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Saturday, October 28, 2006

GM crops and DEFRA consultation

My post dated 27th Sept 2006 (which can be seen in the Archives section below) drew attention to the consultation by DEFRA on the proposed introduction of GM crops.
Somerset County Council has just published its own submission to the DEFRA on the subject.
Here is a link to the SCC web site.

SCC is opposed to GM crops.

Below is a condensed version.


Somerset County Council response to the DEFRA consultation document on proposals for managing the co-existence of conventional and organic crops October 2006

There is great concern in Somerset over the governments intention to allow GM crops to be grown in the UK. The term GM is used rather ambiguously in the consultation document and Government Policy statements, the Councils concerns relate to plants in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

A large number of individuals and organizations attended a meeting of the Councils Executive Board on 11th October at which the Councils policy position on GM crops was discussed in addition to the response to the DEFRA consultation. The public speakers included representatives from:

* Yeo Valley Organics
* Friends of the Earth
* The Castle Hotel, Taunton
* A farmer and worker with the Bath and Wells Diocese

Written representations were received from:

* Friends of the Earth
* Bowerings Animal Feeds, Bridgwater
* Somerset Wildlife Trust
* Somerset Organic Link and Somerset Organic Link Producers
* Somerset County Federation of Womens Institutes
* Keinton Mandeville Parish Council

All public speakers and all of the written submissions expressed the strong and unanimous view that there should not be any GM crops grown in the UK. In considering the Councils position on the commercial growing of GM crops in Somerset the special characteristics of the Somerset countryside and economy are important:

* Somerset is a rural County with a national park, 3 areas of outstanding national beauty, 3 environmentally sensitive areas, 126 site of special scientific interest, 11 national nature reserves and 19 local nature reserves

* The total area of Somerset is 345,233 hectares, 269,371 hectares (78%) of which is under agricultural management employing a total of 14,000 people.

* 38% of the total organic land area in England production is in the South West.

* 3000 hectares of organic land in Somerset is used for organic crops

* Somerset is home to 23% of all farmed bee colonies in the South West

Councillors on the Executive Board were unanimous in their view that GM crops must not be grown in the UK. They also want the government to press for a change in current EU law to give legal recognition and protection to local areas that wish to remain GM free.

The Board agreed the following resolution:

(a) That the Council does not believe that GM crops should be grown.

(b) To require all new tenancy agreements for County Farms to contain a clause prohibiting the growth of GM crops.

(c) To request that existing County Farm tenants be requested not to grow GM crops.

(d) To ensure that all County Farm tenants be kept informed of the Councils policies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

(e) To recommend that the Government adopts a zero tolerance to labelling genetically modified foods.

The Councils stance on the development of GM crops in the UK is one of zero tolerance on co-existence. There are no circumstances under which GM, non-GM and organic crops can be grown together.

* GM contamination of conventional crops, organic crops and the food chain is unacceptable
* GM crops present a major threat to organic farming which is an important and growing industry in Somerset and one which DEFRA itself promotes
* Honey production is threatened by GM crops as there is no way that any coexistence measures will prevent the contamination of honey with GM pollen
* The rights of gardeners and allotment holders to grow their own GM free produce have been completely ignored in the consultation and dismissed as unimportant

The Council is also very disappointed that in launching this consultation on coexistence the government has chosen to ignore the results of its own national debate on GM which found that

“There is little support for the early commercialisation of GM crops.........."

We look forward to the governments response to these comments and trust that the overwhelming wish of the UK public, that GM crops have no place in British agriculture, is acted upon by the government.