid fish and the transformation of the ecosystem, since the cichlids used to eat the algae.

The National Federation of Women's Institutes meets in the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow to vote on a motion calling for a five-year ban on commercial GM crops .



01 Jun 99 - GMO - Why Prince went tabloid on GM food

By Kathy Marks

Independent ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


There was an unfamiliar by-line in yesterday's Daily Mail: that of HRH the Prince of Wales. In a forthright article across two pages, Prince Charles listed his fears about genetically modified food and propelled himself straight to the top of the day's news bulletins.

His intervention could not have been made at a more politically sensitive time . Ten days ago, the Government sought to reassure the public that GM food and crops were safe; last week Tony Blair accused the media of whipping up "hysteria" over the issue.

The medium through which the heir to the throne chose to express his views was surprising, too. A tabloid newspaper, one that prides itself on its reactionary instincts and anti-intellectualism. And one that consistently sided with his former wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, during the acrimonious breakdown of their marriage.

Three months ago, Richard Kay, the Mail's royal correspondent, approached Prince Charles's private office to convey a request from his editor, Paul Dacre. The Mail, like several other newspapers, had been campaigning against GM food. The Prince was well known for his concerns on the subject. Would he care to write an article for the Mail?

According to insiders, Prince Charles was initially lukewarm. "He took a lot of persuading," said one source.

It was not the prospect of putting his name to an article that bothered the Prince; he had written for various publications, and last year penned a piece on GM food for The Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph, though, is his natural home, and it supported him during his marital crisis. Its environment editor, Charles Clover, co-wrote a book with him about his organic estate at Highgrove, Gloucestershire.

The Prince's aides were divided, too. Among those opposed to the project was Commander Richard Aylard, the private secretary who encouraged him to confess to adultery in Jonathan Dimbleby's television documentary. Mr Aylard was sacked from the private office, but is retained as an environmental consultant.

Others, especially Stephen Lamport, who replaced Mr Aylard, and Sandy Henney, the Prince's press secretary, urged him to go ahead. As one veteran royal watcher said yesterday: "Things have changed at St James's Palace. They want to be more inclusive, and they realise that it's pointless to exclude the tabloids. The tabloids can be useful and they have a big audience."

In the end, it was the timing that swung it. "The Prince feels very passionate about this issue," said Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, the body that regulates organic farming, and one of the experts regularly consulted by the Prince on such matters.

"He feels that if we're going to turn the tide on GM food, we've got to do it now. The Mail is the voice of Middle England, and it has got a big readership, more than two million. I suspect that strategically he felt it was the right place for an article."

Once Prince Charles had agreed to the piece, he began the process of consulting a wide range of advisers, both from within his own office and from the environmental movement.

The latter are understood to have included Mr Holden, Jonathan Porritt, former director of Friends of the Earth, and Shaun Woodward, a Tory MP who farms organically at his Oxfordshire estate and has met the Prince on several occasions.

One of Prince Charles's favourite ways of canvassing views is to invite a group of experts to a brainstorming session, either over tea at St James's Palace or over dinner at Highgrove.

Environmentalists, journalists and politicians have all been invited to such soirees. The Prince has also met Robert Shapiro, chairman of Monsanto, the firm behind the push for GM technology.

"They are quite workmanlike affairs," said a journalist who attended one meeting. "There is not much time wasted in frivolity or idle chitchat."

The material for the Mail article was drawn together by Elizabeth Buchanan, the assistant private secretary with responsibility for environmental matters.

The format was devised because the 10 questions reflected the concerns expressed by thousands of visitors to an Internet site set up by the Prince six months ago.

A fortnight ago, the Mail and St James's Palace agreed that yesterday should be publication day. The Prince was given a draft to rewrite. He completed his reworking of it during an official visit to Nigeria last weekend.

Friends say he thought long and hard before issuing what was, in effect, a direct challenge to the Government. Mr Woodward said: "This is arguably the most important thing that he has done, in media terms, because these are the questions that we ignore at our peril."

Yesterday, back in London, the Prince must have allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction as the Environment minister Michael Meacher told a Sky News programme that he had raised "wholly legitimate questions which indeed the Government welcomes and which the Government is systematically trying to answer".



01 Jun 99 - GMO - Prince's GM attack upsets ministers

By Paul Waugh and Michael McCarthy

Independent ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


Government attempts to reassure the public on genetically modified crops were in chaos yesterday after the Prince of Wales launched a scathing attack on what he described as the "unethical" technology.

Downing Street and ministers were forced on to the defensive as the Prince appeared to single-handedly wreck their efforts to calm fears over GM food and crops.

Just four days after Tony Blair accused the media of whipping up "hysteria" over the issue, the Prince mounted a detailed critique of claims that the biotechnology was safe.

