1.Scotland will veto GM crops
3.Biofuels caused world food shortage - official report

NOTE: How ironic that on the very day a UK Government Minister has promoted GMOs as the magical fix for rising food prices, it has emerged that a government report will confirm that the UK and other governments' rush into biofuels as a quick fix for climate change directly caused the food crisis they're trying to fix.
1.Scotland will veto GM crops

Last night, a spokesman for Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said the Scottish Government would be strongly opposed to the reconsideration of GM crops; it has a veto on them north of the border.

"We would be very concerned about that. Scotland has an international reputation second to none in terms of the quality of our environment and trust in the quality of our foodstuffs. These could be jeopardised by GM," he added.

Friends of the Earth Press Release, Thursday 19 June 2008

Today's revelation that the Government is looking for ways to grow GM crops in Britain in the wake of rising food prices around the world [1] has been condemned by Friends of the Earth. The environment group has accused Ministers of falling for the GM industry's hype and ignoring its damaging track record. The move comes after the Environment Minister reportedly met with the GM industry’s lobby group last night.

In the UK, a national GM debate concluded that 85% of the public didn't want GM crops grown in this country and 95% rejected Government proposals on weak rules for growing GM crops in England [2]. Furthermore, the Government-sponsored farm scale trials of GM crops found that growing two out of three GM crops were more damaging to farmland wildlife than growing conventional equivalents.

There is no evidence that GM crops will help tackle the food crisis. There are many complex causes including commodity speculation, the global rush for biofuels and the underlying unfair trade system [3]. GM crops do not increase average yields and there are no GM drought-tolerant or salt-tolerant crops on the market. Most GM crops grown around the world are grown in intensive monocultures, have resulted in a massive increase in pesticide use, and are used for animal feed, not food.

Last week the Government signed up to the UN International Agriculture Assessment [4] which saw no clear role for GM crops to tackle global food needs. The report was so lukewarm over GM crops that the biotech industry pulled out of the process last year [5], and the US has refused to sign up to the final document.

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said:

"The Government has been seriously misled if it thinks that GM crops are going to help tackle the food crisis - GM crops do not increase yields or tackle hunger and poverty.

"In the UK, the public have rejected GM food and extensive trials have showed that GM crops are more damaging for farmland wildlife than their conventional equivalents.

"Instead of helping the GM industry to use the food crisis for financial gain, the Government should be encouraging a radical shift towards sustainable farming systems that genuinely benefit local farmers, communities and the environment worldwide.”



[1] nister-849991.html At today’s EU leader’s summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister will also propose a ‘six-point plan’ to tackle food prices which includes "improving the EU regulatory regime for GM organisms". This is expected to involve weakening EU laws to allow contamination with unapproved GM material.

[2] The GM Nation? public debate in 2003: and the responses to the GM ‘coexistence’ consultation in England: .html

[3] See Friends of the Earth's media briefing on the food crisis:

And Who Benefits Report showing GM crops have failed to tackle hunger and poverty and lead to a massive increase in pesticide use: .html

[4] wmstext/80609m0001.htm

IAASTD global press release:

3. New study to force ministers to review climate change plan
Julian Borger and John Vidal
The Guardian, 19 June 2008

*Exclusive: Official review admits biofuel role in food crisis

Britain and Europe will be forced to fundamentally rethink a central part of their environment strategy after a government report found that the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices, which has left 100 million more people without enough to eat.

The Gallagher report, due to be published next week, will trigger a review of British and EU targets for the use of plant-derived fuels in place of petrol and diesel, the Guardian has learned.

The study marks a dramatic reversal in the role of biofuels in the fight against global warming. As recently as last year, corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were widely seen as important weapons in that fight - and a central plank of Gordon Brown's green strategy. Now even their environmental benefits are in question.

A panel of government experts, chaired by Professor Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, has said that far more research is needed into the indirect impact of biofuels on land use and food production before the government sets targets for their use in transport.

The first such target is already in place. Since April, all petrol and diesel in Britain has had to contain 2.5% of biofuels, a stepping stone towards a 2010 target of 5%. The EU is contemplating a 10% target by 2010. The new report means all those goals will have to be reconsidered.

A government official familiar with the Gallagher review said: "Simply setting a target without stipulating what kind of biofuel is to be used in what circumstances can have all sorts of unintended consequences."

Another official said: "The review has thrown up the likelihood of significant impacts. UK and EU targets will have to be addressed."

The report says there is a place for biofuels, both as an alternative to fossil fuels and as a source of income for poor farmers with marginal lands. But it says a distinction must be drawn between "first-generation" biofuels, which use food crops such as corn, rapeseed, palm and soya, and experimental "second-generation" fuels based on fibrous non-food plants which could theoretically be grown without displacing other crops and raising food prices. Criteria to guide fuel policy would consequently have to be drawn up.

It was unclear yesterday whether Britain had left it too late to influence EU biofuel targets, after the government failed to raise objections in a succession of votes in European environment and industry committees. British officials believe the issue can still be revisited in Brussels.

The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, ordered the review in February, at the height of the food price crisis, but the panel only began work in March and was asked to deliver its conclusions three months later. "There was so little time, I expected it would just be a review of the literature, but it has gone much further than I expected. It has substantive things to say," said a government official involved in drafting the report.

The role of biofuels, which pits concerns over climate change against the need for food security for vulnerable populations, was the most controversial issue at a summit on the food crisis earlier this month in Rome. The US and Brazil, both large-scale biofuel producers, argued fiercely against any hint of criticism of their cultivation in the conference's final statement, which called only for "in-depth studies".

An American claim that biofuels contributed less than 3% to food price rises was widely derided. The IMF estimates their impact as 20-30%, and other estimates are even higher. Over a third of US corn is used to produce ethanol, while about half of EU vegetable oils go towards the production of biodiesel.

After the Rome summit, a British government team involved in the Gallagher review visited the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to consult specialists who had drawn up UN recommendations on biofuel use. They emerged saying their views were "identical". The FAO recommendations advised against a moratorium on biofuel use or the continuation of "business as usual" under existing policies, calling instead for a set of international standards to ensure plant-derived ethanol and biodiesel did not harm the food supply. Keith Wiebe, a senior agricultural economist at the FAO, said: "There is a push towards the development of these liquid biofuels that is in advance of our understanding of their impact. We need to know more about those impacts, before pushing too hard."

The UN's World Food Programme has called the food crisis a "silent tsunami" which is pushing more than 100 million people worldwide into hunger.

Link to this audio
John Vidal on a report that says biofuels have caused world food shortage