SIRC – Media Watch 30-04-99
The GM food debate continues to rage on. In response to an extensive call for the regulation of GM crops a Cabinet committee is set to approve an industry code of practice, non-compliance with which would result in the issue of 'penalty points'. Defended by the government as a more instant solution to legislation, the move has received widespread criticism from green activists who suggest it represents little more than a PR exercise which fails to address public safety concerns. Sir Robert May, Tony Blair's scientific adviser, expressed his view to the Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee that GM technology was essential to feed future world populations. He cited the green revolution as being responsible for increased agrarian output but at a cost of a heavy reliance on pesticides, fertilisers and machinery, innovations that were not readily transferable to the developing world. "we could not feed today's population, much less tomorrow's, with yesterday's agriculture." While organic methods of farming are undoubtedly the most environmentally friendly, they will not feed the world. By sabotaging and delaying GM food testing green activists appear to be demonstrating a severe lack of foresight. If food technology is prevented from advancing at the same speed as the world's population, that would result in an ecological disaster. It is a powerful argument that Monsanto may be well advised to adopt.
Gary Barton, a senior Monsanto director, told the Independent this week that "resistance can develop" in insects, to crops that are designed to kill them. Although insects, the most prevalent species on the planet, have historically demonstrated a certain degree of success in their techniques of adaptation and survival, UK environmentalists have labelled the statement as "ground breaking", suggesting that it proves Monsanto's awareness of the dangers posed to the environment by its products. Monsanto's attempt via the High Court in London to obtain an injunction banning six members of Genetix Snowball from uprooting crops at their trial sites, was this week refused by Justice Klevan pending a full hearing. The injunction also included a request, by Monsanto, for details of Genetix Snowball's mailing list that was recently used to circulate the GS handbook to such notables as Prince Charles and Us!