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Ditch the precautionary principle and innovate, to further the global control of food

Corporate-political alliances in many countries seek to control the food supply and to profit, not only by trading activities, but by speculation.


stephen drucker insert.

Bayer, Dow Chemical, Novartis and Syngenta – why was Monsanto’s name missing?

Recently, the CEOs of several agrochemical companies sent a letter to the Presidents of the European Commission, Parliament and Council calling on them to stop applying the precautionary principle to risk assessments and start applying the ‘Innovation Principle’, to stimulate economic recovery in Europe.

ERF logoThe companies used the medium of the European Risk Forum, whose policy briefs are said to provide high-level, focused analysis of major regulatory issues; their ‘Communication 12’ may be read via this link.

Was Monsanto following the Tesco example? Having become very unpopular, Tesco dropped its name from its new convenience stores, Was Monsanto advised not to sign by its peers for the same reason – or was it a company decision?

Recently agro-chemical industries have:

  • organised the first European Innovation Summit – hosted by Ireland during their EU Presidency;
  • posted many ‘opinion pieces’ on various mainstream media on GM (golden rice in particular)
  • accused environmentalists of hindering progress and causing the death of thousands of children;
  • created media space for ‘GM ambassadors’ such as Mark Lynas and the UK environment minister, Owen Paterson..

EEA logo

However, a recent report from the European Environment Agency has documented the benefits of taking precautionary action which often include resource and cost savings, as well as secondary societal and economic benefits.

It concludes that use of the precautionary principle accelerates innovation, reducing the costs of harm by promoting the development of more efficient and safer alternatives to polluting activities and products.

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. European Environment Agency, EEA Report No 1/2013.


Scotland’s rural affairs minister is not convinced by the GM penitent

Yesterday, the Scotsman reports, erstwhile environmentalist Mark Lynas, once an opponent of GM technology, told the audience at the World Potato Congress in Edinburgh that he now believed using genetic modification was the best way forward for the World:

”(N)ow I see the incredible potential to save on pesticides and improve food production; being GM free will not give Scotland a leading edge in the world.” 

The situation was slightly better in England, he said, with the UK government being quietly pro genetic modification but he pointed out the politicians were too cowardly to say so. 

Part of the powerful counter-movement, led by corporate-funded thinktanks 

In 2010, Lynas was the main contributor to a UK Channel 4 Television programme called “What the Green Movement Got Wrong.” He suggested that opposition by environmentalists to the development of nuclear energy had speeded up climate change, that proscription of DDT had led to millions of deaths and that GM crops were necessary to feed the world. 

Some readers will agree with the words of the commentator who said that his “convenient fictions chime with the thinking of the new establishment: corporations, thinktanks, neoliberal politicians. The true heretics are those who remind us that neither social nor environmental progress are possible unless power is confronted.’ 

Many are uncomfortably aware that a powerful counter-movement, led by corporate-funded thinktanks, is resurgent. In the book, The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. It has reversed US support for environmental protection. 

A canny Scot 

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister, made no reference to GM in his speech but later he stated categorically that there was “no appetite for change” from the current anti-GM government views. Scientists and research workers were looking at climate challenge and wider efficiencies that could be achieved in crop production, he maintained. 

Scottish seed potatoes have a high-health reputation and remain free from serious diseases, 75 per cent of UK seed potatoes are produced in Scotland and Scotland has seen a 70% increase in exports since 2001-02. Last season Scotland exported an all-time high of 77,277 tonnes seed potatoes to non-EU countries, breaking last year’s record of 76,615 tonnes. 

Mr Lochhead said that he believed the GM-free label was a plus for sectors such as the Scottish seed potato industry, having been told by some growers that they would not be able to sell into some North African markets if Scotland adopted GM technology.