1.Paterson's pro-GM speech raises questions about his role in Government
2.Owen Patterson on GM crops - Greenpeace response
3.Paterson Sings from GM Industry’s Hymn Sheet
1.Paterson's pro-GM speech raises questions about his role in Government
GeneWatch UK, 20 June 2013
GeneWatch UK today questioned why Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is acting as an ambassador for the GM industry.
"Why is the UK Environment Secretary wasting taxpayers' time and money doing PR for Monsanto and the other GM companies?" asked Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "Paterson appears to be deaf, dumb, and blind when it comes to any science not peddled by big corporations. Only industry-funded research shows any benefits from GM crops, which do not increase yields and are having harmful effects on the environment in North and South America."
Problems ignored by the Environment Secretary in his speech today include the spread of superweeds resistant to the weedkillers sprayed on herbicide-tolerant GM crops and the resulting increased use of herbicides ; the development of pests resistant to pest-resistant crops and rise in other types of pests ; and the likely role of loss of habitat due to blanket spraying with GM crops in the drastic decline of Monarch butterfly populations in the USA . This week, a new peer-reviewed study has found non-GM farming in Europe outperforms GM farming in North America .
GeneWatch UK dismissed claims that a new generation of products is being developed that would provide benefits for consumers, such as the GM purple tomato initially developed at the John Innes Centre. GM crops that are tolerant to drought or fix nitrogen have been promised for more than 30 years but have not been delivered, despite more than 14,000 field trials of GM crops in the USA. Complex traits are being delivered more effectively by conventional breeding, helped by advanced technologies such as marker assisted selection (MAS).
"Funding R&D on GM purple tomatoes is a waste of time and money when there is no market for these products" said Dr Wallace, "People can get the antioxidants they need from eating a range of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, including purple fruits such as blackberries, without the unnecessary risks and expense of GM crops with unproven benefits. Taxpayers' money should not be used to subsidise the research agenda of the GM industry".
In his speech Paterson stated that he was not proposing in any way watering down regulation. However, the speech follows a meeting between ministers, research institutes and GM companies last summer, in which an agenda was agreed to invest more in GM and tackle regulatory barriers . The Chair of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), which advises the Government on GM, recently met a Defra minister to propose weakening regulations for GM .
Most of the Environment Secretary's statements have focused on actions that could be taken by other countries, not on what he plans in England. GM Golden rice is an unproven approach to tackling blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency, compared to existing measures such as diversifying diets or using supplements. Its regulatory approval is in any case a matter that will be decided in the Philippines. Scotland and Wales have anti-GM policies and most regulatory changes would require negotiations within the European Union. Crops awaiting approval in the EU that would be suitable for growing in Britain are all genetically engineered by major multinational companies to be tolerant to one or more weedkillers, allowing blanket spraying of the crops which is harmful to the environment .
"The Government should come clean and tell us which parts of GM regulation it wants to do away with: safety tests, environmental regulation, or labels for consumer choice?" said Dr Wallace "If GM is grown in England, how will hard-up consumers afford the added costs to farmers and producers of segregating GM and non-GM food and feed supplies? What safeguards would be put on place for farmers growing non-GM to protect their crops from contamination with GM and the loss of more lucrative GM-free and organic markets?"
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace, 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)
Notes for Editors:
 Benbrook CM (2012) Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24(1):24. http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24; BBC report 19th September 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19585341; GM crops: Farmer to Farmer: http://gmcropsfarmertofarmer.com/; Greenpeace "Growing Doubt" video, October 2012: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/Growing-Doubt/; more videos of superweeds on: http://www.gmfreeze.org/why-freeze/videos-and-clips/ .
 "Mounting Evidence" of Bug-Resistant Corn Seen by EPA. Bloomberg. 5th September 2012. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-04/-mounting-evidence-of-bug-resistant-corn-seen-by-epa.html; Study shows pests resistant to GM crops. AFP. 13th June 2013. http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/news/study-shows-pests-resistant-to-gm-crops-1.1531677#.UcLYG5zXryU; Zhao JH, Ho P, Azadi, H (2011) Benefits of Bt cotton counterbalanced by secondary pests? Perceptions of ecological change in China. Environ Monit Assess, 173:985-994. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10661-010-1439-y
 Reported on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/18/tracking-causes-monarch-butterfly-decline; Pleasants JM, Oberhauser KS (2013) Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2):135-144. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x/abstract
 Press release from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand): http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1306/S00049/researcher-says-gm-a-failing-biotechnology.htm; Heinemann et al. (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Published online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.Ub9AU5zXryU
 GeneWatch UK and GM Freeze Press Release: Monsanto meets ministers to push return of GM crops to Britain. 25th October 2012. http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=492860&als[itemid]=571449
 Meeting between Professor Chris Pollock (Chair of ACRE) and Defra minister Lord de Mauley, 2nd May 2013. A note of the meeting released to GeneWatch UK on 10th June as the result of a Freedom of Information request is available on: http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/20130520_RFI5506_final_reply___attachment.doc
 12 crops are awaiting approval for cultivation in the EU: http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/EFSA_opinions_cultivation_tabled_overview_.pdf. Others are approved or awaiting approval for import as food and feed.
