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.




Secret State 15: Why did BBC helicopter footage of flooding fail to show the threatened Cumbrian nuclear installations?

Secret State 1 drew attention to a 2011 report in the Guardian showing how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with multinationals EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse, to try to ensure that the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

Three years ago DEFRA reported on the nuclear sites which are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion – see Rob Edwards in the Guardian – but politicians are not facing the risks. Today’s Drigg flood alert:

env header nuclear 3 drigg flood notice

Last year, the Guardian reported that in internal Environment Agency document, suggests that it was a mistake to position the Drigg radioactive waste site close to the Cumbrian coast because of the risk of flooding. In 2013 Drigg Railway station was closed due to the flooding and the area was also affected in 2014.

Ian Parker, the Environment Agency’s group manager in Cumbria said, after detailed technical examinations: ‘It’s highly probable the coast will erode and the waste (at Drigg) will be disrupted.’

nuclear marianne kirkbyMarianne Birkby who lives in the area, has been questioning the Environment Agency and the Department of Energy and Climate Change via the Freedom of Information facility about the condition of nuclear installations in Cumbria and Lancashire.

Earlier this month, she reports that the BBC helicopter relaying images of the devastation avoided showing areas in which nuclear installations are located: Sellafield, Drigg, Lillyhall and the proposed new nuclear plant on the river Ehen floodplain, Moorside.

In her blog she asks:” Why the journalistic omission?  Why are there no questions being asked about the breaching of Cumbria’s growing number of uncontainable nuclear installations which already leach “a controlled release of radioactivity” into groundwaters, marine holding tanks and such like?”

Answer: most mainstream media, including the BBC, depend on corporate or political favour for survival and become, to varying degrees, servants of the state.

nuclear Drigg beach main

Drigg Coast (above) is a special marine protected area of conservation – ideal for housing radioactive waste?

Government websites record that it has extensive sand dunes, saltmarsh, intertidal mudflats and sandflats and estuaries. The dune wetlands support other SSSI notified features including an amphibian assemblage with great crested newt, natterjack toad and dragonfly assemblage. They also provide an important environment for reptiles, breeding birds and invertebrates. Its politically-backed corporate neighbour – Drigg radioactive waste disposal site – may be seen below:

nuclear 2 drigg repository

Successive governments have also promoted risky and polluting nuclear and waste disposal industries, encouraging mass medication of the water supply. The current administration has permitted the latest abuse, fracking, and looks on supportively as the corporate drive to use the green belt for unnecessary ‘aspirational’ housing is underway. Approval for GM crops, though constrained by EU legislation, is another item on their agenda.

In 2016, will the public continue to tolerate politically backed corporate pollution – a threat to human and environmental health?

Owen Paterson-fronted GM onslaught: defanged by leaked encyclical?

owen paterson on return from chinaFormer Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson [right] once again trots out tired myths about the virtues of genetic modification of crops.

He is said to be assisted by his brother-in-law, Viscount Matt Ridley, a genetic scientist who is a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York which has received funding from Monsanto and Novartis. His long-term support for the technology, first highlighted in a ‘civilian’ September 2012 speech at the Rothamsted Research facility, inviting GMO innovators to take root in the UK, was followed by his DEFRA appointment.

monsanto logo (3)Monsanto (renamed in Windscale damage limitation mode) plans a British HQ for its new company – if it can acquire Syngenta.

Minister Paterson, in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, financed by GM companies Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, frequently lobbied the EU on the desirability of GM crops. Last April he refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GM industry trade body. He had to leave DEFRA, having extolled Britain’s shale gas reserves, ‘an unexpected and potentially huge windfall’, and mishandled the summer floods and badger culls.


He then set up a think tank UK2020. Millionaire-founded, it steers clear of direct funding from GM industries but vigorously promotes the technology at events such as last year’s South African agricultural biotechnology media conference, hosted by ISAAA which receives donations from both Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.

Murdoch’s Fox News: “the most anticipated and feared papal document in recent times”

Farming Weekly Online reports the thoughts of Pope Francis on GMOs and pesticides, voiced in the draft of this major environmental document. He has called for a “scientific and social debate” on genetically modified foods that considers all the information available. He highlighted “significant problems” with the technology that should not be minimised, such as the “development of oligopolies in the production of seeds” and a “concentration of productive land in the hands of the few” that leads to the “disappearance of small producers”.

Brian John commented: Religious leaders — of all faiths — have been very slow to enter this debate, partly because they have been put under intense diplomatic pressure by the GMO /agrichemical industries and by the US and other governments.

The GMO industry, and its acolytes, bang on all the time, quite cynically, about GMOs being needed to “feed the world” in a future full of uncertainties – nonsense of course.

The Pope’s intervention at this stage is of vast significance.


