Blair friend and backer, food industrialist Lord Haskins, continues to be a strong advocate for GM foods despite his company, a key supplier to Marks & Spencers, having been forced to exclude GM ingredients from their products. Haskins, as you will see below, is still promoting the argument that they are economically necessary! It's the only way to deal with inevitable consolidation within the food industry, according to Haskins.
Haskins is clearly either a liar or a fool -- and there is no reason to think he's a fool -- when he claims, "Its development is going ahead at full pace everywhere in the world except Europe and India. The financial prize is enormous and for Europe to deny itself that opportunity does not make any sense. "
It would be truthful to say, "Its development is stalling almost everywhere in the world even in those countries that have been keenest to introduce this technology, not least as producers realise the immense cost burden that accompanies this technology. Financial analysts have written off the life science companies and declared GMOs dead while it is becoming clearer and clearer just how enormous the financial losses can be with lost exports, bankruptcies, and the Starlink disaster alone now predicted to cost billions. For Europe to inflict more of these costs on itself, just as others are waking up to the dire consequences of their haste, does not make any kind of sense at all."
One part of the food chain that is booming, of course, is the organic sector. Are there lessons here for Haskins? Absolutely not, Haskins would rather feed us corporate pie in the sky about the benefits of GM foods while dismissing the real organic success story as a bubble ready to burst!
"...organic produce is, according to Haskins, unlikely to be a dependable money-spinner in future years. "In the long term, how many people are prepared to pay more to pander to their short-term neuroses?" he questions"
Is it really reasonable to suggest that concern for the environment and for pesticide/GM free food for you and your family, given the discredited nature of intensive industrial food production and its lax regulation, is a short term neurosis? This sounds more like the wishful thinking of a frustrated food industrialist. And how many people are willing to pander to the self-interested views of a food industry boss hell bent on greater corporate control of the food chain?
The answer, sadly, is plenty among the political and scientific elite. Haskins' propaganda will fall on highly receptive ears. He, like Lord Sainsbury, is a lonstanding Blair supporter and it takes a lot to bite the hand that feeds. As Paul Foot commented recently:
'But every time Lord Sainsbury lobs £2m into the Labour party he is exposing himself to the most obvious conflict of interest: namely that he is a leading and influential member of a government he lavishly subsidises. If Blair or any other minister ever gets irritated with Lord Sainsbury's legendary obsession, for instance, with genetically modified foods, is there a greater or lesser chance that the generous minister will be sacked?' [Guardian 9 Jan 01]
It is, of course, wrong to say (as the article below does in relation to Haskins) that Haskins and Sainsbury's views echo Blair's. Blair is a technocrat not an ideologue and his views echo those of his pals and paymasters.
Northern Chief Backs GM Food
Northern Foods chairman Lord Haskins is urging consumers and manufacturers to reconsider their opposition to genetically-modified food, even though his own company pledged to phase out GM ingredients 18 months ago.
Addressing an audience of several hundred farmers at a conference in Oxford last week, the Labour peer said that food producers, manufacturers and retailers must accept change if they are to prosper in a rapidly consolidating market.
Embracing genetically-modified food could deliver huge health benefits if crops and livestock were artificially altered to increase their vitamin content which, in turn, would generate overseas investments from pharmaceutical companies willing to explore the potential benefits, according to Haskins, whose views echo the prime minister's staunch defense of GM ingredients.
In July 1999, Northern KGoods - like many of its competitors - bowed to consumer pressure and agreed to remove engineered additives from products including Ski yogurts and Mark & Spencer ready-made meals, even though the company believes GM food is safe.
"Its development is going ahead at full pace everywhere in the world except Europe and India. The financial prize is enormous and for Europe to deny itself that opportunity does not make any sense, " Haskins says.
GM crops could also help solve potential food shortages, he argues, if the global population swells by the predicted 50% to 9bn by 2040. "Where are
these people going to get their good from?" he asks. "The problem will not just be in poor countries - and meat eaters are expensive to supply."
The bigger health issue, highlighted by the Food Standards Agency's admission last week that unsafe meat is still being passed as fit to eat, is likely to be the continuing problem of BSE. The agency, launched last April to advise both consumers and ministers on food safety, has a difficult brief, given the ongoing problems the UK meat and livestock industry must tackle.
"Sometimes I'm amazed by how unfazed the British public are by safety," says Haskins, who is also chairman of the government's Better Regulation Task
Force. "The agency has a horrendously difficult job and the test of its success will be the amount of confidence the public has in British food."
But structural changes including global competition and consolidation could have an even more profound impact on the industry. In the last year, United Biscuits has been broken up, Unilever has swallowed Bestfoods and, in the past two months alone, Perkins and Hazlewood have been returned to private ownership.
Social and demographic trends, such as the growing in the number of people living alone, together with what Haskins describes the relentless progress of globally -branded fast foods, will put pressure on the remaining players.
Express Dairies, for example, of which the Labour peer is also chairman, is thought to be particularly vulnerable.
"The need for further shake-up in the food manufacturing industry is stark and clear," Haskins warns, "There have to be losers: there is too much not-very-good supply hanging over the market."
However, with customers demanding a greater variety of better-quality food, there are also opportunities. The growth of London's restaurant scene and the consequent popularity of gourmet cooking as well as the increasing demand for low fat could also prove lucrative.
But organic produce is, according to Haskins, unlikely to be a dependable money-spinner in future years. "In the long term, how many people are prepared to pay more to pander to their short-term neuroses?" he questions