Prince Charles is also to meet Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist whose research first sparked a furore over GM crops and who has since been denounced by Jack Cunningham, the minister charged with overseeing the science.

And Mr Blair faces further embarrassment today. A former Labour minister, Joan Ruddock, is due to call for a five-year moratorium on the commercial release of modified crops . She believes the large companies involved in the technology are not acting with public consent.

The Prince's intervention, in an article in yesterday's Daily Mail, warned against the "Orwellian" dangers of the science and criticised the "unprecedented and unethical" situation in which farmers' crops could be cross-pollinated with GM crops "since bees and the wind don't obey any sort of rules - voluntary or statutory".

He also ridiculed as "emotional blackmail" the Government's claim that GM techniques could help prevent Third World food shortages.

Both Downing Street and Michael Meacher, an Environment minister, said they welcomed the article.

"We are perfectly content for the Prince of Wales to make a contribution to a debate which, as you know, we are seeking to encourage," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

Mr Meacher insisted there was no intention of "forcing GM foods down people's throats" and rules governing them were "stringent and tight".

Meanwhile, Ms Ruddock's speech, to the Royal Bath and West Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, looks likely to open a split within Labour, where many are thought to have serious doubts on the issue.



01 Jun 99 - GMO - New crops attract rare birds, say US farmers

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


Farmers in America are reporting increasing numbers of birds of prey and other wildlife in their crops of genetically modified cotton, soya and maize.

After three years of practical experience with GM crops they say they have seen an upsurge in hawks, owls and other birds returning to their land since they switched much of their production to GM varieties. The recovery has been linked to increasing insect life on farms which cut back on pesticides sprayed previously in repeated heavy doses to protect conventional crops. More insect-eating pheasant and quail are being seen.

GM companies and farmers' organisations admit they made an expensive error in failing to have the environmental impact of GM crops monitored independently since growers started planting them commercially three years ago. The move has cut pesticide use by one million gallons a year.

With only anecdotal information, they have little hope of persuading the public and pressure groups in Europe that wildlife and the countryside is not at risk. British wildlife studies will not be completed for at least three years.

Individual farmers and crop marketing groups told British scientists and food trade experts visiting Missouri and Illinois that, despite the controversy about pollen from transgenic plants killing Monarch butterflies, there are signs that wildlife is recovering in GM fields in some of America's most intensively farmed areas previously sprayed with insecticides.

Greg Guenther, who increased GM soya-bean and maize crops five-fold to 480 acres this year on his farm at Falcon Lane Belleville, Illinois, said he and his wife Nancy had noticed that owls had returned to nest on the farm for the first time in years. Red-tailed hawks also came back.

He told how he had found dead grackles, black-feathered relatives of mocking birds, in a field planted with non-GM crops and treated with pesticides. He had found none in his GM fields.

The grackles, also known as crow-blackbirds in America, are considered pests because they damage crops as they eat grubs and insects. They passed unmourned, but could help establish whether GM crops have a better or worse impact on wildlife than crops grown with the aid of pesticides.

David Green, a British-born consultant for the American Soyabean Growers' Association, said: "The environmental impact has never been an issue here in the way it has in Britain. Just as consumer concern has never reached the intensity currently in evidence in Britain, nobody has taken much notice of what has been happening in relation to the wildlife on farms."

Instead of independent evidence to back GM crops, the US industry had to rely on anecdotal reports from individuals. Mr Green said: "That's a pity because we could have had a clearer picture to put people's minds at rest in countries where there are no GM crops."

The absence of comparative bird counts and other wildlife GM research in America, which could take at least three years to complete, is frustrating for the RSPB, Europe's largest environmental pressure group. The society wants a moratorium on commercial production of GM crops in Britain until environmental field studies are completed by 2003.

Paul Krautmann, one of America's small but expanding band of organic farmers, is among a growing group of objectors to GM crops. He too has red-tailed hawks on his 65 acre holding at Bewlews Creek, Hillboro, about 20 miles from St Louis, Missouri. He said the increase in insect life in GM fields could be due to other factors associated with growing methods designed to prevent soil erosion.

He objects to American law allowing farmers to grow GM crops anywhere.

He said: "The government isn't listening to growing worries among American consumers. It is too close to the big biotechnology companies who stand to gain billions of dollars from their GM varieties. GM food is not properly labelled in this country and that is robbing consumers of choice."



01 Jun 99 - GMO - Hooligans force seed firm to quit

By Electronic Telegraph Correspondent

Telegraph ... Tuesday 1 June 1999


A seed firm is pulling out of genetically modified crop testing after repeated hooligan attacks on its field trials.

