Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

March 9, 2004

Subject:

UK Farmers Get GM Go-ahead; Norwegian Scientist's Claims Doubtful; GM Crops' Vital Role

 

Today in AgBioView: March 10, 2004

* Farmers get go-ahead to plant GM maize in UK
* Beckett gives green light to Britain's first GM crop
* Risk to health unlikely, says BMA
* Doctors say it's no problem to health
* First seeds - A cautious approval for a limited GM crop
* Benefits: each crop can now be judged on its own merits
* Two issues remain: co-existence and who pays if it goes wrong?
* GM crops are given qualified go-ahead
* CLAIMED LINK BETWEEN GM CROP AND ILLNESS DOUBTFUL
* COUNTING CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH?
* GM CROPS' 'VITAL ROLE' IN FEEDING THE WORLD
* UK to be eaten by giant plant by Monday

r /> Date: Tue, 09 Mar 2004 13:36:13 -0400
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Intellectual Property

George Monbiot is right to point to corporate control as the major
rallying point for the anti-GM forces. However, given that patents
expire, I wonder that even a true anti-corporate believer can view stopping the development of a technology as a way to defeat corporate power, without also accepting the sacrifice of potential benefits to the world's poor in the longer term.

In order to "buy in" to this approach, the antis must convince themselves that the technology is in some major way unhealthy for people and/or the environment. In any case, when one views the massive size of the domestic market in India and China, and their rapidly-growing capabilities in GM crop development, these countries could probably get away with ignoring GM trait patents.. at least for crops that are raised primarily for domestic consumption...

BOB
***********************************

http://search.ft.com/search/article.html?id=040310001208&query=GM+maize&vsc_appId=totalSearch&state=Form


Farmers get go-ahead to plant GM maize in UK

- THE FINANCIAL TIMES, By John Mason in London, Mar 10, 2004

The biotechnology industry was told yesterday it must bear the cost of compensating UK farmers who suffer losses after contamination by the spread of genetically modified seeds.

Margaret Beckett, Britain's environment secretary, made her long-expected announcement approving the planting of GM maize - the first transgenic crop to be permitted in the UK - but insisted neither the British taxpayer nor non-GM farmers should be expected to pick up the bill for commercial damage to farmers who lose their "non-GM" status.

She told the House of Commons: "I must make clear that any such compensation scheme would need to be funded by the GM sector itself rather than by government or producers of non-GM crops".

Her statement will concern the British biotechnology industry, which fears such a scheme could put farmers off using GM products. It will discuss the issue with ministers but warned the government would have to change its position. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: "We don't want a regime that is anti-GM - there has to be a compromise somewhere".

Mrs Beckett approved the commercialisation of GM maize after trials which showed it did less damage to the environment than conventionally grown varieties. However, she rejected applications to grow spring-sown GM oil-seed rape and sugar beet, which were shown to be more damaging to wild-life.

The decisions are widely expected to be followed across the European Union.

Defending them, Mrs Beckett said they were based on good science but insisted ministers were still adhering to the precautionary principle and considering each crop on a case-by-case basis.

The move won general support from scientists and disapproval from environmentalists.

Prof Julia Goodfellow, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "GM technology has great potential benefits for both the public and producers. It is right that we assess each application of this technology case-by-case based on the scientific evidence while taking into consideration the understandable concerns regarding the use of this relatively new technology".

However, Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The government has given the thumbs-up to GM maize and shown two fingers to the British public. In demonstrating its pro-GM credentials, the government has ignored considerable scientific uncertainties, shown contempt for parliament and utterly disregarded public opinion".
********************************

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/03/10/ngm10.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/03/10/ixportaltop.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=34320


Beckett gives green light to Britain's first GM crop

- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, By Charles Clover and David Derbyshire, 10/03/2004

Approval for the first genetically modified crop to be grown in Britain was given yesterday, but the GM industry was told it would have to foot the bill if farmers' livelihoods were threatened by the new technology.

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, announced the decision to go ahead with a herbicide-resistant GM maize after 15 years of field trials and four years of farm-scale evaluations.

