GeneWatch UK PR: GM industry fund parliamentary group to promote return of GM crops to Britain

Tuesday 27th November 2012

GeneWatch UK warned today that the GM industry is funding a major push to return GM crops to return GM crops to Britain by promoting misleading claims in parliament that they are needed to "feed the world". George Freeman MP's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture is being used by Monsanto and other GM companies to lobby on behalf of their business interests.

Funders of the APPG include the industry body the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which represents the major GM crop companies (BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer (DuPont), Monsanto and Syngenta). Other funders include the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (ADHB) (1). The funding is provided via Front Foot Communications, which is run by the Secretary of SCIMAC, a grouping of industry organisations along the UK farm supply chain, established in 1998 to support the introduction of GM crops in the UK.

In July 2011 the Prime Minister and the Science Minister David Willetts appointed Freeman as Government Life Science Advisor and he has been a vocal advocate of GM crops.

"Lobbyists from the GM industry have infiltrated parliament and are promoting GM crops to government as a way to 'feed the world'" said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, "But the sad truth is they only want to expand the market for their products and lock farmers into a treadmill where they continually pay more for patented GM seeds and expensive chemicals".

The ABC met ministers in June, with George Freeman MP and representatives of taxpayer-funded research institutes and the NFU, to promote a pro-GM agenda (2). UK scientists are being encouraged to call for weaker regulation of GM crops in Europe and to help expand GM crops into Africa, on the grounds that more research on GM crops is needed to "feed the world". However, the pipeline of GM crops awaiting approval in the EU consists mainly of herbicide-tolerant and pest-resistant GM crops that are already on the market in the USA. These crops are causing major problems for farmers in the USA and elsewhere as resistance develops to the weedkillers used and the toxins in the plants, leading to superweeds and superpests (3).

Last week the AIC, one of the members of the grouping, published a report arguing that the AHDB should have much greater control over the research agenda and fund more work on GM crops. The report was timed to feed into a government consultation on technology in agriculture (4).

"This is a carefully co-ordinated push to grow GM crops commercially in Britain and put GM foods back on supermarket shelves" said Dr Wallace, "But the GM industry's claims are totally disconnected from reality: costs for farmers will go up, not down, if they have to pay for patented GM seeds and expensive chemicals. Non-GM farmers will be forced to pay the costs of segregating their higher-value products and will lose markets if there is any accidental spread or mixing of low-value GM crops".

For further information contact:

Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)

Notes for Editors:

(1)    Register of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, page 524. On: States: Front Foot Communications Ltd (a consultancy) provides secretariat support to the group and is paid to do so by the following clients: National Farmers Union, Crop Protection Association, National Institute of Agricultural Botany, British Society of Plant Breeders, Agricultural Biotechnology Council, Agricultural Industries Confederation, Maltsters Association of Great Britain, National Association of British and Irish Millers, Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

(2)    Ministerial meeting with George Freeman MP, the ABC and others in June:[cid]=569457&als[itemid]=571449 

(3)    Seed prices are given in Figure 1 page 19 of a Friends of the Earth International Report. GM maize, soybean and cotton seed prices have increased much faster than non-GM wheat. A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? An analysis of the 'sustainable intensification' of agriculture. ; Superweeds reported on BBC report 19th September 2012:  and in GM crops: Farmer to Farmer: and Greenpeace "Growing Doubt" video, October 2012:  ; more videos of superweeds on: ; Superpests in 'Mounting Evidence' of Bug-Resistant Corn Seen by EPA. Bloomberg. 5th September 2012.

(4)   GeneWatch UK PR Taxpayers' R&D spend needs more accountability: stop wasting it on PR for GM crops. 23rd November 2012. On:[cid]=531148&als[itemid]=571537

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