GM moratorium ‘should continue’

The moratorium on the commercialisation of GM crops in the UK should continue, two independent juries have concluded after hearing evidence from a wide selection of expert witnesses.

GM technologies put too much pressure on wildlife, threaten food safety and only promise economic incentives for larger farms, according to the two ‘citizens’ juries’ which have also called for Government’s GM field trials to be continued in the long term.

Based on the response of the 30 jury members, Newcastle University has published a report today, ‘The People’s Report on GM Crops’, funded jointly by the Consumers’ Association, Greenpeace, the Co-operative Group and Unilever.

The two juries, held simultaneously in Newcastle upon Tyne and St Albans, also concluded there should be an immediate labelling of anything that might contain any GM, or anything fed on GM.

Both groups however did note that conventional farming is at present just as damaging as the potential ill effects of GM crops, and that GM could be accepted if it allows a move away from the high use of chemicals that upset the ‘delicate ecological balance’.

More research is needed to the effects of cross-pollination of GM crops, and of the health effects of GM food, specifically the potential impact of antibiotic-resistant markers, the report suggests. Further investigations by Government-funded bodies such as the Food Standards Agency are also necessary.

Tackling the often held position of GM proponents that the technology offers a potential solution to global hunger, the juries maintained that while vitamin-enhanced foods may have a role to play, it is the distribution and affordability of food that pose the real problems.

Farmers in the third world are particularly at risk from the introduction of GM technology, they add, as poorer growers will be increasing dependent on large corporations in richer countries to supply seed and chemicals.

Further, while large scale farming, to which GM lends itself, can be efficient, it can also threaten self-sufficiency, and increase the disastrous effects of price crashes, the juries found.

Liability is another area highlighted for action by the juries, which suggest the introduction of legislation in the UK to ensure the responsibility for any negative repercussions from GM are shared more equally between farmers and GM companies.