She told the Commons that the GM maize, Chardon LL, made by Bayer Cropscience, could be grown as soon as next year but insisted that it would be accompanied by a statutory framework to ensure that non-GM farmers who suffered financial losses because of crop contamination were compensated by the industry not the taxpayer.

Because the GM industry continues to oppose a compensation fund, which it says is not required anywhere else in the world, Britain is unlikely to see farmers rushing to plant GM crops.

Britain is to oppose EU approval for GM sugar beet and oilseed rape, which scored worse than conventional crops in farm trials.

John Whittingdale, the shadow agriculture spokesman, said it was an "outrage" that the Government had approved GM maize after an all-party committee of MPs unanimously recommended refusal last week and while an estimated 90 per cent cent of public opinion was against.

The statutory framework will set out separation distances from other crops. A further condition imposed by Mrs Beckett was that the EU restricted the herbicides used with GM maize.

She has yet to consider whether the public will have a right to know if farmers are growing GM crops on their doorstep but she added: "It is not our habit in this country to make people disclose everything they do."

Mrs Beckett denied suggestions that Labour had been forced into lifting Britain's GM-free status as a result of pressure from the United States or from Lord Sainsbury, Labour's largest donor.

She said there was "no scientific case for blanket approval" of GM, but nor was there a case for a blanket ban.

Mrs Beckett accepted there were many legitimate concerns about "gene stacking" - crops passing on a succession of GM characteristics which have cumulative effects - and cross-pollination.

She said the GM maize she was approving for cultivation had no wild relatives in Britain, very little organic maize was grown that might be contaminated and it was highly unlikely any seed would survive a winter and form a successor crop.

Mrs Beckett announced that the Government would provide guidance to farmers interested in establishing voluntary GM-free zones in their areas, consistent with EU law.

This is understood to be a sop to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament whose approval is needed for GM maize to pass one of its remaining hurdles, placing on the national Seed List. It also needs approval from the Pesticide Safety Directorate.

Mrs Beckett said: "The only sensible approach is to assess each GM crop on an individual case by case basis. At the same time we recognise that people have legitimate concerns about GM crops which have to be addressed."

Tony Juniper, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said: "The Government has given the thumbs up to GM maize, and shown two fingers to the public. In demonstrating its pro-GM credentials, the Government has ignored considerable scientific uncertainties, shown contempt to Parliament and utterly disregarded public opinion.

"Moreover, this crop will be fed to cows to make milk that will not be labelled as GM, thereby making a mockery of official claims that policy will preserve consumer choice.

"We will now fight this all the way."

Sarah North, of Greenpeace, said: "Downing Street should know that there are thousands upon thousands of people ready to fight him on this. The end result could be chaos in the countryside during an election year."

Dr Brian Johnson, English Nature's biotechnology adviser, said: "English Nature does not approve or disapprove of the commercialisation of this specific GM maize but the evidence from the field-scale trials showed that growing it is better for biodiversity than growing maize using conventional methods."
**********************************

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2004%2F03%2F10%2Fngm410.xml


Risk to health unlikely, says BMA

- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, By David Derbyshire, 10/03/2004

Genetically modified foods are "highly unlikely" to pose a health risk, the British Medical Association said yesterday in a major U-turn.

The BMA report, which coincided with the Government's announcement on GM maize, called for an end to "GM hysteria" and said crops should be judged on a case by case basis.

The report is a reversal of its previous position in 1999 when it called for an "open ended" moratorium on GM.

The old policy has been used by some developing countries to justify bans on GM imports. Yesterday the BMA said it backed the Government's stance "100 per cent".

Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA's board of science, said: "We have to move away from the hysteria and judge each genetically modified crop on a case by case basis. Decisions on whether to grow a particular GM crop in the UK should be made on the basis of whether the benefits outweigh the potential risk of harm to human health and the environment."
******************************************

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,172-1032509,00.html

Doctors say it's no problem to health

- THE TIMES, By Nigel Hawkes, 10 March 2004

DOCTORS' leaders have given their approval to the Government's decision over GM crops.

