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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

A Lancashire farmer: “We are ruled by an inner circle within a financially driven and ruthlessly competitive establishment.

GM food for the hoi polloi?

The Financial Times reports that though prime minister David Cameron supports Owen Paterson’s advocacy of GM crops, saying there was no evidence that they were inherently unsafe, Downing Street declined to say whether the prime minister would feed such foods to his family.

From the farming sector – said to be so eager to adopt this technology:

I went into my local ironmongers on Monday this week and was horrified to see displayed immediately inside the door a new stand promoting bottles of Roundup available for sale for a few pounds to any unsuspecting individuals when commercial users are regulated.

Yet another large, powerful and uncontrollable corporate body

It seems to me that like many of our social and environmental problems the root cause of this problem is yet another large, powerful and uncontrollable corporate body who acts publicly under cover of highly promoted yet misleading individual corporate responsibility and PR policies, while privately concerned only with maximising volume and numbers to increase personal profit and status disregarding the wider financial, social and environmental impact on others.

The inner circle at the top of corporate bodies and public departments within the establishment have been left largely to their own devices, largely unchecked by elected governing authorities while assisted by the complacent, the apathetic, the unsuspecting, the politically biased and the uninformed.

The unsuspecting, uninformed, and least powerful bear the risk & consequences

While all the risk and responsibility and consequence continues to be transferred, often through small print and disclaimers that may be lengthy and complicated, to the unsuspecting, the uninformed, and the least powerful.

Precious public resource is instead directed at easier more vulnerable targets like small business and individuals and covering issues of less risk or importance controlled through endless pointless or unhelpful regulations that are far easier to apply than tackling the more serious and complex issues within a system corrupted by large corporates on one hand, and top heavy public services on the other.

The lack of action over the extremely serious issue of glyphosate weedkiller – an integral part of Monsanto’s GM technology – is just part of the breakdown within an increasingly corrupt society where the weakest are manipulated and exploited by the propaganda of corporate authority, and the valuable deeds and opinions of the most responsible and conscientious individuals and front line workers count for very little when ruled by an inner circle within a financially driven and ruthlessly competitive establishment.