Document Directory

19 May 00 - GMO - Hague calls for inquiry into GM crop fiasco
19 May 00 - GMO - Unlicensed GM crops to stay
19 May 00 - GMO - Felled by a distant error
19 May 00 - GMO - MPs demand destruction of GM rape crop
19 May 00 - GMO - Organic farmers threaten to sue over crops blunder
19 May 00 - GMO - Seed imports face spot checks to keep out GM
18 May 00 - GMO - Pressure Grows To Destroy Crops Blighted By GM Seeds
18 May 00 - GMO - How the GM cat got out of the bag
18 May 00 - GMO - Rogue GM seeds sown on 600 farms
18 May 00 - GMO - Imported seeds tainted by GM
18 May 00 - GMO - Farmers accidentally sow 30,000 acres of GM crops
17 May 00 - GMO - Beekeepers seek GM halt after honey contamination
17 May 00 - GMO - Angry Charles warns scientists of disaster
17 May 00 - GMO - Beehives alert over 'GM pollution'
17 May 00 - GMO - Honey has been contaminated by GM crops, claims Friends of the Earth
17 May 00 - GMO - Environmentalists Hail Prince's Warning Over Science
17 May 00 - GMO - GM crop protesters cleared
17 May 00 - GMO - E-mail guide to field invasion
10 May 00 - GMO - Anti-GM claims 'misleading'
10 May 00 - GMO - Tesco misled shoppers over cost and taste of organic food
10 May 00 - GMO - Chemical-free fad of the few that turned into a mass-market success
10 May 00 - GMO - How I proved store's hype was wrong
09 May 00 - GMO - US shoppers start to lose confidence in GM food
07 May 00 - GMO - GM medicine 'risks the lives of diabetics'
06 May 00 - GMO - Lupins may help farmers to avoid GM food chain
06 May 00 - GMO - Dairy forces farmers to abandon GM crop trial



19 May 00 - GMO - Hague calls for inquiry into GM crop fiasco

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 19 May 2000


William Hague demanded a "full inquiry" yesterday into the blunder which has allowed genetically modified oilseed rape to be grown on up to 600 farms in Britain.

As pressure mounted on the Government to order the destruction of crops grown from the contaminated seed, he led cross-party condemnation of the way the issue had been handled by the Ministry of Agriculture. Backing warnings by the Prince of Wales about the unknown hazards of GM crops, he said: "He has concerns that I share. We now need a full inquiry into what has gone on in recent weeks."

Tim Yeo, Tory agriculture spokesman, said: "If the Government is unable to put in place a monitoring programme in all those sites to see what the environmental consequences are, then the case for destroying the crops is quite a strong one ." Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "It is crazy that the Government knew about the risks of cross contamination a month ago and did nothing about it."

The Ministry of Agriculture was informed about the GM problem on April 17 , two weeks after tests in Germany found contamination in similar seed, but did not go public about it until Wednesday . The row grew as Sweden, where farmers also planted contaminated seeds, said it was likely that crops there would be destroyed.

But the Agriculture Ministry said there was "no question" of destroying crops in this country. There was no risk to public health, it said. About 11,500 acres of crops have been sown in Britain with the contaminated seed this spring. Oil from crops grown on more than 22,000 acres last year have already been consumed in the food chain.

The National Farmers' Union of England and Wales said no farmers had come forward to say they had planted the contaminated seed from Canada which was sold by the Dutch-owned Advanta Seeds company. Many farmers are wary of coming forward in case the value of their crops is damaged by the news.

Advanta Seeds UK, of Sleaford, Lincs, said it was gathering information from its merchants to "map" all of the farms where the crops have been sown. The company said this was time-consuming because it did not supply farms direct. Officially, no commercial GM crops can be grown in Britain until about 2003 when trials will be completed.


19 May 00 - GMO - Unlicensed GM crops to stay

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Friday 19 May 2000


The government was last night resisting calls to destroy crops unwittingly contaminated with genetically modified pollen as ministers left hundreds of farmers to decide whether to press on and harvest them.

Officials insisted ministers did not have the power to order destruction of plants grown from the contaminated seed since there was no risk to human health or the countryside. A total of 11,600 acres are thought to have been planted this spring and crops from twice that acreage, harvested last year, are already thought to have been used in food or industrial oils.

As seed merchants yesterday tried to track down farmers to whom the rape seed had been sold, the National Farmers' Union said it would be taking "every step" to ensure farmers affected by the mistake did not lose out financially . It said: "These farmers, if they want to, must be allowed to continue to grow these crops. They were planted legally and there is no food safety risk."

Sweden has announced its intention to destroy similar crops , but France will not do so and German authorities are considering what action to take. The difficulties followed the news on Wednesday that conventional seeds, grown and prepared for the international company Advanta Seeds in Canada, contained GM material believed to have come from GM crops 800 metres away.

Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, robustly defended the government's stance, countering claims that there had been unnecessary delays since officials were informed of the contamination by Advanta a month ago. Tories demanded an inquiry into the affair and Liberal Democrats and anti-GM campaigners said Britain must follow Sweden's lead .

Mr Brown told the Commons "I regret these developments but I repeat there has been no threat to health or the environment. We moved quickly to establish the facts and officials have been in continuous contact with the company.

"These events have made it clear that there are gaps in the arrangements relating to seed purity at international level."

The government said it would take steps to put this right, spot check for GM material on seed imports from June 1 and work with the seed industry to produce new guidance on the production and sowing of seed including separation distances between crops.

Friends of the Earth said there ought to be a proper criminal investigation into the affair since it was an offence to market GM seed that did not have commercial sales consent.


19 May 00 - GMO - Felled by a distant error

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Friday 19 May 2000


The government's GM strategy is ruined

The government's carefully constructed policy on the growing of genetically modified crops lies today in ruins . With the discovery that around 13,500 acres have been planted with rape seed contaminated by GM , the worst fears of environmentalist campaigners and the worst suspicions of the public have proved to be justified: all the national and international regulations on GM are not worth the paper they are printed on .

The seed company, Advanta, is "gobsmacked " by the discovery that its rape seed grown on the Canadian prairies was contaminated by GM crops 800 metres away. Yet scientists warned of just this possibility, and the politicians refused to listen and promised us that a mere 200 metres offered a cordon sanitaire in UK test sites. Now this has been proved wrong, the government has made matters much worse by sitting on the information for a month and then slipping it out surreptitiously in a written parliamentary answer. Why should we now believe Nick Brown on anything he says on GM? Ministers' credibility on this subject is irrevocably damaged and they largely have themselves to blame.

This sorry tale raises serious questions about whether the GM genie is now out of the bottle, beyond the control of any national government - the Advanta seed has been planted in Germany, France and Sweden. It shows how impossible it has become to produce GM-free seeds; Advanta has moved its seed production out of Alberta to eastern Ontario, New Zealand and Montana in a bid to keep its seeds GM-free. But such is the dramatic advance of GM in major agricultural countries like the US, Brazil, China and India that keeping any part of the globe GM-free is now close to an impossible dream. This is an abysmal failure of international action .

