Blog Archives

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

Will agri-business be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?  

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.




Is the French seed industry lobbying the EC to extend advantages for large scale plant breeders?

EU DG health consumers logoA Cumbrian fruit grower has expressed alarm about a draft proposal for a new regulation on which the EU Directorate General for Health & Consumers has been working for some time. On Monday, the 6th of May they will present their proposal to the conference of commissioners. If a majority votes in favour, the proposal will be placed before the EU Parliament and Council.

The website is woefully out of date in all respects. A search on ‘seeds’ and ‘seed laws’ gave no result for 2013, and nothing relevant for the earlier years. The EU press office was no more helpful, though there are said to have been press releases endeavouring to meet these objections, saying that there will be reduced charges for small growers and that farmers will not be affected.

Conflict of interest allegations

There have been allegations of a conflict of interest as the new regulation has mainly been drafted by Isabelle Clement-Nissou, an employee of GNIS, the French lobby of the seed industry, who was sent as a national expert to Brussels to “support“ the EU Directorate.

The seed industry has spent a lot of money in lobbying to influence the seed legislation and it is said that they want the issue settled now and not postponed until after the election of a new parliament in May 2014.

Objections to the proposal

Objections to the proposal may be seen in the Arche Noah summary. Arche Noah is a Central European association of seed savers with 10.000 members who have worked for 20 years to preserve and cultivate endangered vegetable, fruit and grain diversity, bringing traditional and rare varieties into gardens and on the market again.

Note that the genetic diversity of our livestock is also under the spotlight, after a Government report finds that 75% of native breeds are under threat.

seed sovereignty campaign


The current EU seed legislation is said to handicap the marketing of traditional varieties that could be grown on European fields and favours homogeneity and large scale breeding and the European Court of Justice has failed to respond to the concerns of seed savers across the EU. Consumers and farmers must now reclaim ownership of their food. IFOAM’s EU Group calls on European citizens to speak out for EU laws that favour diversity on the plates, healthy food for all and diverse landscapes.

Antje Kölling, policy manager of IFOAM EU Group points out that: “A diversity of domestic plants is the basis for our long-term food security. Climate change, emerging plant pests or even new allergies may require us in the future to use plant varieties that we do not necessarily consider important today, due to their specific genetic characteristics”,. “The FAO estimates that 75% of domestic plant varieties globally have been lost in the last 100 years. This trend must be urgently reversed.”

Update: Listen again?

On Radio 4’s Farming Today Anna Hill hears warnings that EU proposals to make seed registration compulsory could lead to the loss of old and rare crop varieties, and stop people sharing seeds. The European Commission argues that updating the legislation will protect buyers and that there will be a ‘light touch’ when dealing with heritage varieties.


Open letter to Welsh Minister Alun Davies: listen to food producers

Innocence, ignorance, or a political-corporate PR dodge to misrepresent farmers?

alun daviesSpeaking on the BBC’s Farming Today programme over the weekend, the Welsh Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies – who lists his political interests as education, environment, arts and culture – suggested that dairy farmers needed to look at becoming more efficient rather than raising the price of milk to make a profit.

But at present most are not receiving costs of production plus overheads, so how can they maintain their buildings and equipment, let alone invest in improvements?

andrew hemmingIt cannot be repeated too often that dairy farmers seek a better share of margins NOT a higher price from consumers – as the late Andrew Hemming used tell the customers he met outside supermarkets whilst campaigning:

“You are paying a good price for milk, we don’t want you to pay more, we want a fair share of the profit margin”.

At present, middlemen buying and selling get large profits while the producers – without whom there would be no industry – work all hours and get an unfair return.

As dairy farmers continue to go to the wall because of these unethical practices, the same middlemen will rejoice – because they will then profit by bringing in cheap food from abroad with all the risks that entails.