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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.


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