But it is not yet time to throw up our hands in despair. At the very least the government has a responsibility to give us accurate information in this brave new GM world. It has belatedly announced that it will follow the lead of the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, which discovered the Advanta rogue seeds, and institute spot checks on conventional seeds. Now to shore up its credibility, the government should vigorously defend the policy commitments it has made to have no commercial GM crops until 2003. And that means digging up and destroying these GM contaminated crops as soon as possible .


19 May 00 - GMO - MPs demand destruction of GM rape crop

By Paul Waugh, Political Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 19 May 2000


Labour MPs combined with the Opposition yesterday to demand a tightening of genetically modified crop controls in respone to the revelation that GM seeds had been mistakenly planted across the country .

The Ministry of Agriculture admitted on Wednesday that, over the past two years, 34,000 acres of countryside had been planted with GM oilseed rape. In an emergency statement, Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, stressed that the oilseed rape stocks distributed by Advanta Seeds UK posed no threat to human health or the environment. Mr Brown said he regretted the incident but said the Government was taking steps to improve seed purity.

Labour backbenchers lined up alongside Liberal Democrats and Tories to call for the destruction of the crops that had been planted and urged ministers to take more radical action. Joan Walley, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said the Government should be prepared to trace the crops and order their destruction .

Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, said farmers had been seduced by the biotech industry. He said: "These GM gigolos have been touring the country but farmers are now discovering that...the industry has rogered their fields and run off in the morning without being willing to accept the responsibility for the contamination which follows."

Mr Simpson suggested there should be a Farm Support Agency along the lines of the Child Support Industry as there were "widespread implications" for farm incomes if they could not guarantee their produce was GM-free .

David Drew, the Labour MP for Stroud, said Britain should tell the US and Canada that unless they signed up to the Montreal Biosafety Protocol, the Government would ban imports unilaterally , "just as they have taken unilateral action on BSE ". For the Liberal Democrats, David Heath said the affair had done considerable damage to the reputation for openness of Mr Brown's ministry. The mistake had, he said also destroyed the "credibility" of import controls on GM crops and "made a nonsense" of separation distances.

Tim Yeo, the Tory Agriculture spokesman, warned Mr Brown that failure to impose safeguards around the contaminated crops would increase public pressure to destroy all of the affected plants.


19 May 00 - GMO - Organic farmers threaten to sue over crops blunder

By Paul Waugh, Political Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 19 May 2000


Both the Government and Advanta Seeds UK are facing multi-million-pound legal claims and possibly criminal prosecution over the GM crops blunder .

The Soil Association, which certifies organic produce nationwide, is considering court action after the revelation that the company had sold contaminated batches of oilseed rape to some 600 farms in the past two years.

The association confirmed to The Independent that it was consulting lawyers and would work with hundreds of organic farmers who have GM-free contracts with supermarkets.

Although just 1 per cent of Advanta's products were contaminated, the company admitted yesterday that it did not know exactly which farmers or merchants had used the seeds.

Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, faced repeated demands from Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs yesterday to indicate whether compensation would be paid to farmers affected by the blunder.

Mr Brown refused to talk about compensation but stressed the issue of liability was "under review" by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

However, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food revealed that current government legal advice was that no regulations had been breached because the mixing of the GM and non-GM seeds had been accidental. "We do not consider this as commercial planting because it was inadvertant," (UK Correspondent's note: pathetic isn't it?) a senior Maff official said.

But Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said that such a suggestion was ludicrous . "How can the Government deny that this is commercial planting? That ought to be tested in a court of law . Anyone could say they didn't mean to pollute the environment, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to get away with it ," he said.

"These farmers purchased seed in good faith that they believed to be GM-free and because of that I would have thought that they have a claim to redress ."

Mr Holden said that the planting of 34,000 acres , and the plans to extend GM farm trials, could mean that the public would soon be unable to make a GM-free choice as consumers.

Peter Roderick, a legal adviser for Friends of the Earth, said that if the Government failed to launch a criminal investigation, then his own pressure group would launch a private prosecution .

Mr Roderick said: "The onus should be on Advanta to prove that its actions were inadvertant . The Government is just taking its word that this was all an accident and therefore it's all OK. Well, it's not OK."


19 May 00 - GMO - Seed imports face spot checks to keep out GM

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 19 May 2000


Ministers rush to tighten controls as the Soil Association considers legal action against the Government and Advanta

Spot checks on imported crop seeds for contamination by genetically modified material are to be rushed in by the Government after hundreds of British farmers inadvertently planted GM-contaminated oilseed rape.

The checks will be brought in from 1 June, and a code of practice to prevent contamination will be developed with the seed industry, the Minister of Agriculture, Nick Brown, told the House of Commons yesterday. MPs were shocked by news that 34,000 acres of land was planted with affected seed last year and this.

Although Britain has strict rules on the GM content of foodstuffs, there are none on seed, and imports are not checked .

Another measure is an urgent review of the separation distances between conventional crops and GM crop field used in trials. The latest incident indicates that the British rules are insufficient to prevent cross-pollination.

The contaminated seed had been "genetically polluted" by pollen from another GM rape crop in Alberta, Canada, where separations of at least 800 metres are observed. In the UK trials, the greatest separation distance thought necessary is 600 metres, and many of the distances are much less.

Mr Brown was criticised by opposition MPs and green groups yesterday when - unlike in Sweden , where the seeds concerned were also planted - he refused to consider destroying the GM-contaminated crops of spring oilseed rape now growing on almost 600 UK farms. The Government had no reason to do so as they posed "no threat to public health or the environment", he said.

Mr Brown discounted the main fear of environmentalists - the uncontrolled escape of GM genes through cross-pollination with wild-growing oilseed rape and wild plant relatives. The GM crop in this case was sterile, and it was "difficult to see how cross-pollination could occur", he said.

Advanta Seeds UK, the wholesaler in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, that imported the seeds, would not say specifically the seeds were "sterile" . Thomas Joliffe, technical manager, he preferred to say they had "reduced fertility" . "We would think cross-pollination with other plants would be highly unlikely," he said.

The government position is that GM crops will not be grown commercially in Britain until 2002 at the end of trials. But the accidental planting has brought widespread dismay , as did the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture had known about the position a month ago .

In the Commons, the Tory agriculture spokesman, Tim Yeo, and David Heath of the Liberal Democrats said there was a strong case for destroying the crops . Friends of the Earth food campaigner Adrian Bebb said: "We want the trials stopped and above all we want the Government to protect the public, not the GM industry."


18 May 00 - GMO - Pressure Grows To Destroy Crops Blighted By GM Seeds

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Thursday 18 May 2000


The Government is coming under increasing pressure to destroy crops contaminated by GM seeds.