In a reversal of the position that it had previously taken in 1999, the British Medical Association (BMA) said that there was no reason not to go ahead with the commercial planting of GM maize.

Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA's board of science, said that it was necessary to "move away from the hysteria that has so often been associated with GM foods".

Asked if he would be 100 per cent behind a decision to allow GM maize for animal feed, he said: "I would say so."

The BMA says that research has failed to produce any "robust" evidence that GM foods can damage human health, nor is there any evidence of damage from countries such as the United States, where people had been exposed to GM for a long time.

But Sir David also added: "Plantings should be determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account safety, human health, and the environment."
*********************************

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-1032187,00.html

First seeds - A cautious approval for a limited GM crop

- THE TIMES, 10 March 2004

Food is where sentiment rubs shoulders with science. What we eat, how we prepare it and how we sit around a table sharing it touch on the deepest of emotions; it is no accident that anniversaries and reunions take place around a groaning board. Yet food is also a product of scientific agriculture, a triumph of productive effort that has been multiplying Man's ability to feed himself since grains were first harvested and animals domesticated 10,000 years ago.

This juxtaposition of mind and spirit means that food has become the focus of many modern anxieties. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the long and anguished debate about genetically modified crops. Yesterday Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, gave clearance for the commercial planting in Britain of GM maize, after five years of consultation and farm-scale trials. Logically, there was little else she could do, as GM maize had passed the test of the trials by showing that its cultivation Tdid not damage wildlife and may confer a small benefit by allowing more weeds to grow. It is an animal food, so issues of human health did not directly arise.

Mrs Beckett surrounded the go-ahead with as many caveats as she could muster, and turned down the planting of two other GM crops, beet and oilseed rape. Her decision, despite its caution, will offend many people who see in GM crops the intrusion into their lives of an alien technology; Frankenstein foods, as they are vividly described.

How can opponents be persuaded that the Government is right? First, by avoiding strident claims that GM is the wave of the future and that by turning our backs on it we would be opting out of modern life. It may be that GM crops will one day fulfil the promise of boosting output - especially in dry and salty soils - while cutting the use of chemical fertilisers. But these first products promise less. Only in the eye of faith can herbicide-resistant crops, such as the variety of maize approved yesterday, beT said to herald a new dawn. It is a pity that these products offer such intangible benefits, and understandable that many people feel that we could manage perfectly well without them.

Critics may also reflect that "traditional" plant breeding is a long way from the rustic leaning over the farm gate with a straw in his mouth. In the past, new varieties were often created by blasting seeds with radiation to induce a host of mutations, in the hope that one might be beneficial. This is akin to a bash on the head with a baseball bat compared with the brain surgery of GM. Cross-breeding, another traditional technique, introduced hundreds or thousands of new genes, not just one. GM is a more precise, more controllable way of doing what plant breeders have always done. This is why it is such a tragedy that organic farmers - happy to grow the traditional varieties - have turned their backs on it.

What of the fear that GM will deliver farmers everywhere into the hands of Monsanto and other global giants? If supplies of non-GM products were to disappear, consumer choice would be eliminated. But should a demand for non-GM maize exist, there is nothing to stop farmers planting it. The market will inevitably and ineluctably provide diversity, if that is what consumers decide they want.

Mrs Beckett was right to be cautious in her announcement yesterday. But she was also correct to give the go-ahead for GM maize. Supporters can feel that the principle of acting on the evidence has been satisfied, while opponents still have the opportunity of opposing other GM crops case by case. The argument has entered a new and, let us hope, more productive phase.
*******************************************

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2004%2F03%2F10%2Fngm110.xml


Benefits: each crop can now be judged on its own merits

- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, By Roger Highfield, 10/03/2004

Despite yesterday's cautious go ahead for GM and the endless handwringing that has accompanied it, the biggest question of all remains unanswered: What is farming for?

Historically we have simply wanted our fields to produce the healthiest crops and the more the better.

Today, we want to share those crops with insects, birds and weeds to boost natural diversity.