John Blackman, the technical director of CPB Twyford, based in Thriplow, Cambs, said a number of test sites across the country had been damaged in recent months. He said that hooligans had not only attacked trials of GM crops but also fields containing tests of non-GM crops.

Mr Blackman said: "It was felt that the risks involved in continuing with work on [GM crops] were not worth taking while the threat of indiscriminate vandalism still exists." A spokesman for the Genetic Engineering Network, a group which collates and passes on information to opponents of GM crops, welcomed the firm's move.



01 Jun 99 - GMO - First blood to anti-GM activists

Stuart Millar

Guardian ... Monday 1 June 1999


As seed company quits after trial crop is sabotaged, protesters say they are winning hearts and minds

Britain's rapidly expanding army of direct action campaigners against genetically modified crops have claimed their first major victory with the announcement by a leading seed company that it has been forced out of the field by sabotage of its trial crops.

Accusing protesters of destroying both GM and non-GM crops, CPB Twyford, based at Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, said that attacks on a number of its sites across the country in recent months had cost thousands of pounds.

Jack Blackman, the firm's technical director, said: "The risks involved in continuing were not worth taking while the threat of indiscriminate vandalism still exists."

But, with the famously non-radical Women's Institute expected to vote this week to join the growing list of organisations opposed to GM foods, activists leading the direct action last night dismissed the extremist image as misleading.

CPB's withdrawal, they claimed, the first by a major seed company, was proof of the breadth of opinion against the crops.

A spokeswoman for the Genetic Engineering Network, an information clearing house for anti-GM campaigners, said: "This is very good news. Hope fully some of the bigger companies will now make the same decision and stop their trials."

Since the controversy over the crops erupted last year, the scale of public concern has seen groups as established as the National Trust, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the British Medical Association forming an alliance with environmental campaigners, such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

At the same time, there has been a surge of support for single-issue groups with the direct action ethos of previous protest movements, such as the campaign to halt new road building. The difference the small groups say, is that the diversity of those willing to uproot crops, and even to go to jail for it, surpasses anything seen in Britain before.

One of the main direct action groups is the Manchester-based Genetix Snowball, whose supporters include the television chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson. In carefully organised protests every second weekend, activists ranging in age from 18 to 85 have attacked a sizeable number of the 300-plus sites around the country where genetically modified crops are being grown.

In one protest last August at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire, 11 members were arrested during a raid on a trial plot of genetically modified sugar beet owned by Sharpe's Seeds, a subsidiary of the biotechnology company, Zeneca.

But while arrests are common, the groups are careful to be civilised in the way they carry out their raids. Genetix Snowball writes to the farmers and police in advance, explaining their position, and activists have to promise not to carry weapons.

They are also forbidden from pulling up more than 100 plants each, and have to bag them in biohazard sacks which are left in the field.

"It is a symbolic gesture," said the group's spokesman, Andrew Wood. "The point is that direct action is a legitimate part of the political process, because the democratic process has broken down on this issue. And the government simply is not respecting the view of the public. This is a Labour government that prides itself on listening to people when it is clearly not doing that."

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, dismissed these claims yesterday. "I understand people's anxiety and in some cases anger about GM crops.

"We have to show that we are proceding extremely cautiously, and tests have to be carried out in accordance with strictly enforced guidelines. But I do not condone action which is illegal. If crops are destroyed, and if companies withdraw from the tests, that will set back the whole testing programme."

But other direct action groups claim that it is the perception of a vast gap between public opinion and the government's position that has given birth to the new breed of activist.

A Mori poll last year showed 77% wanted GM crops banned and more than 60 per cent said they would not eat products with GM ingredients.

Luke Anderson, of Totnes Genetic Engineering Group, which has led protests in Devon, said: "We have seen people on protests here who have never been on a protest before in their lives. People can see that the companies and the government are in each other's pockets."

Another member of the group, Seb Kelly, agreed: "It is completely non-violent and non- confrontational, and I think that is a major relief to the people who would never have gone on a protest before. It's all very British in fact."

The alliance of groups calling for a moratorium on GM crops includes: Action Aid, British Society of Nature Conservation, Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid, Council for the Protection of Rural England, Earth First!, Food Commission, Friends of the Earth, Genetic Engineering Network, Genetix Snowball, Genewatch, Greenpeace, Guild of Food Writers, Iceland Foods, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environment, National Trust, Natural Law party, Soil Association, Super Heroes Against Genetix (Shag), The Wildlife Trust



30 May 99 - GMO - Monsanto sows seeds of its own destruction

Simon Caulkin

Guardian ... Sunday 30 may 1999


The controversy over Monsanto's introduction of genetically modified crops and foods in Europe may be rather more than just another clumsy American boot trampling on European sensitivities . At stake is more than the profits of a single company, or even one industry. Rumbling under the surface are issues that may influence the boundaries between company, market and government responsibilities for decades. GM is the pivot on which these possibilities turn.