The Swedish Board of Agriculture says it is likely farmers there who used the affected seed this year will be ordered to destroy their crops .

But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture in Britain says the Government could only destroy affected crops and seeds if there was a threat to human health or the environment.


18 May 00 - GMO - How the GM cat got out of the bag

James Meikle

Guardian ... Thursday 18 May 2000


The government should be honest about GM contamination and admit that it cannot control the spread of GM crops, says community affairs editor James Meikle

Last night's revelation that conventional crop seed planted in Britain, but grown from nurseries on the Canadian prairie, had been contaminated by genetically modified neighbouring seed grown well over 800 metres away is not only a huge embarrassment to the government, it also raises serious questions about the quality of the scientific advice it has been getting.

Such cross-pollination over such distances was not meant to happen . If Advanta, the seed company, are "gob-smacked" , how is the ordinary consumer meant to feel?

Ministers were yesterday presenting the disaster as if a few rogue GM seeds had got into batches of conventional seed. Oh, that it was that simple! That would be serious, but containable.

The fact that the international seed giants who want to carry on producing conventional varieties are now moving their fields hundreds or even thousands of miles (to New Zealand) to protect the purity of such products just shows how serious the problem really is.

The government may scoff at those who have called for six-mile exclusion zones round GM sites here - organic farmers and bee-keepers among them - but public trust is now bound to be seriously dented by an abject failure of national and international law .

This morning, government officials insisted there had been no intention to mislead. No law had been broken. It was up to farmers whether or not they wanted to destroy their crops. It is also apparently up to them whether they tell their local communities they have unwittingly been growing contaminated crops. There will not be a penny of government compensation for those who may lose business from food producers who may no longer want to trade with them.

This "not our fault, guv" attitude just will not wash . This "mistake" was revealed by random testing in a German state. We have not had such a system. We will now. But the government really must be secretly worried that it now cannot control the slow spread of GM crops across the country. Because we have been importing food with GM ingredients for years, it has effectively already admitted it cannot control international trade.

It says that GM trial crops are no risk to human health or the environment, yet says none will go on sale here until further trials are completed in 2003. It makes much of consumer choice saying people have a right not to eat even such "safe" food if they do not want to, but now it behaves as if it is powerless to act when GM-contaminated crops have in fact already been accidentally grown, processed and consumed in this country. It may be the case it is now powerless. If it is, ministers should have the guts to say so.


18 May 00 - GMO - Rogue GM seeds sown on 600 farms

By Valerie Elliott And Nick Nuttall

Times ... Thursday 18 May 2000


Britain's farmers have been unwittingly growing thousands of acres of genetically modified crops after a mistake by a Canadian seed exporter, the Government admitted last night.

Ten thousand acres have been planted with the GM-contaminated spring oilseed rape seed this year and 22,000 acres were planted and sown last year. The 221/2 tons of contaminated seed were planted without the safeguards used for GM field trials and officials admit that non-GM crops could be contaminated .

The seed company's British arm, Advanta Seeds UK, said that up to 600 farmers had bought the seed. But it insisted there was only low-level GM contamination of less than 1 per cent of the seeds. There are no plans to destroy the crops.

The revelation triggered immediate alarm at Westminster where ministers have repeatedly pledged that there will be no commercial planting of GM crops for at least three years. There was also fury among MPs and anti-GM campaign groups that the Government had "sat" on the information for a month . The news was "sneaked" out in a Commons written answer and the Liberal Democrats were raising the issue with the Speaker.

The Ministry of Agriculture insisted last night there was no risk to human health or the environment, but ministers refused to go to the Commons to make an statement. The ministry also made clear that it would not be tracing the farmers involved or tell the public where the farms were located.

With the Prince of Wales speaking out against the "potentially disastrous consequences" of GM food and the revelation that some honey has been contaminated, the Government's strategy was in disarray.

But Baroness Hayman, junior Agriculture Minister, insisted that the Government took seriously the issue of seed purity and had introduced spot checks on seed imports.

"The farmer and his customer do not expect to find that a crop of conventional seed contains an unexpected or unacceptable level of GM material ," she said.However, she added that the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment and the Food Standards Agency believed there was "no risk to public health or the environment".

Advanta was alerted to the possibility that conventional non-GM crop seeds contained GM seeds on April 3 when it was contacted by a German laboratory. The seeds were in batches of the varieties Hyola 410 and Hyola 38 .

Sales were halted and the company carried out its own tests, which showed a "very low presence" less of than 1 per cent of GM rape. Some 2,000 rape seed stocks were found to contain low levels of GM rape seed . On April 17 the company informed the Government and it is now contacting all seed merchants to check which farmers had received the seeds. Last night, however, Advanta was unable to name any farmer who had received supplies.

David Buckeridge, Advanta's European business director, said it had asked the Government if there were any regulation on GM contamination of seed and added: "No law has been broken and we feel the victims in this story. There are no regulations on this and while the seeds have an impurity, there is no hazard for humans or for the environment."

David Heath, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, was outraged by the episode, which, he said, exposed inadequate standards of ensuring purity .He was more disturbed, however, that the ministry had known about the error for a month . "What have they been doing to ensure that none of the seed has been planted this year?"

Tim Yeo, the Conservative agriculture spokesman, last night said the Government had "let down farmers over GM crops" . Controls crops were inadequate and needed to be tightened .

The National Farmers' Union "deplored the unnotified sale of GM material on seed which farmers have purchased in good faith."


18 May 00 - GMO - Imported seeds tainted by GM

James Meikle

Guardian ... Thursday 18 May 2000


Thousands of acres of crops tainted by GM pollen have been growing in Britain for more than a year and may have been used in food production, the government admitted last night in a move that is highly embarrassing for its scientific advisers, who had previously claimed there was little risk of cross-pollination with conventional crops.

Hundreds of farmers have unwittingly planted the contaminated seed over two spring seasons without the safeguards used for GM field trials, but ministers, whose officials had known about the problem for a month , insisted there was no risk to health or the environment.

The seeds came from the Canadian prairies, from plants that were growing more than 800 metres away from the nearest GM varieties but still picked up traces of modified material.

The tainted seed is thought to have been used on 9,000 hectares last year, nearly 2% of the rape crop. This year it has probably been used on 4,700 hectares , involving between 500 and 600 farmers.

It also emerged that there had been no random testing of imports of conventional seed for rogue GM material , despite the rapid spread of GM crops through the United States, Canada and Brazil. In this country no GM seeds are to be sold to farmers until after three years of farm trials to test their impact on the environment and wildlife.

Opposition parties immediately condemned ministers for the lack of proper controls on seeds, and for the delay and the low key announcement, made through a parliamentary written answer. The Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, David Heath, said the delay and the manner in which the government announcement had been made was deeply disturbing . "It is another example of the contempt in which the government holds the British public," he said.

