British Ministers accused of trying to bring Genetically Modified crops to Britain ‘by the back door’

Source:Daily, 17th June 2009

By Sean Poulter

Ministers were yesterday accused of trying to bring GM crops to the UK ‘by the back door’.

The Government has decided to support the cultivation of two new types of genetically modified maize or sweetcorn which contain a toxin that kills certain pests.

It will vote in favour of approving the crops in the EU, making Britain the chief supporter of the controversial technology in Europe.

Once a crop is approved at the EU level, a British farmer will be permitted to grow it here.

Labour has routinely supported the U.S. government in its efforts to bring GM crops to Europe and the rest of the world.

UK ministers have voted to approve some GM crops despite concerns in other member states about their safety for the environment, wildlife and human health.

In the past, the UK also tried – and failed – to kill off attempts to label GM ingredients on food products.

Yesterday, the Government pushed through its intention to support the growing of GM maize crops in Britain and Europe without a House of Commons debate.

The two maize crops involved are BT11, developed by Syngenta, and 1507.

Both contain a toxin that kills the corn borer pest – a severe problem in maize-growing areas in southern Europe and the U.S. but not in the UK.

Several European countries, including Germany and France, have recently banned other types of GM corn on the basis of suspected dangers to health and the environment.

Chairman of the all party environment group, Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, condemned how the Government’s position had been pushed through the Commons without debate.

‘This is bringing in GM crops by the back door,’ he said.

‘The public will be very concerned by this sleight of hand. It shows the cavalier way the Government treats the environment.’

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that, given the British climate, it was ‘highly unlikely’ that any farmer would want to grow the crops.

However, an increasing number of British farmers do grow maize.

Clare Oxborrow, senior food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: ‘The public is not generally aware that the Government is making these decisions at EU level which could in the future have large ramifications for GM-free food and farming in the UK.’

Environment Minister Dan Norris said: ‘All GM products are properly assessed for their impact on human health and the environment, and strict labelling rules for GM products in food are in place to allow consumers to make an informed choice.’

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