At the management level Monsanto got it wrong, exactly as Shell did in 1995 over Brent Spar and Ogoniland. 'It's a classic case of good intentions gone awry,' notes Peter Schwartz, chairman of the Global Business Network, an influential California-based research and consulting organisation.

Because it believed it was doing right, he says, Monsanto was unprepared for public hostility based on a different reading of the issues. It compounded the problem by an 'arrogant' initial reaction and is now condemned to chase an agenda set by others - an unwinnable battle.

The serious damage that Monsanto has suffered, says Schwartz, will take years to recover from.

The GM mouthful that Monsanto has bitten off is not 'just' a social responsibility problem - on a par with the employment policies of Nike's suppliers in Asia or Shell's relationship with the Nigerian government.

Manipulating genes could hardly be more psychologically potent, appearing to go to the very heart of what it means to be human.

As a result, the company has found it hard to stop the GM debate shifting from the technical (are GM foods and crops safe?) to something simple but profound: given past experience of the law of unintended consequences (such as BSE), should we let the GM genie out of the bottle? Can Monsanto be trusted with the building blocks of life?

Although Monsanto managers believe they can improve the world, says Schwartz, Europeans are sceptical. They see that Monsanto makes most of its money from killing plants , not growing them, and that for a company boasting a commitment to life, it did pretty well out of the defoliant Agent Orange in the Vietnam war.

The clash of values is stark - and what happens will be decided in the short term as much by consumers and markets as governments. This is a tribute to the remarkable and near-invisible rise of the newest actors on the international business stage: non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the aid organisations.

In a measured and thought-provoking new book (When Good Companies Do Bad Things by Peter Schwartz and Blair Gibb, Wiley) Schwartz calculates that there are now 16,000 NGOs. In many respects they are more formidable opponents than governments or governmental institutions, being more agile and much more adept users of media.

Companies are only just beginning to recognise what NGOs have long understood: that the two are sides of the same coin. Instead of fighting them tooth and nail, companies have every interest in understanding NGOs. As governments have withdrawn from international roles, companies and NGOs are the only bodies capable of swift global action.

They complement each other. NGOs lack resources, but are nimble and directly tuned into public concerns in a way that Monsanto or Shell can never be. They are the public conscience. They have the energy of idealism behind them, and are skilled at guiding the media to areas companies would rather hide.

On the other hand, NGOs, despairing of the ineffectual UN bureaucracies, know that waiting for international governmental agreement on contentious issues such as biotechnology or human rights is not an option. And it is the NGOs' mortal enemies, the corporations, with their powerful worldwide organisations, that offer the best chance of getting things done.

A good example of this, says Schwartz, is the environment, which 20 years ago barely figured on companies' radar screens.

If it did, it certainly wasn't their responsibility. Now, however, sustained pressure by organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth means there are few companies in resource-related industries that refuse to accept, grudgingly or not, that they have environmental responsibilities. Shareholders and employees have also nudged them along.

In the case of GM crops, NGOs are playing an even higher-profile - and high-risk - game. They want the market to decide in Europe because they believe it's a game they can win ('Greenpeace and so on are doing a much better job than we are,' Monsanto president Hendrik Verfaillie has ruefully conceded); and because, under the rules of capitalism, the verdict of the market can not be appealed. If consumers don't want to eat the stuff, no amount of government assurances of its safety will change their mind.

In his book, Schwartz argues that throughout history concentrations of corporate power have always contained the seed of their own opposition: from slavery to the tobacco industry, 'as soon as power becomes too visible, too proud, too concentrated, a movement of some kind sets out to limit it'.

This may be what's happening, he surmises, in the GM case. What consumers, ably marshalled by the NGOs, are saying is that there are limits to consumerism and also that there are some things, such as playing with nature, that can't be left to companies alone. Managers, and governments, should take note.



30 May 99 - GMO - Prince to meet GM row scientist

By Geoffrey Lean, environment correspondent

Independent ... Sunday 30 may 1999


Prince Charles has asked Dr Arpad Pusztai, the controversial scientist whose research first ignited public health fears over the safety of genetically modified foods, to brief him personally on his findings.

The move is likely to cause irritation in Whitehall, where ministers have been trying to defuse the controversy surrounding GM foods. It will also confirm that the prince is determined to be independent in forming his views and is prepared to risk antagonising the Government on an issue close to his heart. The meeting, in about 10 days, will be only the second time the prince has held a face-to-face conversation with a leading figure in the GM debate, although he did hold a seminar involving all sides at Highgrove last year. The other meeting was with Robert Shapiro, the chairman of Monsanto, the US firm most aggressively pushing GM technology. Dr Pusztai - who has described himself as "a very enthusiastic supporter" of GM foods - caused a national furore after briefly mentioning in a BBC television programme that experiments he had carried out on rats fed genetically modified potatoes had shown damage to their immune systems, brains, kidneys and other vital organs.