The Tory spokesman, Tim Yeo, accused the government of a "willingness to allow commercial considerations to override the need to protect the British environment ".

The latest embarrassment came a day after it emerged that some British honey might have been contaminated by pollen from GM trials .

The seeds discovery was made during testing of imported seeds by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The international company responsible, Advanta Seeds, was informed by one of its customers in the state. Its British arm was told on April 3, and took steps to stop further sales while it began its own testing; this revealed a GM presence of up to 1% in seeds grown in 1998 and sold over the past two years.

The company told government officials on April 17. It was worried because the GM oilseed rape which tainted the conventional seed had no commercial licences for sales to farmers in Europe, but it could not inform its distributors or farmers until the government acted.

"We are absolutely dismayed," said Mike Ruthven, general manager of Advanta Seeds UK. "We are very concerned for consumers, because of the sensitivity of these things. We believe we are extremely responsible and we are gobsmacked that this has happened with an orthodox crop."

He said the advice from the government so far was that no regulation had been broken, and there was no threat to health or the environment - "although we have had some difficulty in getting those statements".

The 1999 seed crop had not been contaminated because the company had by then moved its seed growing from Alberta, Canada, to Ontario in eastern Canada, Montana in the US, and New Zealand.

Oilseed rape is used in foods such as margarine and in industrial processes, but the GM material that has been available from abroad was passed as safe by government advisers several years ago.

The seed is also thought to have been used on 600 hectares in France , 500 in Sweden and 400 in Germany , causing international embarrassment and highlighting a lack of international regulation of seed purity.

Baroness Hayman, the agriculture minister, said there would be new spot checks on imports and work with the industry on a new code of practice: "This is not a safety issue... However, the issue of seed purity is a serious one."


18 May 00 - GMO - Farmers accidentally sow 30,000 acres of GM crops

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph The Government was at the centre of a political storm over genetically modified crops last night after the Ministry of Agriculture admitted that large quantities of GM oilseed rape have been sown by accident on up to 600 farms.

More than 22,000 acres of the contaminated seed were planted and harvested in Britain last year. A further 11,750 acres were planted this spring before the "mistake" was discovered. The Government's policy is not to allow GM crops to be grown commercially at least until 2003, when current farm-scale trials and other studies will be complete.

The farmers involved had thought that they were planting conventional seed. Oil crushed from the seeds has already entered the food chain . It is used for cooking and in a range of foods including margarine, ice-cream and chocolate. Some material may have gone into cattle food. Pollen from these crops will have spread throughout the countryside with unknown results .

Farmers in France , Germany , Sweden and other European countries have also planted large amounts of the seed, imported from Canada by the Dutch-owned Advanta company. About one per cent of it was GM material. The blunder was uncovered only a day after the Prince of Wales issued a strong warning about GM crops , and disclosures that traces from GM pollen had been found in British honey .

MPs were furious that it took Maff so long to go public. The contaminated seed was discovered in spot checks by state officials in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, on April 3 . Advanta stopped sales to British farmers a week later after its own tests seemed to verify the German findings. After further tests confirmed the findings, the company informed the Department of the Environment and Maff on April 17 - two weeks after the discovery in Germany.

Maff waited until yesterday - one month after being approached by Advanta - to make a public statement in the form of written answer from Baroness Hayman, the agriculture minister, in the Lords. Officials said the delay was due to consultations with other Government departments and the Food Standards Agency.

Lady Hayman said: "This is not a safety issue. There is no risk to public health or the environment." No Government action is to be taken against Advanta, which imported the seed unwittingly. Friends of the Earth accused Maff of a cover-up and claimed that if it had acted sooner many farmers would have been prevented from planting the contaminated crops.

Mike Ruthven, general manager of Advanta Seeds UK, said: "This could not have happened at a worse time but we have acted responsibly. As soon as we knew there was a problem we sought guidance from the Government." The company, which said it could not identify individual customers because its seed was sold through merchants, is setting up an information desk for farmers.


17 May 00 - GMO - Beekeepers seek GM halt after honey contamination

James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Bees are making honey containing traces of genetically modified crops , it was claimed yesterday as the £210m-a-year bee industry demanded a temporary halt on further trials of the new technology.

Tests on two samples of honey bought from shops near a trial site used last year were said to reveal GM pollen although seven others showed no signs of GM engineering.

The results, announced by the strongly anti-GM Friends of the Earth, were given a cool reception by Aventis, the biotech company involved in the trial, and by the government, which said they indicated no risk to humans. Honey producers would not have to label their products as containing GM ingredients since they would be unlikely to have more than the 1% threshold allowed for accidental contamination by the European Union.

However, they caused consternation at the Bee Farmers Association which has already advised members to move their hives at least six miles from the nearest GM site - the distance organic farmers have been advised by the Soil Association to consider "safe" from contamination.

Such measures could soon prove difficult to adopt. If crops get commercial approval in three years' time, the location of farms using GM crops will not have to be publicised.

Sales of honey are worth more than £10m to commercial beekeepers, who also have lucrative contracts worth up to £200m with farmers who need to pollinate traditionally-grown fruit and other crops each year.

The potential effects of GM crops on bees, butterflies and ladybirds have all been raised by scientists recently while there is widespread evidence of consumer resistance to GM ingredients in food even if it has been passed safe.

Last year FoE found GM pollen in traps outside beehives more than 2.5 miles from a GM site. This time it went further and bought honey made by a bee farmer living near a test site for GM oilseed rape, whom it refused to identify, and sent them to researchers working for a company in Vienna owned by the Austrian government. The lab oratory identified the presence of GM components in two of them but said the tests used could not measure the extent of contamination.

FoE demanded an immediate ban on the outdoor testing of GM oilseed rape and maize, saying liability for contamination had not been established. By potentially forcing beekeepers to pull out of areas near GM test sites, damage could also be caused to fruit and vegetable farmers who often need their help because a destructive parasite is ravaging the British bee population.

Pete Riley, FoE senior food campaigner, said: "Honey is seen as a pure and natural product. The public has already made it clear that they don't want GM food ."

The public would not be happy if the government allowed GM trials to threaten their honey, he added.

The Bee Farmers Association said there had been no pro-active consultation by government and no offers to compensate members for moving hives or other consequences of contamination. It said the FoE example was "an isolated incident", and there was no proven evidence that such a tiny amount of GM material could be harmful.

The biotech industry is supervising a three-year programme of trials designed to establish whether there are potential threats to the environment from GM crops, but government advisers have already ruled they are safe enough to plant in the open. A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment said: "The minute amounts of GM pollution found in honey poses no risk to human health."

She repeated assurances that separation distances between GM and traditional crops - 50 metres for oil seed rape and 200 metres for maize - would be reviewed if there was any evidence of cross pollination.

