Princess’s comments reveal her ignorance of the reality of genetic modification
The UK’s Princess Anne, unlike her brother Charles, is not knowledgeable about GM crops. In her recent comments to the media in favour of the technology, she appears to be under the mistaken impression that genetically modifying rare breed livestock would make them more “robust”.
On the contrary, attempts to genetically modify livestock animals have resulted in defective animals, which were produced with much cruelty and suffering.
A report by GE Free NZ investigated the world's first field trials of transgenic cows, which took place in New Zealand.
GE Free NZ found “a sad and profoundly disturbing story of illness, reproductive failure and birth deformities that have consistently afflicted the genetic engineering (GE) trials.” The GM cows “suffer[ed] from chronic illness, reproductive losses, sudden unexplained deaths and severe deformities, relating to the foreign DNA inserted in the embryos used in the artificial insemination programme. Most of the transgenic cows are not able to reproduce past the first generation. The transgenic cows that have produced a second generation have borne sterile offspring.”
Look out for the comments of the Green MEPs and Liz O’Neill of GM Freeze in the articles below.
1. Princess Anne causes GM stir
2. Princess Anne open to growing GM crops on her land
1. Princess Anne causes GM stir
Farming Online, 22 March 2017
https://www.farming.co.uk (no direct link)
Princess Anne has once again expressed deeply controversial views on farming in an interview with the BBC’s Farming Today programme.
Princess Anne, the Queen’s second child, who is 12th in line for the throne and operates a farmed estate, told BBC Radio 4 that she would farm using genetically modified (GM) crops on her own land, claiming the crops have “important benefits” and that GM livestock would be a “Bonus”. She claimed genetically modifying farm animals could lead to welfare and production improvements.
She also apparently went against the precautionary principle - the concept on which environment legislation is based - telling the farming programme that "To say we mustn't go there 'just in case' is probably not a practical argument."
Anne, who farms on her Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire said, “GM is one of those things that divides people but surely if we are going to be better at producing food of the right value, then we have to accept that genetic technology is going to be part of that.
“I do think that in the future gene technology has got real benefits to offer, which will maybe have an occasional downside, but I suspect not very many.”
Her brother Prince Charles is a prominent adherent of organic farming, and has said GM crops could cause an “environmental disaster” in the past.
Responding to the Princess Royal’s comments, Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, commented, "Princess Anne holds no elected public office and is supposed to remain politically neutral. Yet she is using her considerable unearned status to push a nakedly political agenda and doing so with a flimsy grasp of agricultural history and science. It's fair to say that she doesn't speak for the average UK farmer, let alone the average British citizen."
"In stark contrast, just this week, I joined elected MEPs from across Europe to vote against the import and use of untested GM maize in the EU. It is the sixth time in just over a year that the European Parliament has signalled it's opposition to the approval of new GM foods. EU GM safeguards are vitally important."
South West MEP Dr Molly Scott Cato, who sits on the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, added, "The opinions express Princess Anne are not helpful in terms of the public debate, which is often dominated by misunderstanding and agribusiness hype. Genetic modification has failed to live up to its promised benefits particularly in terms of yield."
"Perhaps the Princess should have a word with her brother, who has a deep understanding of ecological and systemic risks from GM crops, which are intended for intensively farmed monocultures which threaten biodiversity and soil fertility."
“There is also the issue of corporate power. The planned merger between German pharmaceutical giant Bayer and American seed-maker Monsanto would strengthen the arm of the GM seed lobby. If this takeover is ever allowed to take place it would create one giant corporation controlling 30% of the world market for seeds and 24% of the pesticide market."
Dr Scott Cato continued, “Agri-business argues we need GM to feed the world, but the world already produces enough food for 10bn people. Our focus should not be on increasing production, but rather on reducing food waste and radically reorganising our wasteful and inefficient food distribution system."
This not the first time the Princess Royal has caused controversy with her pronouncements on farming; in 2014, at the height of debate about the government’s costly and controversial badger culls, she advocated gassing badgers. Gassing, however, has been illegal in the UK since 1982, having been deemed inhumane and ineffective, and Princess Anne was roundly criticised by experts after her remarks were widely reported.
In October last year, responding to a Parliamentary question, farming minister George Eustice admitted that the government was already looking into possible future regulations for GM crops, just four months after the Brexit vote. UK governments have consistently upheld a pro-GM position in debates in the EU, where most member state governments are opposed to the crops. Within the UK, the devolved governments have pledged to remain GM-free, to protect their reputation for high quality food and environmental standards.
2. Princess Anne open to growing GM crops on her land
Press Association via Barrhead News, 23 Mar 2017
The Princess Royal has spoken out in favour of genetically modified (GM) crops, putting her at odds with the Prince of Wales.
Anne conceded the impact of GM crops might not be seen for a long time, but said to rule out the scientific technique “just in case” was not practical.
Her views appear contrary to Charles, a passionate organic farmer who in past years has spoken out against GM and is royal patron of the Soil Association, which has campaigned against GM crops and ingredients in human and animal food.
He has frequently tackled the topic over the last 20 years and remained critical of so-called “Frankenstein foods”.
He once warned that the development of GM crops risked creating “the biggest disaster environmentally of all time” and accused multinational corporations of conducting an experiment with nature which had gone “seriously wrong”.
Anne’s comments were made in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today show, which has talked to a number of leading figures for a series of programmes this week exploring the environmental and farming opportunities that will come with Brexit.
Anne, who farms in Gloucestershire, told the programme: “GM is one of those things that divides people, but surely if we’re going to be better at producing food of the right value then we have to accept that genetic technology – whether you call it modification or anything else – is going to be part of that.”
GM crops are not grown commercially in the UK and trials of scientifically engineered plants are stringently vetted.
The princess, whose full interview will be aired on Thursday morning on Farming Today, added: “Most of us will argue that we’ve been genetically modifying food since man started to be agrarian, but everybody will say, ‘well, it doesn’t happen so quickly’.
“So being able to understand what those changes mean, if you change one aspect of a plant, then how does it affect the rest of the environment around it, does it have a long-term impact? There’s probably a very long-term impact and we may not see that for quite a long time.
“And to say, ‘no, we mustn’t go there just in case’, is probably not a practical argument.”
Asked if, in a post-Brexit UK where growing GM crops was allowed, she could see the plants being cultivated on her land, she replied “yes”.
Liz O’Neill, director of campaign group GM Freeze, said: “The Princess Royal is right to point out that changing one aspect of a plant can affect the rest of the environment around it.
“GM-growing countries are already suffering what the US National Academy of Sciences identified as ‘major agricultural problems’ caused by the cultivation of GM crops. Herbicide resistant superweeds, reduced biodiversity and the contamination of conventional and organic crops are much more than ‘occasional downsides’.
“The harm done by GM crops is already all too real. It shows that you can’t solve systemic problems one gene at a time.”