GeneWatch UK today released a dossier of correspondence and meetings between the UK Government and the GM industry, obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests. A briefing summarising the findings, with links to the released documents, has been posted on the GeneWatch UK website (1).
"Members of the public will be shocked by the extent to which foreign GM companies have muscled their way in to Government departments, developing a cosy relationship with ministers", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "Ministers and officials are not acting in the public interest but colluding with the industry to push ahead with commercial plantings of RoundUp Ready GM crops and undermine EU safety laws".
GeneWatch has released the documents in the run up to a decision by European environment ministers on whether to allow pro-GM countries to go ahead with commercial plantings, despite opposition from other member states. The proposal will be discussed at 12th June Environmental Council meeting and, if adopted, could complete negotiations with the European Parliament by end 2014. Monsanto or Syngenta's RoundUp Ready GM maize, which are waiting in the pipeline for approval, could then be planted in England as early as next spring.
The documents show how Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has collaborated with the GM industry since taking up his post, alongside more junior ministers at Defra. Paterson has reversed previous UK opposition to the devolved cultivation proposal in order to allow GM cultivation to be pushed ahead. Science Minister David Willetts, and the BIS communications team, have also been active in promoting GM on behalf of industry as part of the Government's Agri-Tech Strategy, which gives industry control over R&D investments. The documents:
- Reveal how foreign multinational GM companies are running the Government's PR strategy on GM crops by controlling how public and private money will be invested in research;
- Show that taxpayers' money is being spent on PR for the GM industry rather than delivering better food and farming;
- Suggest close co-operation with GM soya importers to pressure retailers to allow meat and dairy suppliers to use Monsanto's RoundUp Ready GM soya for animal feed and prevent consumers from accessing GM-free fed meat and dairy products;
- Highlight the extent to which the GM industry's role in Government policy is being kept hidden from the public.
"These documents expose Government collusion with the GM industry to agree PR messages and blacklist critical journalists. Scientists have been cherry-picked to push GM industry PR, as it seems the Government has made promises of research funds tied to public-private partnerships with Monsanto or Syngenta dependent on supporting commercial cultivation of RoundUp Ready GM crops in Britain" said Dr Wallace. "Disturbingly, the Government has also been kept in the loop over lobbying by GM feed importers behind closed doors to stop supermarkets offering their customers the choice of GM-free-fed meat and dairy products. British consumers have lost out to boost Monsanto's profits, as more GM RoundUp Ready soya is shipped in for use in feed, harming the environment abroad".
Growing RoundUp Ready GM crops destroys wildlife habitats, harming birds and butterflies, and leads to the growth of 'superweeds' due to blanket spraying of the crops with the weedkiller RoundUp, which they have been genetically engineered to tolerate. Patents on the seeds allow multinational companies to prevent seed saving by farmers and gain monopoly control over the market.
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)
Notes for Editors
(1) Available on: http://tinyurl.com/oa3ls2a