Aventis said it could not comment in detail until it had seen the methods used in the tests. But a spokesman said the results "run diametrically contrary to everything we have to do to date with bees". Much of the work it had submitted to government over the years had concerned the impact on wildlife.


17 May 00 - GMO - Angry Charles warns scientists of disaster

John Vidal and James Meek

Guardian ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Prince Charles's simmering anger with the direction of some modern science will tonight blow into a philosophical storm as he argues that the only way to avoid environmental catastrophe is for humankind to rediscover an urgent "sense of the sacred".

In a Reith lecture, to be broadcast on Radio 4 tonight, he will confront scientific materialism, politicians and business leaders to argue that it is because of humanity's "inability or refusal to accept the existence of a guiding hand that nature has come to be regarded as a system that can be engineered for our own convenience and in which anything that happens can be fixed by technology and human ingenuity".

He will add: "We need to rediscover a reverence for the natural world, irrespective of its usefulness to ourselves, to become more aware of the relationship between God, man and creation."

The lecture takes swipes at biotechnology, the government's modernising zeal, and economic globalisation - and warns that it is only by employing "both the intuitive and rational halves of our own nature that we will live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in us by our creator".

He asks: "If literally nothing is held sacred anymore, what is there to prevent us treating our entire world as some 'great laboratory of life' with potentially disastrous long-term consequences?"

But the prince is careful to build bridges between modern science and the sacred. "We need to restore the balance between the heartfelt reason of instinctive wisdom and the rational insights of scientific analysis. Neither is much use without the other. Only by rediscovering the essential unity and order of the living and spiritual world and by bridging the gap between cynical secularism and the timelessness of traditional religion will we avoid the disintegration of our environment."

The Prince of Wales has weighed into the debate over genetically modified foods before, but this time his attack on the scientific approach is broader and deeper. Some of his critics are likely to interpret his remarks as an assault on the whole medical and agricultural revolution being ushered in by the new era of genetics.

His fears over GM crops may have inspired his criticism, but his lecture is a cry against excessive scientific rationalism in general. His belief that tampering with nature is an affront to God, whom he refers to throughout his lecture as the creator, is spelled out more explicitly than in previous statements.

The 22-minute speech draws on green gurus including Fritz Shumacher and Rachel Carson, natural theologians including Philip Sherrard, and radical economists such as Herman Daly, formerly of the World Bank. Last night it was well-received by British environmental leaders, who are increasingly at odds with what they see as the fundamentalism of some modern science.

Peter Melchett, director of Greenpeace, said: "It's long overdue that someone pointed out how bereft and barren of humanity are those people who claim they are acting on the basis of 'sound science'. They say in effect that culture, society, values and religion don't exist."

Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, said the speech would be a wake-up call to politicians and business leaders who thought nature was "a piece of machinery".

"He is reminding us that nature is something wondrous and beautiful and that we have to learn that humility to develop a truly sustainable relationship with nature," he said.

Jonathon Porritt, a close friend of the prince's who has also argued that science today is philosophically unable to address the challenges of sustainable development, said: "There is an overwhelming consensus that everything can be sorted by 'good science'. But it cannot be a panacea. It is a part of the mix but not sufficient in itself."

The prince's words provoked a strong response from Richard Dawkins, the zoologist and award-winning science writer. "Far from being demeaning to human spiritual values, scientific rationalism is the crowning glory of the human spirit," he said. "Of course you can use the products of science to do bad things, but you can use them to do good things, too."

Others were scathing. "He's attacking everything that has been done by mankind in the past 100,000 years," said Julian Morris of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

"Man should consider man foremost. Does Prince Charles think we ought to go back to the point where we are at the whim of nature? In Genesis, man is called on to take charge of nature. This seems to be akin to some pagan love of an earth goddess."


17 May 00 - GMO - Beehives alert over 'GM pollution'

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Times ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Bee-keepers have been told to move their hives six miles from genetically modified crop trial sites after shop-bought honey was found to contain GM pollen.

The instructions were issued by the Bee Farmers' Association and the British Beekeepers' Association after honey bought by Friends of the Earth was found to contain "genetically modified components" . Bee-keepers are determined to save their industry and to maintain consumer confidence in British honey by keeping the product GM-free .

They know that bees will travel up to four miles for pollen and so the six-mile zone has been set as the safest minimum distance from modified crops. They are seeking talks with ministers and demanding to be consulted about the siting of GM trials.

In particular they fear that if GM crops get commercial approval the Government will not have to make the sites public and bee-keepers will never know if their honey is at risk of contamination.

Bee-keepers' associations are also calling for compensation for the extra costs and work of having to move their hives away from the trial sites. Liability for the GM pollution of honey is also unresolved.

The demand for hives to be kept six miles away from modified crops is also backed by the Honey Association, which represents packers and importers. Supermarkets have made clear to them that they want to ensure products are GM-free and have asked for the six-mile limit.

The Department of the Environment said that the GM quantities involved were "minuscule" and the Government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment had concluded there was no threat to human or animal health. Friends of the Earth refused to name the beekeepers involved.


17 May 00 - GMO - Honey has been contaminated by GM crops, claims Friends of the Earth

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Britain's bee farmers are to seek an urgent meeting with the Government after Friends of the Earth (FoE) alleged that honey had been contaminated by genetically modified crops .

Traces of GM pollen had been found in honey bought in an area of England where GM crops in the Government's farm-scale trials programme had been grown last year, the green group said yesterday.

Two samples out of nine bought in the area, one of honey and the other of honeycomb, were found to contain "genetically modified components" by the Austrian Federal Environment Laboratory, to which they were submitted for analysis, FoE said.

"Friends of the Earth now has evidence that GM crops can contaminate honey," said Pete Riley, the group's senior food campaigner. "It is essential that the Government takes immediate action to protect this multi-million-pound industry from the GM threat."

The GM traces found were special genes for weedkiller tolerance developed for oilseed rape crops by the German agrochemical company Aventis. The area is understood to be in Oxfordshire. Brian Stenhouse, general secretary of the Bee Farmers Association of the UK, said members were being advised to move hives at least six miles from any GM crop site.

An Environment Department spokeswoman said: "The minute amounts of GM pollen found in honey pose no risk to human health."


17 May 00 - GMO - Environmentalists Hail Prince's Warning Over Science

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Environmental campaigners have welcomed the Prince of Wales's warning about the perils of tampering with nature - but medical researchers criticised his message.

Charles says in a Reith lecture to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 that a world which ignores the "essential unity" of the living and spiritual universes is doomed.

He also argues that humanity's "inability or refusal to accept the existence of a guiding hand" means that "nature has come to be regarded as a system that can be engineered for our own convenience and in which anything that happens can be fixed by technology and human ingenuity".

The forthright tone of his lecture, which also takes a swipe at biotechnology, may also prompt a further rift between St James's Palace and the Government, which continues to support genetically-modified food.

