Press response to David Willetts, science minister, GM comment

11 June 2013

In response to today's comments from science minister David Willetts, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association said; "This has been a terrible few weeks for pro-GM campaigners. The extraordinary appearance of an unlicensed GM wheat in Oregon last month could threaten the financial future of all US wheat farmers, just as the presence of an unauthorised GM long grain rice destroyed the market of long grain American rice a few years ago, costing US farmers millions of dollars. This follows China’s decision not to grow any GM food crops, and the continuing, growing debate in the USA, where the public are demanding accurate labelling of GM food. 

"There are similar demands in the UK, according to the Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), which says that shoppers want more information about GM and how it is getting into our food. In the UK, most non-organic meat, milk and eggs are from animals fed on GM animal feed. Government Ministers are ignoring a recent FSA study which found that two in three people want any food derived from a animals fed on GM to declare the fact on the label.

"UK scientists have just announced they have achieved a 30% increase in wheat yield without using GM, demonstrating the truth of what opponents of GM have been saying for 20 years, namely that there is more potential in modern non-GM crop breeding technologies than there is in GM crops. GM is, in David Willet’s words, a 20th century technology – where the UK and Europe need to lead is in the 21st century technologies of obtaining good yields of crops with far lower inputs of fossil fuel based and mined fertilisers, growing crops with 80% lower greenhouse gas emissions, and producing food with higher animal welfare, lower pollution, and with more wildlife and jobs on farms."

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