Owen Paterson’s brother-in-law: wrong about Northern Rock and GM crops

The thought-provoking text of a Times article by ‘columnist Matt Ridley’ has been sent to this site.

Should he be taken seriously?

matt ridleyMatt, aka the 5th Viscount Ridley, as chairman of Northern Rock, was responsible, according to parliament’s Treasury select committee, for a “high-risk, reckless business strategy”.

Ridley resigned and the bank was bailed out and nationalised by the UK government.

Undeterred by this setback, in his book Down to Earth ll, he wags a finger at environmentalists who enjoy unrivalled access to politicians and bureaucrats – unlike Monsanto et al? – and demand more centralisation and regulation, enhancing the political bureaucracy.

He exults that – under pressure from his brother-in-law and the European Union’s health and consumer commissioner, Tonio Borg – the EU is on the brink of ceding control of the issue to national governments: “That suits countries such as France and Austria, who are implacably opposed to GM crops, and Britain, which is not”.

The slick fund-raisers

The slick fund-raisers

He blames the banning of GM crops in two Oregon counties (Measure 15-119 ), requiring all traces to be removed within a year, on big green philanthropic bodies in the USA who are concerned about “donor fatigue” and are seeking to boost funds by appealing to ‘right-on people’ about processes affecting their food. But Reuters reports that the banning was due to a campaign by a coalition of more than 180 farmers and community members. This is confirmed in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Further allegations:

  • A new GM variety of blight-resistant potato ‘probably’ could have been developed years earlier if the eco-vandals had not driven much ground-breaking research abroad.
  • The EU has been in thrall to the ‘mad’ precautionary principle — which argues for weighing the risks but not the benefits of innovation.
  • The opposition to GM crops was chiefly motivated by dislike of corporate “control” of seeds – the environmental movement’s fund-raising rallying cry.

He asserts: “So this is a technology that is safe for human health, better for the environment, more effective than the alternative and economically beneficial to consumers and farmers. Let the French ban it if they want to”.

Used car anyone?

The Times, 25 June 2014: Letters to the Editor

Growing GM crops

Sir, In reply to Matt Ridley (Opinion, June 23), the actual experience of growing GM crops in the US for nearly 15 is that they produce lower yields, now fetch lower prices, overall use more pesticides and have given rise to horrendous problems with weeds resistant to a wide range of weedkillers.

As most of the rest of the world, including China, Russia, most of the EU and Scotland and Wakes in the UK, moves away from GM food, and the US market starts to reject food, it would be a commercial disaster for English farmers to be saddles with a reputation for being the GM capital of Europe.

Ridley is also wrong to claim that, in GM fields, butterflies “are back in the field in bigger numbers”. Evidence from America has shown that one of the crowning glories of the natural world, the monarch butterfly, which migrates every year from Mexico to Canada and back, is in drastic decline because of the impact of sprays used on GM crops on its migration route through America.


Policy Director, Soil Association

Posted on June 30, 2014, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Government, Lobbying, Media, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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