Friends of the Earth policy and campaigns director Tony Juniper said it was an important speech.

"While most mainstream commentators have lost the plot, the Prince of Wales has hit the nail firmly on the head," he said.

Professor of medical genetics at Cambridge University Martin Bobrow said: "I think it is extremely unhelpful to convey a general attitude of being antagonistic to a scientific process.

"I believe there could be great benefits. I believe there are potential dangers and I think it is important that we should concentrate on both."


17 May 00 - GMO - GM crop protesters cleared

By Richard Savill

Telegraph ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Six demonstrators accused of obstructing police in the first case in Scotland involving an attack on genetically modified crops were cleared of the charge yesterday.

Two of the six were released immediately but the other four face trial later this year on a further charge of damaging property without reasonable excuse. Edinburgh sheriff court was told last week that demonstrators who uprooted oil seed rape plants in a protest against GM crops caused only £1.50 damage when they missed their target and attacked a decoy area by mistake.

About 60 protesters climbed a fence surrounding a field of oil seed rape and invaded the crop "intent on damage". Catherine Johnson, 31, a librarian, of Dunshalt, Fife, and Stokley Webster, 29, a Greenpeace food and agricultural policy researcher, of Lambeth, south-east London, were cleared of obstructing police at Boghall Farm, Penicuik, Midlothian, on March 28 last year.

Four men, Mark Ballard, 28, a graphic designer, James MacKenzie, 28, a charity worker, and Alan Tolmie, 33, a musician, all from Edinburgh; and Matthew Herbert, 29, a company director, of Boarhills, St Andrews, were also cleared of obstructing police.


17 May 00 - GMO - E-mail guide to field invasion

By Valerie Elliott

Times ... Wednesday 17 May 2000


Instructions to anti-GM campaigners on how to damage GM crops and take direct action against farmers is being circulated by e-mail.

The message describes direct action as "the most wonderful and liberating experience" and suggests that one way of frightening farmers would be to organise groups of masked protesters armed with scythes to operate at night. It says that such action might goad farmers into a violent reaction.

The lengthy advice, from an unknown author, is being studied by Home Office officials to see whether any offence has been committed.

Some have received the guide from the e-mail address of a leading figure in the Friends of the Earth Swindon branch.

Jean Saunders, the branch spokeswoman, said she was not the author. She understood the author to be an activist from Manchester who she had been told was abroad at present. A FoE spokesman in London said it did not advocate any direct action against crops or farmers.

The e-mail also has tips on symbolic crop-pulling protests that "challenge the biotechnology companies by breaking down the myth" that anti-GM campaigners are vandals. Crop squats are also recommended.

Activists are told that if they seek legal advice , they should discuss only "hypothetical situations" with lawyers.

Tony Combes, the spokesman for Monsanto, said he had heard about such guides. "This just proves the task we are up against," he said. "Farmers are already being intimidated and we must take action to stop it."


10 May 00 - GMO - Anti-GM claims 'misleading'

James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 10 May 2000


Advertising watchdogs yesterday fired a warning shot at supermarkets for making exaggerated claims in the battle to win customers to organic or non-genetically modified food.

Iceland, the first chain to promote own brand products for having non-GM ingredients, was rebuked for making misleading and "unacceptable" appeals to some people's fears over the new technology, including an allegation that mistakes had caused 37 deaths in the US.

Tesco was criticised for claiming that prices for organic food were "only a little higher" than conventional produce and that it tasted better.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld six out of nine complaints made against an Iceland leaflet and all three complaints made against a Tesco brochure.

A spokesman for the ASA said the companies "are both trying to stake out new ground in foods being healthier or better for you for whatever reason, but are taking the science too far."

Last year the authority criticised GM giant Monsanto for inaccuracies in its advertising on behalf of the technology.

Iceland said it would contest yesterday's adjudication, and claimed the authority's procedures were flawed . Russell Ford, managing director, said: "We can't understand why the ASA feels it has the expertise within its own ranks to judge scientific statements."

The company believed the leaflet was not an advertisement, and therefore fell outside the authority's powers.

Tesco said it had withdrawn the criticised brochure months ago because it was out of date.

UK Editor's Note: The complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority was made by Geoffrey Hollis, a retired senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture ..........


10 May 00 - GMO - Tesco misled shoppers over cost and taste of organic food

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Wednesday 10 May 2000


Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket, has made misleading claims about the purity, cost and taste of organic food, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.

In a judgement, to be published today, which will come as a severe jolt to the booming organic industry, the advertising watchdog censured phrases in a Tesco publicity booklet implying that organic produce is grown without chemicals, is only slightly more expensive than conventional food, and tastes better.

The phrases cannot be substantiated and should be amended, the ASA said, asserting that some chemicals are used, the price differential is considerable, and there is no convincing evidence of a difference in taste.

The ruling is the first significant pricking of the publicity bubble accompanying the rise in UK organic food sales, which have gone from an annual £200m to nearly £550m a year in just four years, and are predicted to hit £1bn at the end of 2001. It results from a lone campaign by a retired senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture who felt that many of the claims for organic produce and its back-to-nature way of farming are exaggerated.

Geoffrey Hollis spent much of his career ensuring the safety of conventional food - the stuff grown with artificial fertilisers and pesticides, which still forms the vast bulk of the nation's diet. He was at one time head of the ministry's pesticide safety division .

And he has "a bit of a bee in his bonnet", he said, about the bad press now given to conventional food and the chemicals used to grow it.

"I don't mind people making claims for organic food as long as they don't involve knocking conventional food and saying it's bad for you," he said. "Pesticides are vital to agriculture and producing our food supplies, and I am trying to counter knocking copy about them which is not based on fact."

Now 56 and working as an agricultural consultant, Mr Hollis insists he has never received any remuneration from any chemical company. But he feels so strongly that he has begun campaigning - tenaciously - against what he perceives as rank unfairness.

He secured an apology from the BBC governors last month after the Radio4 consumer programme You and Yours wrongly claimed that pesticide residues "above health limits" were being found in British food. You and Yours had admitted the statement was inaccurate but initially refused to broadcast a correction.

And with Tesco, Mr Hollis switched into full complaints mode last summer after perusing the supermarket giant's booklet, Organic. As Natural As Nature Intended, which he saw as seriously misleading.

On organic production methods, the booklet said: "Organic crops are only produced by natural, traditional farming methods. It's the environmentally friendly alternative to chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides that can damage the soil and kill off nature's own nutrients." Mr Hollis took this to imply that no chemicals at all were used in organic farming, whereas he knew that certain chemicals were employed.

On cost, the booklet said: "Production is more expensive, so the price may be a little higher." Mr Hollis believed that the price differential was substantial, on average about 40 per cent. And on taste, the booklet said: "You'll notice a difference in taste and texture." Mr Hollis believed no difference in taste was discernible between an organic cabbage and a conventional cabbage.

