Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Government GM advisers warn over contamination risk

Environmentalists have seized on comments made by the government's GM advisers warning about the risk of contamination by GM oilseed rape.

August 1, 2003
3 min read

Recently released minutes of a 3 July 2003 meeting of the committee appointed to advise the government on GM, contain comments warning that organic oilseed rape grown in fields previously used for trials of GM oilseed rape is likely to breach contamination rules.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) notes that although farmers who have grown GM oilseed rape as part of government trials are banned from planting conventional rape seed in those fields for two years, contamination will be impossible to control even after this time and is likely to breach legal limits.

The committee notes: “Preliminary results from new research [has] shown that up to 5% of the crop which emerges could be GM contaminated, thus making it potentially unlawful to market the crop.”

British law does not allow the sale of GM oilseed rape, and EU laws only allow up to 0.5% GM contamination from an unlicensed crop in food sold to the public.

The ACRE committee proposed that farmers who have taken part in GM trials should not grow conventional oilseed rape until more is known about the risk of contamination.

Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth, who opposed the GM crop trials, said: “This news highlights the threat GM crops pose to our food, farming and environment. The Government must not allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK.

“The Government must take steps to ensure that all farmers that have grown GM oil seed rape, and not just the ones that have taken part in the farm scale trials, are banned from planting rape in these heavily polluted fields.”

Following the comments by the ACRE scientists, the government announced on Friday 25 July that farmers will not be allowed to plant conventional rape this autumn in fields that were used for trials of GM oilseed rape. The government said this was to “minimise any commercial consequence to [farmers] from GM plants accidentally growing from seeds left in the ground mixing with conventional plants.”

The risk of contamination by GM crops has been a key issue in the debate over GM foods. In 2001, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Plants proposed a five-year gap between GM oilseed crops and non-GM production, noting that the risk of contamination may arise for up to 10 years.

The government is expected to produce rules restricting how GM crops are grown so as to prevent contamination of conventional crops, after MEPs handed this responsibility to individual EU governments in a raft of GM legislation recently voted through the European Parliament.

The comments by the ACRE scientists come at the end of government’s Farm Scale Evaluations programme involving the experimental growth of GM oilseed rape. Trials of GM crops in the FSE programme took place in secret locations following sabotage by environmental groups concerned at contamination and the implications of GM food.

In addition to oil seed rape, GM maize and beet crops were grown in trials. However, there trials have provoked less concern of contamination as maize seed cannot survive the UK winter and beet crops are prevented from setting seed.

The first set of results from the FSE programme is to be published by the Royal Society in autumn. The government has said that no decisions on the GM crop varieties used in the trials are expected before the end of the year.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali


2