The scientist, acknowledged as one of the world's foremost experts on lectins, the proteins used in genetic engineering, was forced from his job at Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute, where he had worked for 37 years, even though it had agreed to his television appearance. He claims he was subsequently denied access to his research data .

Over the last month Dr Pusztai has borne the full weight of disapproval of the political and scientific establishments. The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, accused him of violating "every canon of scientific rectitude" and only 10 days ago, Dr Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office Minister, who is co-ordinating government policy on GM food said his research had been "comprehensively discredited".

Over the last two weeks Dr Puztai's work has been attacked by the Royal Society, Britain's most distinguished scientific body, the House of Commons select committee on science and technology, and the much-criticised Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, the Government's official advisers on GM foods.

Last week the Independent on Sunday published a memorandum from Dr Cunningham's office which showed that the Government was "compiling a list of eminent scientists " to write articles and give interviews to attack Dr Pusztai's work and "to trail the Government's Key Messages".

The Prince accepts he is not competent to judge the scientific facts and has no wish to challenge the Royal Society, but he wants to hear what Dr Pusztai has to say at first hand. He recognises that he is a scientist of great experience, and a supporter of genetic modification who saw, or thought he saw, something that alarm-ed him in the result of his experiments.

Martin Polden of the law firm Ross & Craig, who is president of the Environmental Law Foundation, has taken up Dr Pusztai's case. He said yesterday: "The meeting is a valuable and welcome recognition that Dr Pusztai is engaged in serious and honest work.

"It says a lot for the Prince that he has not been swayed by the unprecedented rubbishing of a responsible scientist who is one of the world's leaders in his field."

The Prince's conversation with Dr Shapiro was cordial but there was no meeting of minds. He raised his ethical doubts as to whether genetic modification should be undertaken at all and his concerns about the effects on the environment.



28 May 99 - GMO - Euro-law to put GM food into Britain

by Chris Mclaughlin

Independent ... Friday 28 may 1999


Brussels is poised to allow unprocessed mutant food into British shops - and the Government cannot stop it. Nor will there be any way shoppers will know what they are buying .

The European Commission's scientific experts have given the all-clear to genetically altered chicory which produces red-leafed radicchio. Resistant to herbicides and with potential dangers to the human immune system, it is among the most controversial classes of GM foods .

And environmentalists fear the go-ahead ñ the first for what is called 'live food' ñ will open the way for GM foods to flood British stores.

While Tony Blair backs the production of GM foods, the Cabinet remains split over whether they are safe. Many High Street stores, including Marks & Spencer, have banned all products containing GM ingredients and, following a call for a ban from the British Medical Association , Britain has agreed to a three-year moratorium on socalled Frankenstein foods .

But European law over-rules British law.

And in a decision taken in secret recently, the European Commission's Scientific Committee On Plants ruled that there was no evidence that the genetically altered radicchio could cause 'adverse effects' on human health. That is in spite of its finding that the modified chicory leaves contain 'detectable amounts' of modified proteins .

Dutch seed producer Bejo Zaden has produced crops of the modified chicory for seed in Europe for several years. Now the company's application to begin marketing it for human consumption is expected to receive formal approval within the next month. The Government has objected to the timetable in an attempt to delay the decision but is barred from appealing on health safety grounds .

Environment Minister Michael Meacher told the Commons recently: 'Once a GM crop has marketing consent under EU rules it applies across all member states and there is no automatic requirement to notify the authorities where the crop is grown.'

And an adviser on genetic engineering to the European Parliament, Steve Emmot, warned yesterday: 'There will be no process for identifying the genetically altered plants from farm to market stall or supermarket. People will not know what they are eating.'

Green Party spokesman Caroline Lucas called for a ban on GM imports.

She said: 'It is a disgrace for people to be used as guinea pigs. They don't want GM foods. Supermarkets have recognised that, even if the Government hasn't.'



27 May 99 - GMO - Genetically altered violet carnations on sale this year

By Robert Uhlig

Telegraph ... Thursday 27 may 1999


Violet carnations, an impossible colour to create using traditional horticultural methods , have been produced by genetic engineering and will go on sale later this year.

The blooms, created by Florigene of Melbourne, have a petunia gene to make them violet , a hue they cannot produce naturally.

Founded a decade ago, Florigene has yet to realise its initial aim of breeding a blue rose but, through genetic engineering, it has produced several flowers with bluish-violet hues that are impossible to achieve through conventional hybridisation .

