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.




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

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

EU: unelected bureaucrats are negotiating in secret – we have lost control of our everyday lives


“I watched Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 again last night and it meant so much more to me this time around. We have corruption via politicians and multi-national corporations,” writes an independent councillor.

“I am quite convinced that by staying in the EU we are compromising our environment and health safety to multi-corporations like Monsanto.

“These unelected bureaucrats are negotiating in secret and we have lost control of our everyday lives because of this.

“The sooner we have a referendum the better and I hope the people will see the benefits of ruling ourselves. (I know we have corruption here but at least it is nearby.)

“We can then trade with whoever we like and enforce good trading standards on safety, health and fair trade with partners”.

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.

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.


Monsanto rejoices as UK Minister ignores the scientific, safety and market arguments against GM crops

owen paterson on return from chinaIn one of many reports, Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is said to have asserted that genetically modified crops must be approved by the European Union if British agriculture is to avoid becoming “the museum of world farming”..

Monsanto, Bayer etc must have appreciated his statement that EU members should approve a new strain of maize in a vote later this month.

Scientific discoveries over the last decade have fatally undermined the assumptions on which GM technology was based, but still elementary precautions are not being taken in many countries:

  • No tests are done to check whether GM food is safe for people to eat.
  • The US Government relies on tests that the GM companies themselves do.
  • No testing is done anywhere in the world to look at the long term impacts, for example, of eating GM food during a lifetime.

The market argument: not a single British supermarket has said they will stock GM crops and British consumers remain just as opposed to GM food as ever.

Links to news of the scientific and safety issues may be seen here:

Scottish farmer: GMs will totally undermine the integrity of our livestock vegetable and cereal farming

Tom Douglas of Glendearg Farm, Galashiels, writes in the Scottish Farmer this week:

My GM opposition continues for reasons of monopolisation of our life essentials by organisations I would not trust and the weak government control over them.

It is apparent that the UK government and Owen Paterson value Monsanto more than the considerations of the electorate and that of our biggest trading partner the EU.

Read on here.


MP Zac Goldsmith reflects on GM – a controlling technology

gm education

A GM Education alert led the writer to a Guardian article by MP Zac Goldsmith which attracted over 400 comments.

zacZac thought that Paterson’s remark about Golden Rice was ‘a staggering thing to say’, refuting the allegation that there have been deaths due to campaigners hindering progress, because the developers of golden rice have said that it is not even ready for commercial planting and will be assessed in the Philippines, not Europe.

He added: “commentators everywhere are wondering why hi-tech golden rice should be hailed as a solution to a problem that could be solved far more cheaply and quickly with the supply of green vegetables and cheap supplements”.

And listed a few facts:

  • Farmers who took on herbicide-tolerant GM crops are now struggling with the cost of combating herbicide-resistant “superweeds“.
  • Some 49% of US farms suffer from Roundup-resistant superweeds, a 50% increase on the year before.
  • As a result, since 1996 there has been a disproportionate increase in the use of weedkillers – in excess of 225m kg in the US.
  • Meanwhile, farmers who took on pest-resistant GM crops are struggling with the cost of secondary pests unaffected by the built-in toxins.
  • In China and India, initial savings from reduced insecticide use with Bt cotton have been eroded as secondary pests emerged.
  • Nor has GM boosted yields as promised. Indeed, in Europe, where only small amounts of GM maize are grown, yield growth of traditionally bred varieties is much faster than that of the GM-dominated midwest of the US: average yields in western Europe are now higher.

Are others favouring the technology, leaving Europe behind? GM other countries' reactions Goldsmith then points out the lobbying power of the GM industry:

“GM has been widely commercialised for nearly 20 years; more than enough time to prove itself. The industry behind it has powerful friends in the media and politics, and vast financial resources. Consider California’s vote last year on “Proposition 37”, a proposal to require labels on GM foods. The GM lobby spent $46m. Monsanto’s contribution alone was $8m, more than the entire pro-labelling campaign. Food campaigners can only dream of having that kind of influence. In truth, the reason GM never took off as predicted is because all those promises of cheap pest control, and crops that tolerate flood, salt and extreme weather, simply haven’t materialised. If they had, perhaps consumers would be willing to put niggling doubts about safety to one side. Without the success story, GM relies on hype”.

He refers to the agricultural successes of traditional biotech – which, however, does not offer high profits like the GM model that locks farmers into dependence on the giant companies – three of which control 70% of global seed sales.

Read the whole article and comments here:

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.