Exactly what the public really thinks about GM is still unclear. The exercise called GM Nation? was underfunded and flawed, say MPs. Its debates showed that the opponents of GM were still opposed, but that the broader public was none the wiser.

Uncertainty, ignorance and broad concern, rather than outright hostility, were the commonest attitudes in a debate that was damaged by a lack of
context: theoretical risks were weighed against a Utopian risk-free benchmark.

Of course, there are risks with GM crops. There are risks with intensive farming too. If the farm-scale trials have proved anything, it is that we still do not know enough about the impact of conventional agriculture, whether chemical or organic, according to Prof Jules Pretty, the deputy chairman of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

The farm-scale trials were, as Prof Pretty described them, "the largest ecological experiment in agriculture in the world".

They laid a benchmark against which to judge any crop, not just GM, by impact on weed density and seeds produced.

Each crop can now be judged on its merits, whether it can boost diversity, as with GM maize, or cause a decline, as with GM beet and oilseed rape.

When bio-fundamentalists agonise over GM "pollution", DNA often comes over as a man-made chemical that contaminates nature's bounty. However, as Richard Dawkins wrote while watching a willow send out downy seeds, it is raining DNA outside.

Fortunately, scientists can monitor genes used for GM, where they go, whether they pollinate relatives - if there are any - and to what extent. It is easier to trace these gene trickles than nature's DNA torrents.

While environmental impact is the most scientifically legitimate concern, food is the most visceral. The fundamentalists demand an absolute test of safety, but pragmatists want a relative test of safety - no human activity is without risk. The former want evidence of no risk, the latter point out that science can only offer no evidence of risk.

Although the British Medical Association says there are unanswered questions about GM food, people continue to eat conventional foods that have never been subject to safety tests. There are two million annual cases of food poisoning.

Consumers remain sanguine about the dangers of green potatoes when, as a former government adviser told me, the spud would be banned if it were introduced as a new crop to Britain today because of its unhealthy glycoalkaloids.

The Prince of Wales, for one, has tried to articulate darker fears about where GM is taking us.

He has asked: "If literally nothing is held sacred any more, because it is considered synonymous with superstition, what is there to prevent us treating our entire world as some "great laboratory of life", with potentially disastrous long-term consequences?"

However, ancient people, many with sacred beliefs, began fiddling with nature millennia before GM, while nature herself is a promiscuous gene tinkerer, creating superweeds when herbicides are thrown around, bacterial sex in your gut or viruses that implant their genes in your nose.

Such First World fears also often neglect the bigger picture: in the Third World, hunger and malnutrition could be alleviated - not cured - by crops such as vitamin A enriched rice, salt-tolerant crops or virus-resistant cassava.

As the Nuffield Council on Bioethics put it, there is a "compelling moral imperative" to investigate the potential of GM.
***********************************

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2004%2F03%2F10%2Fngm310.xml


Two issues remain: co-existence and who pays if it goes wrong?

- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, 10/03/2004

What has the Government announced?

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, has approved commercial growing of one type of GM maize - spring-sown "Chardon LL", produced by Bayer Cropscience. The crop, used for animal fodder, is genetically engineered to survive the herbicide glufosinate ammonium or Liberty. Farmers using Chardon LL can smother a field with Liberty, safe in the knowledge that it won't harm the maize. The announcement follows the end of the three-year farm-scale trials of Chardon LL and two other GM crops last year.

What is the evidence for GM maize?

The trials concluded that Chardon LL sprayed with Liberty was more beneficial to wildlife than conventional fodder maize sprayed with the weedkiller atrazine. However, anti-GM campaigners said the test was flawed because atrazine will be banned from 2006. Last week a paper in Nature reported that the less toxic alternatives to atrazine would still be worse for the environment than GM maize with Liberty. Over the last couple of years a Government economic review found few short-term benefits from GM crops, while a science review found the risk to human health was "very low".

What about other GM crops?

Each GM crop will be assessed on a case by case basis. Results from the farm-scale trials on GM sugar beet and autumn oilseed rape showed they were more harmful to the environment than conventional crops and so should be avoided for the moment. Results for winter oilseed rape are expected in the summer. Future GM crops, such as potatoes, tomatoes or wheat, will need similar scale environmental trials before they get approval.