"They go from mauve through to black and none of these colours has existed before in carnations," said Peter Molloy, chief executive of Florigene.

The violet carnation, named Moonshadow, will be launched at a major horticultural show at Kansas City next month. In November, it will be launched in Europe at a global flower convention in Holland. The plants will be grown under glass in Spain.

Mr Molloy believes the carnations pose no environmental threat and the regulators seem to agree. New Scientist says Florigene has approval to sell the flowers from American and EU regulators.

Growing carnations will be confined in greenhouses so that no genetic material should escape. Florigene says cultivated carnations produce relatively little pollen and what pollen there is cannot be spread by the wind as it is heavy, sticky and buried deep within the flower.

John Beringer, chairman of Britain's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, says the cut carnations are essentially infertile.

Next year, Florigene plans to launch a black carnation and a range of ordinary-looking carnations genetically modified to last a month in the vase. However, a true blue rose remains elusive, as delphinidin - the blue pigment in a wide range of flowers including petunias, violets, hyacinths and irises - can be masked by existing pigments or chemically altered by high acidities in the petals, diluting its blue colour.

Mr Molloy hopes that true blue roses will emerge through crosses of the engineered varieties with native Japanese roses.



27 May 99 - GMO - Butterflies 'killed by pollen from GM corn'

By Sandra Laville

Telegraph ... Thursday 27 may 1999


One of the world's most beautiful butterflies is under threat from genetically modified maize, say scientists.

In laboratory tests, pollen from the GM corn grown in the United States killed the monarch butterfly by making it vulnerable to infection.

The corn contains genes that produce a substance poisonous to a pest, the European corn borer. The GM plant's tissue destroys the pest, but is supposed to be harmless to helpful insects such as bees and ladybirds, and safe for human consumption.

The butterfly's caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which grows near the corn. In the tests, caterpillars fed milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from the GM corn grew slowly and almost half died.

In a report in the journal Nature, the team from Cornell University in New York said that the black and orange butterfly, found in America's Mid-Western "corn belt", could be consuming the pollen and dying.

The toxin in the GM pollen is thought to render the caterpillars vulnerable to bugs normally trapped in their gut and excreted.

John Losey, the leading researcher, said he feared that other species of butterfly might be affected by the genetically modified pollen, although he added: "We can't predict how serious the risk is until we have a lot more data."

The genetically engineered maize, known as Bt-corn, is fitted with genes from a bacterium which produce a substance poisonous to the European corn borer. Before the advent of Bt-corn, the ravenous borer caused average annual losses of £750 million in the United States.

Other caterpillars given leaves dusted with non-GM pollen, or undusted leaves, all thrived.

Pollen can be blown more than 60 yards from the edge of cornfields, covering everything in its path, said the scientists.

At least 18 different Bt-engineered crops have been approved for field testing in the United States. GM crops are not yet allowed to be grown commercially in Britain and environmentalists last week used the Nature research to bolster their case for a five-year freeze on the planting of crops while further tests are carried out.

Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth food campaigner, said: "We have seen research from Switzerland which shows that GM corn has a similar effect on lacewings.

"GM crops are affecting the wildlife food chain. We are playing with fire because we don't know what the full impact of genetically modified crops on the environment will be."



23 May 99 - GMO - Public floods Prince's GM crops website

By Greg Neale and Jonathan Petrie

Telegraph ... Sunday 23 May 1999


The Prince of Wales's opposition to genetically modified crops has the overwhelming support of the public , according to responses to his own Internet website.

The Prince's misgivings have been backed by about one in four of the more than 10,000 people who have sent messages to his "on-line forum" on GM crops, part of his website established last autumn which has attracted 15 million visits.

The level of public hostility will depress ministers , who on Friday attempted to counter widespread opposition to GM foods, insisting that the novel crops pose no threat to human health or the environment.

On the website, the Prince writes: "Mixing genetic material from species that cannot breed naturally takes us into areas that should be left to God. We should not be meddling with the building blocks of life in this way.

"I do acknowledge that genetic manipulation could lead to major advances in medicine, agriculture and the good health of the environment... But advanced technology brings its own dangers.

"I am not convinced we know enough about the long-term consequences for human health and the environment of releasing plants (or, heaven forbid, animals) bred in this way."

Earlier this year, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace denied that the Prince had been asked to withdraw his views from the website. It is believed, however, that his trenchant defence of his position has angered ministers .

The Prince is said to be "delighted" with the public's response to his call for a wider debate. "The response has been massive, and it is quite noticeable that the majority of the responses have been supportive of the Prince's stance ," a Buckingham Palace spokesman said yesterday.

The Prince regularly reads the comments sent to the website, a selection of which is posted for the public to read. Responses have come from all over the world, and from scientists and academics in addition to the public.