Biotech corporates, allied with state agencies, attempt to ‘educate’ British consumers

In the US corporate tradition: Rebecca Mark was said to have ‘educated’ Indian decision-makers about Enron, with $60 million.

food biotech coverBritain’s special friend recently updated an ‘educational’ Food Biotechnology document.

It was produced ‘under a partnering agreement’ between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

Its mission: “to provide vital information to communicators on food biotechnology”.

Note that, rather than referring to GMOs or genetic engineering the preferred terminology is now “biotechnology”. This report goes further, elaborating on the use of language to manipulate the undecided and giving a useful chart (below).

Words to use, words to lose

This vital information to communicators on food biotechnology, to all hoping to advance the growing of GM crops, would include IFIC’s funders, in particular: Bayer CropScience, Cargill, The Coca-Cola Company, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Tate & Lyle and Unilever.

words to use gm chart

This chart, which is more clearly reproduced on page 12 of the document, is followed by a note: “To communicate with impact . . . your words must be uniquely yours. The intent of these lists is to raise your awareness of words that have been found to evoke negative or positive reactions from consumers. Although Words to Lose may sometimes be necessary, an understanding of their potential impact on certain groups will aid in more productive conversations with those groups”.

The ‘Hidden Persuaders’ . . .

Next: A ‘full-frontal’ attack on NGOs which oppose the growing of GM crops as presently developed

Scotland’s GM-free status under siege: first political treachery, then a needy academic onslaught

This news has to be seen in the context of the Scottish government’s concern following April’s admission by environment secretary Owen Paterson; he breached an agreement (made a lone mistake) to make Scotland’s opposition to genetically modified (GM) crops clear to European ministers.

Avoiding reference to genetic modification, the call is for ‘ new agricultural practices’

The Scottish Farmer reports a call from the hard-pressed Scottish Food Security Alliance-Crops (SFSAC), a partnership formed by the James Hutton Institute, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Dundee. Based in Invergowrie and Aberdeen the Institute is cut up to 70 jobs as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme aimed at reducing costs, according to a May BBC news item.

Or should it be the Scottish Food Insecurity Alliance-Crops?

james hutton logo

A system created to extract wealth at the expense of food producers

They fail to take into account the corporate practice of importing cheap food, often produced under poorer conditions when citing the decline UK food self-sufficiency during the past 20 years, from 87% to 68%, registered by the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

They also fail to highlight the intense political drive for British food producers to export and increase speculative flows for the wealthy who make money by playing the markets while those who do the real hard work are underpaid.

Professor Iain Gordon, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: We cannot rely on what we have done in the past, we need new technology and agricultural practices if we are to overcome the challenges outlined in the report.

Professor Pete Smith, from the University of Aberdeen and leader of the food systems pillar of SFSAC, “New threats from extreme weather, changing global demand and commodity price volatility means that we need to rethink the way we produce and deliver food.

Flattering the Scottish government they say:

“Here in Scotland we are well placed to help meet the food security challenges; not only do we produce quality food products but the Scottish Government has continued to invest in agricultural science when many other developed countries have failed to support R and D in this key sector. This investment has helped position Scotland as global leader in agricultural and environmental science. The SFSAC delivers that science to those who need it most – farmers, businesses and governments.”

A warning from the SNP media centre: “The Scottish Government’s position on GM is very different to that of the UK Government – how can our Ministers trust any UK government minister who says he will take their views into account but when it comes to crunch negotiations ignore their previous pledges? With a Yes vote in September, Scotland will speak with its own voice at the EU top table.”


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

Government: listen to genetic engineers’ verdict on GM food

“10 reasons we don’t need GM foods”, a new short report from genetic engineers Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr John Fagan, the authors of “GMO Myths and Truths”, is published today as a free download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source.

Download short report:

Claire Robinson, third co-author of the new report, said:

10 reasons no GM food cover“At just 11 pages plus references, ’10 reasons’ is designed for people who may not have the time to read ‘GMO Myths and Truths’, which extends to 330 pages. ’10 reasons’ is ideal for giving to friends, family, politicians, and journalists, when a longer document is not appropriate.

” ’10 reasons’ explains that GM crops do not increase yield potential or reduce pesticide use. Nor can they help us meet the challenges of climate change any better than existing non-GM crops, or deliver more nutritious foods. GM crops have been shown to have toxic effects on laboratory and farm animals.

“There is only one way in which GM crops outperform non-GM crops: they are easier to patent in a way that guarantees ownership not only of that GM plant variety but also all plants bred from it. This process enables consolidated ownership of the seed and food market by a few large companies on a scale that has never happened before.

“That is a recipe for loss of food sovereignty and security. It is the opposite to feeding the world – the line we are constantly fed to justify the introduction of GM crops.”

