Consumers Reject GE Tainted Honey

Consumers reject GM honey - Friends of the Eath Press Release

Bees, Honey and Genetically Modified Crops - Friends of the Earth Briefing


Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin),
The following is the prepared text for the speech given by Philip
Chandler, who attended the recent British Bee Keepers Association
Conference on GMO-free Honey as the representative of Devon Bee Keepers

BBKA, 20 September 2002

Philip Chandler

Managing Director, Wholesome Food Association

representing Devon Beekeepers Association

Mr Chairman, fellow beekeepers,

I would imagine that most of you have become aware of the issues
surrounding the genetic manipulation of food and crops through your
interest in beekeeping.

For me, it was the other way around. For about four years, I have been
following closely the activities of the GM industry. I have also been
actively involved in the campaign to defeat their repeated attempts to
force their products into the marketplace against the wishes of the
British public. Survey after survey has consistently shown that
consumers do not want to eat GM food. For example, the 2001
Eurobarometer Survey revealed that 94% of Europeans want the right to
choose whether or not they eat GM food and 71% donít want to eat it at

This very morning, Friends of the Earth released a survey, which shows
that 63% of people questioned, who buy honey, want it to be completely
free of GM materials.

During the last four years, I became more aware than I had previously
been of the true importance of honey bees, not only to agriculture,
but to the entire British ecological system.Most of you here are much
more experienced as beekeepers than I am, so I will not presume to
lecture you further on this subject.

However, I would like to remind you just how important you all are to
the present and future health and well-being of our precious natural
environment. Right now, you all here - plus a handful of dedicated
campaigners - are all that stands between the likes of Aventis and
Monsanto and their plans to dominate not only the agriculture of this
country but also the food chain - from top to bottom - of the entire

Without the co-operation of beekeepers, Aventis will not be able to
persuade farmers to grow their GM oilseed rape.Because, without
pollination by bees, their plants will produce lower yields than
standard varieties and therefore farmers will have no interest in
growing them. I suggest that this is the true reason that the biotech
industry is so keen to persuade us that GM crops are harmless to bees,
contrary to the opinions of many eminent, independent scientists.

I have spent a great deal of time during the last couple of weeks
trying to discover if there is any published, independent, peer-reviewed
research that demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that GM crops are
harmless to bees. I have spoken to scientists and I have spent a lot
of time trawling the Internet for information. As a result, I can say
with some confidence that there is no published research anywhere to
be found.

Such research that has been done seems to show that GM pollen can
indeed be harmful to bees. According to one French study, bees fed on
GM pollen had a reduced life expectancy of up to 30%. They also had a
tendency to lose their sense of direction and become unable to find
their hive. I don't need to spell out to you what that would mean to the
ability of a colony to thrive.

Many public and professional bodies have concerns about the safety of
certain aspects of genetic manipulation. The British Medical
Association, on 14 June this year, said: "In our report 'The impact
of genetic modification on agriculture, food and health: an interim
statement' (1999) the BMA stated that there should be a ban on the use
of = antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM food. The risk to human
health from antibiotic resistance developing in micro-organisms is one
of the major public health threats that will be faced in the 21st
century. The risk that antibiotic resistance may be passed on to
bacteria affecting human beings, through marker genes in the food
chain, is one that cannot at present be ruled out."

If Aventis wish to convince us that their crops are really as safe as
they claim, then they should produce the peer-reviewed, independent
research to prove it. Mere assertion, especially by an industry
notorious for being 'economical with the truth', is not enough.

The theme for this afternoonís debate is: "Is there an acceptable
definition for GM-free honey? And if so, what is it?'

I would like to suggest to you that an acceptable definition of GM-free
honey might be: ëhoney that is produced by bees hived at least 6 miles
from known sources of GM pollení. We cannot be expected to test our
honey for GMOs. Neither can we be expected to conduct surveys of the
100+ square miles of farmland within a 6 mile radius of our hives to
make sure it is free from GM crops.

And I would further suggest that, rather than beekeepers being under
an obligation to move their hives away from GM crops, the onus should
be on the growers to ensure that they do not plant GM varieties within
6 miles of apiaries and there to be legal redress for beekeepers against
growers who do not comply.

The biotech industry has consistently fought against any proposal to
make them legally liable for any damage to the environment, to people or
indeed to bees. It is time they were called to account. If they insist
that their products are harmless, as they always have done, then they
should have no objection to assuming responsibility for any damages
caused by their cultivation.

Roger Holby, a beekeeper from Gloucestershire (is he present?), is
quoted in todayís Friends of the Earth survey as saying:
"The results of this poll confirm what most beekeepers already know.
Consumers want their honey to be GM-free. Beehives are already moved
six miles from any GM test sites to reduce the risk of contamination -
and the beekeepers foot the bill for this. Why is it that the biotech
companies, who cause the problem, escape scot-free? If GM seeds are
commercialised, customers will either have to accept GM contamination,
or bee keepers in this country will be out of a job."

According to a report by the independent watchdog Corporate Watch,
'Aventis aims to use a combination of size, financial brute force and
greenwash to force the widespread take-up of GM crops.'

This conference - grossly biased though it is - is a unique
opportunity for beekeepers to voice their opinions and concerns about
genetic interference with our food and our environment. It is an
opportunity to stand up to the corporate bullies and to tell the
government that we will use every means at our disposal to ensure that
British honey remains GM free.

Finally, I would like to quote from one of my favourite writers and
poets, a mid-western farmer by the name of Wendell Berry:

To put the bounty and the health of our land,
our only commonwealth, into the hands of people
who do not live on it and share its fate
will always be an error.
For whatever determines the fortune of the land
determines also the fortune of the people.
If history teaches anything, it teaches that.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Contact info:

Phil Chandler
01803 840427
Wholesome Food Association web site:

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