GE -GDA, Walk from NFU to MAFF
Walk from NFU to MAFF - October 9th 1997
Earlier today over one hundred people, representing over thirty groups from
around the British Isles, concerned with genetically engineered food and
crops, took their concerns to the National Farmers Union and to MAFF. Below
is the press release that went out beforehand, as well as a copy of the
letter that was read out to a representative from the NFU.
The NFU representative was obviously a little thrown on being read the
letter as he said that if people were concerned with GE foods that they
should take those concerns to the supermarkets rather than the NFU which
seems to be a rather strange way to view the food chain.
Please feel free to copy the letter and send off to the NFU.
The event was well covered by press and was a wonderful opportunity for a
wide range of groups to join together in a stand against GE food and crops
as part of the Global days of Action Against Genetic Engineering.
A big thankyou from GEN to all that took part and to all signatories to the
Press Release for immediate use 9th October 1997
Global Days of Action against Genetic Engineering
U.K. Farmers and Consumers Say No! to Genetically Manipulated
In a challenging letter to be presented to the National Farmers Union today,
farmers are being urged to unite with consumers in rejecting genetically
manipulated (GM) foodstuffs and seed. The letter is signed by a wide range
of consumer, environmental and agricultural groups as well as wholefood
companies and individual farmers1.
A delegation of individual consumers and farmers, alongside representatives
of the signatory groups will gather outside the National Farmers Union, 164
Shaftesbury Avenue, London, at 11am today where the letter will be presented
to a senior director. The protesters will then walk to the Ministry of
Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to present a second letter. The
demonstration coincides with the publication of a new report, researched by
Friends of the Earth, analysing the recent public opinion surveys in Europe.
The report, which concludes that people are rejecting genetically
manipulated foods due to health, environmental and moral concerns will also
be offered to the NFU and MAFF.
The timing of the demonstration is critical, as the first British commercial
GM crop (oil seed rape) to be sown in Spring 1998, may be approved before
the completion of minimal trials conducted by MAFF. The environmental
impact of genetically manipulated crops and food safety concerns have not
been properly addressed. A spokesperson from the Genetic Engineering
Network, Louise Simpson, comments:
"It is clear that US trade pressures have so far dictated approval of GM
foods by European advisory and regulatory bodies. The irreversible release
of genetically manipulated crops into our environment poses threats, both
known and unpredictable, including the disruption of balanced ecosystems and
cross-pollination with weeds and, importantly, 'GM-free' crops removing true
Public Choice. Genetic engineering is unnecessary, unsafe and unwanted."
The likelihood of further allergic reactions to novel gene products is just
one of many food safety concerns raised by the introduction of genetically
manipulated organisms into the food chain. Ben Gill, Deputy Principal of
the NFU recently highlighted the growing "confidence gap" between consumers
and the British farming society. Following the most recent developments
concerning BSE, British farmers are called to reject GM crops to prioritise
food safety and restore consumer confidence. In accordance with these
concerns, HRH Prince Charles is speaking strongly against genetically
manipulated foods. With the appearance of GM soybeans in 60% of our food,
containing herbicide-resistance, viral and antibiotic-resistance genes,
organic farmers and overseas suppliers are responding to the increasing
demand for 'GM-free' food. There is a dubious market for genetically
manipulated foods and the delegation's message to farmers is:
"Why sow what you can't sell?"
This demonstration marks the midpoint of the Global Days of Action against
Genetic Engineering (2nd-16th October). Direct action is proving to be an
important part of campaigns; the destruction of a crop of GM oilseed rape in
Australia marked the beginning of the Global Days of Action. Naked roof-top
protesters at Monsanto's2 ad-agency and the destruction of a crop of GM
sugar beet in Ireland have also hit the head-lines during the last week.
Nation-wide street theatre, public debates and supermarket actions are
continuing throughout the fortnight, and a day of consultation with MEPs in
Brussels will take place next week. The two weeks of action will culminate
in an informative 24hour celebration with live, worldwide internet link-ups,
debates and performing artists.
