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UK Ponders Crackdown on
Frankenfoods Dissent

GM crop protesters to be silenced

By Geoffrey Lean, Independent (UK) Environment Editor

19 May 2002

Secret plans are being prepared to stop Britons challenging the safety of GM
crops at public hearings, a confidential document seen by The Independent on
Sunday reveals.

The internal memorandum circulating in the Department for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, proposes an "urgent" change in the law by November
to crack down on objections to the crops, before they are grown in Britain.

The disclosure comes as public hearings open in London tomorrow overcorn
developed by Aventis, the first GM variety grown commercially here.
Environmentalists, including Friends of the Earth, are challenging this.

The document urges the Government to "proceed rapidly" to amend the law,
straight after hearings into GM corn end this month. It admits the plans
''will be criticised because it will seem we are trying to silence GM
objections''.

The Government's move follows proposals to stop the public challenging the
need for nuclear waste dumps, and other controversial developments, at
public inquiries.

Last night, Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth said: "The Government
pretends to be neutral ... but this memo unveils the real agenda, to force
GM food on to a reluctant public, while removing the only legal opportunity
to object."

Meanwhile, Tony Blair will warn scientists this week that they have to do
more to persuade the public of the benefits of scientific advances. The
Prime Minister has previously warned that Britain was in danger of
developing an "anti-science" culture.


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