He wrote to Tesco, and was, he said, repeatedly ignored, so he turned to the ASA, and the watchdog body has now upheld all three of his complaints.

The phrases in the booklet "implied that no chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides were used in the production of organic food", the ASA said. "Because they were, the Authority considered the leaflet was misleading and asked the advertisers to amend it."

On cost, the ASA said the claim that "the price may be a little higher" exaggerated the lack of difference between organic and conventional food and asked the advertisers to remove the claim. And on taste, it said: "The Authority considered that the claim 'you'll notice a difference in taste and texture' went beyond puffery, and recommended that, unless they could provide convincing evidence that consumers noticed a difference, the advertisers should not repeat the claim."

The ASA was helped to its conclusion by technical evidence Mr Hollis thoughtfully supplied them with, including a Ministry of Agriculture document setting out the chemicals allowed in organic production, which include slag, crude potassium salt, elemental sulphur and insecticides, such as Derris dust (whose active ingredient is plant-based).

He also provided a study on comparative prices by the University of the West of England, and evidence that organic food could not be told from conventional in blind tasting trials.

Tesco, which sold virtually no organic food three years ago but now has 530 organic lines likely to be producing £250m worth of annual sales by the end of this year, said yesterday it would not challenge the judgement, and that the booklet had been withdrawn. "There was no deliberate move to mislead people, and if we have, we apologise, but all we are doing is promoting organics," said a Tesco spokesman. "In terms of the piece on chemicals, that was perhaps naïveté. In terms of price, last year we did have parity between organic and conventional food, although that is no longer the case. And in terms of taste, a lot of our customers report back to us that they think organic food really does taste better."

However, the spokesman said, the wording of the booklet had been agreed with the Soil Association , the principal organic food and farming campaigning body. Simon Brenman, the Soil Association's agricultural development director , said that the ASA judgement was "nitpicking" .

"I do not believe the booklet was misleading," he said. "I still feel that it was a genuine and honest attempt to inform Tesco's customers. Organic food is the alternative to food produced with chemicals. The booklet was produced in good faith ."


10 May 00 - GMO - Chemical-free fad of the few that turned into a mass-market success

By Michael McCarthy

Independent ... Wednesday 10 May 2000


Organic food is perhaps the greatest sudden success story in the retail world since supermarkets arrived from America in the 1960s.

Available mainly in health food shops until only a few years ago, a succession of food scares culminating in the BSE tragedy have turned it from a minority to a mainstream purchase by shoppers - mainly young mothers - who will pay a premium for produce they think is safer.

British supermarkets like Tesco have avidly joined the trend, and their organic sales have rocketed from £105m in 1993 to £200m in 1997 and £546m last year. Sales are currently growing at an annual rate of 40 per cent. Organic farming - of which Prince Charles was an early champion - rules out any use of synthetic chemicals, such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and builds up soil fertility and pest resistance by natural means such as crop rotation. But certain naturally occurring substances are allowed for pest control under limited circumstances - which is what Mr Hollis pointed out to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Farmers have to undergo a two-year "conversion period" for their land before it can grow produce certified as organic. Britain produces only about 30 per cent of the organic food consumed here, but the number of farmers is thought to have doubled to about 2,000 over the last two or three years.


10 May 00 - GMO - How I proved store's hype was wrong

By Geoffrey Hollis

Independent ... Wednesday 10 May 2000


Supermarkets claim to provide only what the customer wants. In fact they encourage buying habits that maximise their profits, and recently they have been promoting organic food which, while providing them with a green image, also hasgenerous mark-ups.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today upholds a complaint from me against a campaign by Tesco, which was launched with a booklet containing three misleading claims - about the absence of chemicals in the production of organic food, the difference in price and the difference in taste.

These claims annoyed me. For some years I was in charge of pesticide safety at the Ministry of Agriculture , trying to ensure that conventionally grown food did not damage the environment.

Now I am a non-executive director of a health authority, seeking to reduce health inequalities. Poor people have worse health than average, partly because of an inferior diet. Tesco's booklet must reinforce this disAdvantage.

To prove organic food is produced with chemicals, I submitted to the ASA a long list of permitted substances, such as basic slag, potassium salt and industrial lime. To refute the claim that organic food was only "a little higher" in price, I spent time comparing prices at my local Tesco. Out of 21 organic lines, only three had mark-ups of less than 20 per cent. A university survey showed that a basket of organic products cost 71 per cent more at Tesco, the highest of the four major supermarkets. As to the claim that organic produce tasted better, I referred the ASA to research showing that trained tasters cannot detect a difference in blind trials.

After months of debate between the ASA and Tesco my complaint was upheld in full. We can hope that supermarkets will now be more cautious in hyping organic food and consumers more resistant to such propaganda.


09 May 00 - GMO - US shoppers start to lose confidence in GM food

Michael Ellison in New York

Guardian ... Tuesday 09 May 2000


Although most Americans would buy genetically modified foods, confidence is falling , and almost 40% of the population still has no knowledge of the issue, according to an opinion poll yesterday.

A poll shows that 63% of shoppers would be very or quite likely to buy a new product genetically engineered to resist insect damage, down 14 points in the last four years, the supermarket industry's annual convention in Chicago was told.

And 54% say they are very or quite likely to buy food modified to taste better or stay fresh longer, compared with 58% in 1996.

Nearly four in 10 people have not heard of genetically altered food, the poll shows.

More than half this year's soya bean crop and a fifth of the maize plantings will be biotech varieties that are resistant to herbicides or insect pests. Biotech animals, including leaner pigs and fast-growing salmon , are being developed.

But some food companies have stopped buying genetically engineered ingredients , citing fears about consumer resistance, and McDonald's and one leading grocery chain have rejected them.


07 May 00 - GMO - GM medicine 'risks the lives of diabetics'

Antony Barnett, Public Affairs Editor

Observer ... Sunday 07 May 2000


The lives of thousands of British diabetics were put at risk by multinational drug companies that 'intentionally and maliciously' suppressed information about the potentially lethal side-effects of a genetically engineered medicine , according to claims in US court documents.

An American lawsuit launched in April against two drug corporations will embarrass Tony Blair , who this year cited synthetic insulin as an example of the benefits of genetically modified technology in producing 'life-saving medicines'.

Yet lawyers representing a victim of the man-made insulin in a class action case in New Mexico claim the genetically engineered medicine leads to 'confusion, distress, coma and even death' . The diabetic bringing the case, Susan Kawulok, said the product caused 'unbearable pain and loss of most use of my arms'.

Although no evidence has yet been put to substantiate claims that the firms acted improperly, the case could send shock waves through the pharmaceutical industry, which has invested millions in genetically engineered products.