Sarah Delle Hultmark, a phytotoxicologist - she studies poisons produced by plants - from the American state of Michigan said: "I only wish my country had someone like you leading it away from the genetic disaster we are creating. God save the King to be!"

Hubert Oddoz, from Lvov in Ukraine, said: "We appreciate your great noble undertaking. Continue to express what you feel. The media report your words even here in Ukraine where the bio-industry is pushing to introduce their transgenic potatoes."

Paul Halmshaw, from West Yorkshire, said: "For once, this country should stand up against US pressure and ban GM foods outright . In years to come, our island could be a world leader in non-adulterated food and seed."

John Mason, from Barnsley, South Yorks, wrote: "As a biologist, I find myself in total agreement with HRH on the subject... the dangers of GM [foods] on individual health is a red herring to distract from the wider environmental issues."

But many of the contributions take issue with the Prince. Dieter Lingweiler, from Neuss, Germany, said: "I believe that your opinion about genetically modified food is much too pessimistic. You ought to recognise the magnificent advantages of this new technology... New creations of fruits and vegetables would make our life more colourful. We would be able to beautify our dessert with bananas that taste of strawberries."

Prof Philip Stott, from the University of London, said: "I believe genetic modification will become an increasingly vital tool in the evolutionary survival of humankind within a restless and biologically-changing Earth... You are right, nevertheless, to seek debate. Although genetic modification is both necessary and crucial for our ultimate survival, it is equally necessary that the process is brought under political and moral control."

The Conservatives yesterday kept up their pressure on the Government over the GM issue, with an attack on ministers' use of civil servants to seek out experts to defend their position in the media.

Tim Yeo, the Opposition agriculture spokesman, has written to Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, asking him whether he considers it proper for civil servants, rather than ministers' own political advisers, to be used in such a manner.

Tony Juniper, the campaigns director for Friends of the Earth, said yesterday: "While virtually the entire British public is rejecting genetically modified foods and crops, the biotech industry is crafting voluntary agreements behind the scenes with officials, while ministers, at weekly meetings, are preparing a public relations offensive to spin GM foods down our throats."



21 May 99 - GMO - Expert urges US to act over toxic GM pollen alert

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 21 May 1999


The United States should ban a strain of genetically-modified maize if studies confirm that its pollen can kill the caterpillars of the threatened monarch butterfly, John Beringer, one of the Government's chief advisers said yesterday.

Prof Beringer, the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre), said that the findings by researchers at Cornell University, published in Nature magazine, amounted to "a real story" which he would expect US regulators to "do something about".

If further research confirmed the study's results, he said he would expect licences for the maize modified with the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, known as BT toxin, to be withdrawn . "On the assumption that this study is proved to be correct, I feel that there is a real need to make sure that it isn't causing harm to the butterflies and if it is, to reconsider the licensing," he said. The laboratory study is the strongest evidence yet that a genetically-engineered crop poses a danger to wildlife .

Its public impact on both sides of the Atlantic has been the greater - Nature's website crashed yesterday under the pressure of hits from all over the world - because the monarch butterfly is not just any wildlife. It is, as the Washington Post put it, "the Bambi of insects".

In America between 10 million and 20 million acres are already growing BT maize , made by five companies, of which the largest suppliers are Novartis, Monsanto and Pioneer Hybred International .

Cornell researchers dusted pollen from the maize on to the leaves of the milkweed plant which grows around corn fields and which is the monarch caterpillars' main food. They found that caterpillars suffered severe side-effects. Almost half died and the remainder grew to only half their normal size . John Losey, Linda Rayor and Maureen Carter, the authors of the study, wrote: "These results have potentially profound implications for the conservation of monarch butterflies." The monarch is considered an indicator of the health of the wildlife in the American mid-west.

Prof Beringer said that he had a number of questions about the Cornell study. First, it would need to be established that the effect of the pollen was the result of the genetic manipulation and was not a normal characteristic of the plant brought out by selective breeding. Secondly, he would need to be satisfied that the study, which appeared in the correspondence section of Nature, had been fully peer-reviewed. Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature, said later: "The article was thoroughly peer-reviewed before being accepted for publication."

Dr Beringer, added: "The balance of probability is that they are right." He said the findings showed "a potential problem" for other GM crops which produced wind-blown pollen, such as wheat and barley. If correct, the Cornell findings fit into a slim but growing body of research which shows that insecticidal GM crops could have serious effects on wildlife . A Swiss laboratory study has shown that BT maize can kill lacewings , beneficial predatory insects which eat aphids. But the study, by the Swiss Federal Research Stations for Agroecology and Agriculture, was not replicated in a field test. The Acre committee dismissed the Swiss study. Prof Beringer said that larger field trails were needed because insects moved around and therefore were often not exposed to toxins which might be present.

