Approval and withdrawal of GM crops in the UK: SGR Statement

SGR Statement, 15 April 2004

Scientists for Global Responsibility welcomes the news that there is no realistic prospect of any GM crop being grown commercially in the United Kingdom over the next several years. On the basis of the Farm-Scale Evaluations (FSEs), Ministers decided that the chemical regimes used for GM spring-sown oilseed rape and for GM sugar beet are more harmful to wildlife that are the conventional chemical regimes. Another crop in the FSEs, the forage maize Chardon LL, proved less harmful to wildlife than did ordinary maize. The maize trials, however, were invalidated by the fact that the highly toxic herbicide used on the conventional plots has been banned from future use in the European Union. Nevertheless, the Government gave approval for the GM maize to be grown commercially in the United Kingdom. Within days, however, the developer of the seeds, Bayer Cropscience, decided to abandon its attempts to commercialise this crop in the UK on the grounds that the Government had placed too many restrictions on the cultivation and also required acceptance by the company of responsibility for any resulting damage. By the time the details of all these requirements had been decided upon, said the company, the variety would have been superseded by new varieties and would be uneconomical to plant.

SGR has long argued (in a series of reports, articles and letters on this web site) that the evidence presented by the biotechnology companies regarding GM crops, and Chardon LL in particular, was inadequate to deal with concerns about possible negative effects on the environment and human health, as well as possible cross-contamination with other crops. Wider concerns about the increasing power of the biotechnology industry within the world's food system have also yet to be adequately addressed.

We urge the Government and publicly-funded scientific bodies to use this opportunity to shift much more of their research funding from short-lived GM crops towards alternatives such as organic farming, which can be grown sustainably over many years and which will be beneficial to the environment, to the economy and to society as a whole.

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