Diabetics do not naturally produce enough insulin - a vital hormone that controls the level of sugar in the blood. Hundreds of thousands of British diabetics have to inject insulin each day to survive. Until the Eighties, this insulin came from pigs or cattle, but US drugs giant Eli Lilly and a Danish company, Novo Nordisk, developed a synthetic insulin using genetic engineering . The new medicines were hailed as a scientific breakthrough and branded as 'human' insulin to distinguish them from the animal-derived product.

Some 150,000 diabetics in Britain were switched to the new medicine and currently around 500,000 use these products. Although most diabetics have never had problems with the genetically engineered insulin, a significant minority have complained of serious side-effects .

Unlike the case with natural insulin, some diabetics do not get any warning their blood sugar level has fallen and are more likely to go into comas, known as hypoglycaemic episodes or 'hypos'. Some become violent or pass out while driving.

In February, a diabetic, Mervyn Fletcher, crashed his car in Wolverhampton, killing his mother-in-law , a passenger. He blacked out and swerved, ploughing across a roundabout and shunting another car 20 yards along a grass verge. Only later when he took glucose tablets did he realise what had happened.

Fletcher, a diagnosed diabetic for 15 years, had kept his driving licence. But two years ago his doctor had switched him from animal insulin to the genetically engineered product. At the inquest, Fletcher said: 'I didn't get any warning. I was devastated afterwards that this had happened. I've lost my mother-in-law.'

Last June Alasdair Padmore, a diabetic civil servant, stabbed his friend through the heart during a 'hypo'. He was cleared of murder because of his condition. He 'fought like a man possessed' with police when they tried to arrest him and told them he had no recollection of the incident.

Scientists defending man-made insulin claim there is no scientific evidence it presents a particular risk, and both Eli Lilly and Novo Nordish deny it has harmful effects. But last year it emerged that the British Diabetic Association suppressed a report highlighting the problems of those using synthetic insulin. The report was never published in full because the association believed it was 'too alarmist'.

A spokesman for the British Diabetic Association said: 'We will be watching this case with great interest. It highlights the need for manufacturers to supply animal insulin for the many who need it to survive.'


06 May 00 - GMO - Lupins may help farmers to avoid GM food chain

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Times ... Saturday 06 May 2000


England's "green and pleasant land" is to be transformed into a sea of blue, white and yellow in the fight against genetically modified food .

Lupins - a familiar adornment of cottage gardens - are to replace traditional crops on many farms throughout the country to ensure a GM-free food chain .

They will provide the protein for GM-free animal feed and could eventually be used for flour in cakes, biscuits, bread and pizzas.

Already 150 farmers have signed up to trials of lupin as the feed of the future and their fields will be in bloom in June and July. The potential take-up could be huge .

Mark Blakeway, of Heathy Mill Farm, Kidderminster, is one of the lupin pioneers and has planted 18 acres with white flowering seeds. He said: "I like to be at the front of the queue and am the only farmer in Worcestershire growing this crop. My neighbours are interested and are keeping an eye on me. It could be the niche market we are all looking for. It will also be a very pretty scene, a field of white flowers rolling down to a fishing pond. Last year I tried to grow soya, but it was a disaster. But this time I am confident it will take off."

Mr Blakeway added: "I will be able to guarantee GM-free produce with full traceability . I will no longer have to buy imported soya." He hopes to use lupins to provide the protein in feed for his pigs or he may sell the crop to supply more farmers with lupin seeds.

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Lupins: GM-free alternative

Lupinus is known for it spindly stems of pea-like flowers, mainly in blue, pink, white, red, yellow and lilac.

200 species, mainly from the Mediterranean, North Africa and North and South America.

Found in dry, hilly grassland and open woodland, on coastal sands or cliffs, or on riverbanks.

Grow best in moderately fertile, light, well-drained, sandy soil and like full sun or partial shade.

Attracts slugs and are also prone to mildew, fungal rot and leaf spot.

Blue lupins are most popular for gardens. Favourite varieties are Lupinus nanus "Pixie Delight", Lupinus texensis "Texas bluebonnet", Lupinus "The Governor" and Lupinus "Thundercloud."

Commercial variety grown in Britain are Lupinus albus and Lupinus angustifolius. In Roman times it was known as Pisum lupinum or "wolf pea".

Name is believed to derive from Latin lupus, a wolf, because Romans believed lupins depleted or "wolfed" minerals from the soil - but lupins aid soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil which helps other plants.

Some believe origin is Greek - from lupe, grief - because they were eaten by humans in time of famine.


06 May 00 - GMO - Dairy forces farmers to abandon GM crop trial

James Meikle

Guardian ... Saturday 06 May 2000


Government-backed trials of genetically modified crops were in more trouble last night after a cooperative of dairy farmers forced colleagues to drop out of the experiment for fear it would damage their milk sales.

Seven proposed sites have been abandoned in recent weeks, and so far only 50 sites have been confirmed for planting this year - up to 30 fewer than the target set by ministers in March; it appears that the biotech industry itself is now settling for a total of 60 .

The latest body blow to the three-year programme of farm scale evaluations of GM seeds came with the decision by a farming couple in Cornwall to pull out of a trial for modified maize. Scimac, the industry umbrella group supervising the trials, has also abandoned a site for oil seed rape in St Osyth, near Clacton in Essex. The farmer concerned had already promised to abide by the decision of a parish referendum on the planting to be held today.

The government wants an average of 75 trials a year for three years to monitor the effects of GM crops on the environment and wildlife. This year it wanted 30 sites for sugar beet or fodder beet for animals, 25 for maize , and 25 for oilseed rape , much of which should either already have been planted or be in the ground within a few weeks.

Barry and Mary Symons, of West Portholland on the Roseland peninsula in Cornwall, dropped out under pressure from Peninsula Milk, a cooperative that buys their produce and sells it on to supermarkets. Mrs Symons said: "Our milk buyer put us under pressure, saying they would not collect from us if we took part, and we didn't have any choice but to withdraw."

She said the cows would not have gone anywhere near the crops but "milk is the most important part of our farm, so we have to listen to our buyers". There had not been much other local pressure: "Only two people have expressed concern about the trials, and one is a beekeeper."

Geoff Lawrence, managing director of Peninsula Milk, said: "We know there is resistance to GM foods from our consumers. We are not judging GM foods one way or the other, but if the customer doesn't want it, then the rights and wrongs don't matter." The company hoped soon to be free of milk from cows fed on GM feed.

Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in the south-west, said "inappropriate pressure" had been put on Mr and Mrs Symons. "GM crops are here now, and I think people will become more amenable to the idea when they see vaccines and other medical uses," he said.

The Cabinet Office's GM unit insisted that the steering committee monitoring the trials has set a maximum of 80 and minimum of 44 trial sites this year, even though the environment minister, Michael Meacher, has said there would be at least 66 and possibly 80 sites. A spokeswoman for the unit said: "This is not something we are concerned about at the moment. The goalposts have not changed."

No one from Scimac was available to comment.