The maize has been approved for commercial use by the European Union but Britain could apply for a ban on the grounds that it damages the environment.

In the only other study which showed a GM crop having unintended effects, potatoes engineered to produce a toxin known as GNA lectin , normally given off by snowdrops, were shown to harm ladybirds which fed on the potatoes. The female ladybirds' lifetime was halved and they laid fewer eggs in the study, by the Dundee-based Scottish Research Institute. The scientists reported in the journal Molecular Breeding: "The significance of these potential ecological risks under field conditions needs to be further evaluated."

Prof Beringer has been commissioned by the Government to head a sub-committee of Acre, after he steps down as chairman next month, to look at the wider implications for wildlife of the widespread introduction of genetically modified crops.

The committee was set up after a study earlier this year highlighting potential damage to the countryside from the new farming methods.



21 May 99 - GMO - Doctors on alert for GM diseases

Nick Nuttall and Valerie Elliott

Times ... Friday 21 May 1999


Doctors are to be enlisted to watch for any links between eating genetically modified food and a rise in birth defects, cancer, arthritis and diabetes .

Ministers, acting on advice from the Government's chief medical and scientific advisers, are to establish a national surveillance system to discover whether consuming GM foods triggers new patterns of heart disease, allergies, asthma, and other diseases .

Sir Robert May, the Chief Scientific Adviser to Tony Blair, and Professor Liam Dondaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, yesterday declared that GM food was safe.

But they said in a report that a disease-monitoring system was required because "nothing can be absolutely certain". The advisers said: "Genetic modification is a young science and there is a need to keep a close watch on developments."

A series of reforms to quell public alarm about GM foods includes two new advisory panels of experts and tough voluntary guidelines for cultivating GM crops.

Jeff Rooker, the Agriculture Minister, promised: "The public are not going to be used and are not being used as guinea-pigs. We are pledged not to do anything until we have the results. There is no free-for-all," he said.

(Editor's note: the purpose of the national surveillance system IS to use the public as guinea pigs! If there is a problem then, just like BSE, millions of people will have been exposed to risk)

Thousands of GPs and hospitals across the country will certainly be involved, reporting back the incidence of diseases from cases seen at surgery and on wards.

Ministers are also considering reviving a controversial scheme which spies on people's shopping habits as part of a complex monitoring system. Supermarket loyalty cards, which are linked to postal codes, could be used to establish purchasing habits and then be matched to diseases reported from family doctors to the Public Health Laboratory Service and the Department of Health. Dr Eric Millstone, an expert at Sussex University and adviser to the British Medical Association's recent report into GM foods and health, said yesterday: "It will be like looking for a needle in a haystack or maybe even tougher. At least a needle can prick you to say it is there."

The plan was unveiled by ministers as they launched a string of reports and recommendations into combating public alarm and charting a strategy on the development of GM foods, crops and drugs.

The Government confirmed yesterday that it was committed to establishing a labelling scheme as part of a package to give consumers both choice and confidence abvout GM foods.



21 May 99 - GMO - The risks of proving that there is no risk

Nigel Hawkes

Times ... Friday 21 May 1999


It is no good asking who is right in the debate over GM crops. Both sides are right, given the very different positions from which they start. The Government argues that there is no evidence that GM foods are unsafe. But this is not the same as evidence of no risk, which is what the environmentalists demand.

Establishing that there is no risk is impossible. If it were applied to common foods, potatoes and rhubarb would be two early casualties: both produce toxins. Nuts would be banned outright, as some people have a fatal allergy. In real life what we expect governments and regulatory agencies to do is to balance risks against benefits. The public appears persuaded that there are no benefits in GM crops , so focuses on the risks.

Proponents argue that the benefits will be, in fact, what the environmental groups have long campaigned for - an end to chemical farming, with its constant inputs of pesticide and fertiliser. (Editors note: Nigel Hawkes appears to be unaware that the purpose of GMO Round-Up resistant crops is to facilitate the use of huge additional amounts of the Round-Up weedkiller). Biology will take the place of chemistry, with plants able to fend for themselves, fight off pests, and survive in poor or drought-ridden soils. Among the first is the Bt maize which has been shown in tests to damage monarch butterflies. To a campaigner determined to have no new risk, that is enough to hang it. But will GM crops be better, or worse than today's chemical agriculture? We cannot yet tell. The more the Government tries to meet the environmentalists halfway, the more it gives credence to their claims. The announcement of population-wide surveillance for new diseases that may be produced by GM food is a classic example. It may be prudent but it validates the fears of many. Not for the first time, good public policy makes bad public relations. A nation traumatised by BSE is unlikely to be reassured.