For further information, contact the UK co-ordinators: Genetic Engineering
Network 0181 374 9516.
UK farmers and consumers say No! to GM crops.
1. Over 50 representative organisations signing the letters to NFU and MAFF
and supporting the march include: BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bio-Information
(International) Limited, Friends of the Earth UK, Gaia Foundation, Genetic
Concern!, Green Party of England and Wales, Greenpeace UK, Nationwide Food
Survey, Organic U.K. Food, Soil Association, The Ecologist, Third World
First, Uncaged Campaigns, Wholefood Wholesale, Women's Environmental Network.
2. Monsanto products: many genetically manipulated crops including Roundup
Ready Soya and cotton, DDT, Nutrasweet, chemical weapon Agent Orange and
Bovine Growth Hormone.
What follows is the letter that was handed in to the National Farmers Union.
A similar letter was presented to MAFF.
National Farmers Union
164 Shaftesbury Avenue
9th October 1997
Dear Sir David Naish,
We the undersigned urge the National Farmers Union to advise its members to
reject genetically manipulated (GM) crops and feeds. The environmental and
food safety risks associated with genetic engineering have not been properly
addressed and are unacceptable given the primitive stage of the technology.
A "confidence gap" between consumers and British farmers has already arisen
from recent food safety issues and as polls conducted recently show, the
appearance of genetically manipulated food in the shops is adding to this
consumer concern. It is clear that US trade pressures have dictated the
European approval of genetically manipulated food, and that the British
farming system now needs to restore consumer confidence by prioritising food
It is apparent that growing agreements, modelled on the restrictive Growers
Contract used in America, may remove the rights of farmers in the United
Kingdom to make their own growing decisions, thereby handing over control of
the farming process to international companies. Furthermore, overseas
suppliers and organic farmers are taking advantage of the growing demand for
guaranteed 'GM-free' food and so we urge the National Farmers Union to take
this message to your members; "Why sow what you cannot sell?"
The impact, both known and unpredictable, of the irreversible release of
genetically manipulated crops into the environment includes the disruption
of balanced ecosystems as well as cross pollination with weeds and,
importantly, 'GM-free' crops. The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and
Food and The Department of Environment Transport and Regions, research
projects into the agricultural and environmental impacts of the release of
herbicide resistant, genetically manipulated crops have only commenced this
year. The approval of the first commercial genetically manipulated crops in
the United Kingdom, to be sown this spring, well before the completion of
adequate, independent trials, would not inspire confidence in the
biotechnology industry or the regulatory and advisory bodies entrusted with
the safety assessments of these crops.
The avoidance of genetically manipulated seeds by the British farming
community would be a vital step towards protecting food safety, the natural
environment and re-establishing consumer confidence. Our hope therefore is
that the National Farmers Union will join consumers and farmers in looking
to a future where we work together for truly sustainable agriculture for all.
Action Against Genetic Pollution
Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Development (A SEED).
BBC Wildlife Magazine
Bio-Information (International) Limited
Community Against Genetic Engineering
East Anglia Food Link
Farming and Livestock Concern
Friends of the Earth U.K.
Good Food Distribution
Good Gardeners Association
Green City Wholefoods
Green Party of England and Wales
London Organic Food Forum
Manchester Against genetic Engineering
Dr Michael Antoniou
Mother Nature Wholefoods
Nationwide Food Survey
Natural Law Party
Organic U.K. Food
Reclaim the Streets
South Downs Genetic Engineering Network
Sheffield Against Genetic Engineering
Stroud Association for Safe Food
The Corner House
The Hundreth Monkey
The Land is Ours
The Monday Group
Third World First
UK Food Group
Women's Environmental Network
Reclaim the Streets
PO BOX 9656
0171 281 4621(this tel number is not for Genetics info)