“10 reasons” is based on the extensive evidence collected in “GMO Myths and Truths”.

Download full report “GMO Myths and Truths” (2nd edition published 19 May 2014):

Contact Claire Robinson



As US politics faces a ‘tidal wave of money’, UK gears up for the 2015 elections

New World: After Watergate campaign finance laws were passed to cut out corruption

us supreme court

Now, Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly employed by Monsanto, voted with the majority as the US Supreme Court struck down a cap on political donations, on the grounds that this is a restriction on free speech. Under the new rules, a single individual may now spend $3.6m per election on candidates, their parties’ committees and various political committees.

Justice Thomas also delivered a separate opinion saying all such limits on donations should go.

As Richard McGregor in Washington writes in the FT, overnight this has handed greater power to wealthy political patrons.

Old World

DEFRA minister Owen Paterson using a particle gun used in the testing of GM crops

DEFRA minister Owen Paterson using a particle gun used in the testing of GM crops

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has actively promoted the introduction of GM technology, despite public opposition in Britain and the fact that 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and most countries in Europe have either banned GM crop production outright, or put in place tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products.


The Monsanto connection will be continuing to work hard behind the scenes for an outright Conservative victory in Britain, funding an army of lobbyists and PR firms; an overall majority would allow them to introduce GM crops.

The answer to global hunger, Minister Paterson, is not GM technology

The assumption that GM crops will feed the world, voiced in an Observer article last week, is contested by informed analysts, scientists, food producers and civil society groups everywhere.

iaastd report 08-09Representatives of groups with relevant expertise, writing today in the Observer, know that the answer to global hunger is agroecology and access to land – not a technical “solution” that has led to a significant rise in Indian farmers’ suicides – and, the writer adds, evidence of disease in laboratory animals and an increase in superweeds and rootworm resistance (Nature journal).

Ministers are currently choosing to ignore contrary evidence, such as the reports from UNEP’s  International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development on agriculture and food security to which hundreds of international scientists have made contributions.

Instead, the British and American governments, support pro-GM corporations, such as Syngenta and Monsanto, which set profits before the needs of the poor.

UK Food Group Chair asks if The Observer/Guardian is now joining the quislings, collaborating with powerful industrial interests (Monsanto etc)

John Mulholland’s hackneyed article strings together a series of ‘feed the world’ myths ‘busted’ a thousand times by reputable academics*.

org logoIt is a double affront to the shade of David Astor, as editor of the Observer, who set up the trust which now owns the paper and – above all – as founder of the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm.

The scourge of hunger has almost nothing to do with food production per se – it’s a problem of redistribution, rights and reduction of waste

Peru grows hundreds of species of potatoes

Peru grows hundreds of species of potatoes

Working in Kamayoq in Peru at the moment, “where there is such strong defence of good food and local control”, Patrick Mulvany, chair of the UK Food Group, once more dispels these misconceptions ardently promoted by the Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer etc.

He writes to Mulholland:

The scourge of hunger has almost nothing to do with food production per se – it’s a problem of redistribution, rights and reduction of waste. GM crops have almost nothing to do with productivity and produce mainly industrial commodities – animal feed, agrofuels and fibre – not food.

So, on what basis can your editor assert that GM crops will solve the problem of hunger?

As many of your readers will know, UK plc’s AgriTech business strategy, pushed by BIS and implemented by the BBSRC (the UK’s biotech science funder), is to export proprietary British technology that will deliver returns through patents and the sale of scientific know-how with biotechnological and chemical input packages of benefit to the UK – the only technologies that the UK now has expertise in, having lost most of its capacity to do research that supports real food production.

To achieve their strategy, government, the scientific establishment and agro-biotech industry need to have a testbed in a UK that permits the release of GM crops, for which, as government and retailers well know, there is no consumer demand.

Multinational corporations have their eye on controlling the world’s industrial commodity production system

Once legalised, it will also open the floodgates to US GM crops – with the collateral advantage to powerful industrial interests of easing the entry of US GM technologies into the EU.

Those who feed most people in the world, the smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, artisanal fishers and other small-scale food providers, have the solution – developed in their framework of food sovereignty – to the problem posed in your editorial.

Supporting localised food regimes will secure future food. Industrial commodity production will trash it.

From where I am here in Cuzco, Peru, a region that has legally rejected GM crops in favour of supporting local campesinos’ production of biodiverse foods produced ecologically, your editorial appears insular – the views of a little Englander – and rather farcical if there were not a darker side to it.

Is The Observer/Guardian now joining the quislings who are collaborating with powerful industrial interests, which are set to undermine and contaminate the world’s efficient, effective, biodiverse and ecological food systems, so that their proprietary technologies dominate globally?

The GMO Myths and Truths report: one of many rebuttals.