2. Owen Patterson on GM crops - Greenpeace response
Greenpeace, 20 June 2013
In response to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ speech on GM crops at the Rothampstead institute today, Greenpeace UK’s Chief Scientist, Dr Doug Parr said –
“It's a bit hard to take lessons on science from a climate change sceptic. Patterson’s inability to see the whole picture means he is missing the revolution in non-GM biotechnology which is making a real difference to lives now, while the GM lobbyists just carry on making promises. Patterson should be asking what works rather than blindly following agribusiness propaganda. The international consortium of research centres that kicked off the ‘Green Revolution’ has used non-GM techniques to produce dozens of varieties of drought-tolerant maize, increasing African farmers’ yields by 20 to 30 per cent. A host of other successes include blight-resistant potatoes and crops enriched with vitamin A, iron and other essential nutrients. Closer to home, a recent scientific study demonstrated that the package of biotechnologies chosen by Western Europe to grow maize is out-producing the GM-led package chosen by the US. GM’s promises are being fulfilled, but not by GM.”
Greenpeace press office – 020 7865 8255
3. Paterson Sings from GM Industry’s Hymn Sheet
GM Freeze, 20 Jun 2013
GM Freeze said today that Owen Paterson’s support for GM crops is based on poor and partial information, that proposed policy changes will have to be agreed by the EU and could make UK food exports to EU markets more difficult.
In his speech today Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson claimed that GM crops are beneficial to wildlife because they reduce pesticide use and the higher yields GM offers mean they will use less land to produce the food we need.
Scientific papers on GM cultivation in the US clearly show that GM crops have increased pesticides usage. GM herbicide tolerant crops, designed specifically to be used with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate), are failing because weeds have developed resistance to the weedkiller. As a result herbicide use has increased hugely, and to prevent things getting worse farmers will now have to spray mixtures of other herbicides in addition to Roundup or hand pull weeds.
In addition to the development of superweeds, Bt maize in the US Midwest is plagued by insect pests resistant to the GM toxin produced by the plants.
Here in the UK Government-backed research showed that farmland wildlife is harmed by GM herbicide tolerant beet and oilseed rape, and the crops were banned in 2004. In the US research has shown that GM maize and soya crops are contributing to the decline of Monarch butterfly populations.
Mr Paterson’s claims that GM crops are needed to feed the world because they yield more has no factual basis. Research has showed that GM crops in fact have a “yield drag”, not increase, of up to 5%. Long-term research by the USDA has shown that GM soya and maize rotations produce lower yields, use more fossil fuels, fertilisers and pesticides and are more polluting to water than longer four-year rotations using a more diverse range of crops. Furthermore Mr Paterson failed to mention that non-GM stess tolerant maize is already available to African farmers.
Based on this scientific evidence it is difficult to understand Mr Paterson’s assertions that GM crops do less harm on less land.
Mr Paterson’s also claims that Golden Rice is being held back from farmers is not true. The rice has not been assessed as safe by any country. Indeed there are doubts that it will significantly increase the availability pro-Vitamin A in diets of undernourished people.  Other research has shown that providing people with a balanced diet is the way forward, and "Golden Rice" distracts us from this objective. Conventional plant breeding has already increased pro-vitamin A content of several crops in Africa including sweet potatoes.
The following actions were agreed by UK Government representatives and the biotech industry at a roundtable meeting held on 26 June 2012:
*Improvements in the regulatory framework
*A clear strategy for biotech
*Incentives for investment
*A clear position to take to Europe
*Working with industry
*Developing a clear strategy that fits with other initiatives and projects across government
Research institutes, researchers and academia:
*A clear response to anti-GM groups
*Better on the ground presence in Africa, perhaps by working with universities
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
“It is very clear that Ministers are singing from industry’s hymn sheet, which they agreed last year. This is not the way to develop a coherent food and farming policy for the UK. If the UK unilaterally goes for GM crops there a real risk that the threat of contamination will close off many markets in the EU to our farmers. We cannot jeopardise our economy in this way.
“Ministers need to escape from the influence of GM lobbyists and get out to talk with scientists involved in developing real solutions, including non-GM high tech plant breeding, to ensure we can continue to produce sufficient food without trashing the planet.
“GM is an extension of a discredited system of farming based on reliance on non-renewable resources that is adding to climate change, destroying wild life, damaging soil and polluting water and air. Ministers are in great danger of taking us down a blind alley by pushing a technology that has not delivered on any promises after 30 years of public investment.”
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
 Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP speech to Rothamsted Research. Rothamsted is the centre conducting the UK open air GM wheat trials.
 Benbrook C, 28 Septembr 2012. “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. - the first sixteen years”. Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24
 GM Freeze and PAN UK, 2 August 2012. GM Herbicide Tolerant Crops – Less Equals More
 Gassmann AJ, Petzold-Maxwell JL, Keweshan RS, Dunbar MW, 2011. “Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm”. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22629. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022629
 Statement by Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, 9 March 2004. Hansard Columns 1379-1382
 Pleasants JN and Oberhauser KS, 2012. “Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicideuse: effect on the monarch butterfly population”. Insect Conservation and Diversity doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.
 GM Freeze, 10 January 2013. Wheat and Oilseed Rape Yields – Factors with the greatest impact and why GM will not make a difference
GM Freeze, 31 May 2011. Plant Breeding and Crop Yields - Can we rely on GM to increase yield?
 The All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, October 2012. Briefing paper 2: Marsden Farm Research Provides Evidence of the Benefits of Longer Rotations in Arable Systems and Shows Current GM Rotations Do Not Guarantee the Best Performance
 Prasanna BM, October 2010. “Molecular marker-assisted breeding for stress tolerance and nutritional quality improvement in maize“. Presentation at 2nd National Workshop on Marker-Assisted Selection for Crop Improvement hosted by
 GM Freeze, 14 May 2009. GM Nutritionally Enhanced and Altered Crops
 GM Freeze, undated. “Unecessary – Non-GM works: Non-GM success stories”
 GM Freeze, 25 October 2012. “Monsanto Meets Ministers to Push Return of GM Crops to Britain”