When will GM maize be planted?

Probably not before 2005. Chardon LL must first be placed on the UK Seed List - the database of approved plants. Friends of the Earth will appeal against approval, almost certainly delaying the decision beyond May - the last month fodder maize can be planted.
****************************

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=499666

GM crops are given qualified go-ahead

- THE INDEPENDENT, By Michael McCarthy, 10 March 2004

The long argument over whether or not genetically-modified crops should be commercially grown in Britain ended yesterday when the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, announced a formal but heavily-qualified go-ahead for the growing of GM maize.

Her decision was denounced by environmental and consumer groups who have long contended that GM crops may damage the environment and are not wanted by the public.

But it was welcomed by the biotech industry, and by many leading scientists who insist that GM technology can bring many benefits to agriculture in the future.

Mrs Beckett based the Government's decision squarely on its own four-year-long, large-scale trial of three GM crops proposed for growth in Britain, all genetically-modified to be herbicide-tolerant to allow the use of extra-powerful weedkillers. Reporting last autumn, the trials found that in the case of beet and oilseed rape, the GM crops and their associated weedkillers were more likely to harm farmland wildlife such as insects, wild flowers and birds than their conventional crop equivalents. But with maTize the opposite was true, and the GM crop was less damaging. On this basis, Mrs Beckett told MPs yesterday, the Government would oppose the cultivation of the particular varieties of GM beet and oilseed rape throughout the European Union but would agree "in principle" to the growing of GM maize.

She said GM growers would be expected to monitor changes in herbicide use on conventional maize. A much-raised objection to GM maize "passing its test" in the trials is that the weedkiller used with the conventional crops for comparison, atrazine, is such a deadly chemical that it is being phased out across Europe, and therefore the comparison was invalid.

Mrs Beckett indicated that the GM maize and other crops would only be grown under a legal liability regime by which organic farmers could seek damages if their own crops were contaminated with GM pollen, and that would have to be funded "by the GM sector itself, rather than by Government or producers of non- GM crops". Mrs Beckett said the Government intended to look at all applications to grow GM crops case by case.

The shadow agriculture minister, John Whittingdale, warned that despite the Government's decision, more than 40 regions in Britain wanted to declare themselves GM-free, including Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Lake District. He added that 90 per cent of the public had voiced opposition to the technology when they were questioned as part of last summer's GM debate.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the Government "has given the thumbs-up to GM maize and shown two fingers to the British".

But Professor Chris Lamb, director of a plant research establishment, the John Innes Centre in Norwich, said: "The lesson we must learn from GM is that if society is to reap the benefits that plant science can bring, we need long-term policy-making that identifies what it is society requires from agriculture and new plant-based industries."
************************************

CLAIMED LINK BETWEEN GM CROP AND ILLNESS DOUBTFUL

- Philippines Department of Agriculture, 05-Mar-2004

Manila, Philippines - The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the Philippine agency regulating GM crops, views with great concern the report of Dr. Terje Traavik of Norway on the alleged link of Bt corn to illness and increased immunologic response to Bt protein among 39 farmers in Mindanao. The immunologic response to Bt protein could have been caused by the handling of soils by these farmers because Bt is abundant in Philippine soils. Bt protein is not present in the pollen of the approved Bt corn variety, the pollen is the alleged source of the claimed immunologic response.

The BPI has made a thorough review of the safety of Bt corn to human and animals. No toxic or allergenic effect is associated with the approved Bt corn variety. The Bt protein in Bt corn becomes pesticidal only inside the gut of the larva of butterflies and their relatives. Contrary to claims made by these same farmers, Bt corn does not emit unusual odor during flowering.

Nowhere has any adverse human health effect of the Bt corn been reported by countries planting Bt corn in millions of hectares. In 2003, more than 10,000 hectares have been planted to Bt corn in the Philippines by thousands of farmers. No one of these thousands of Bt corn farmers has reported a similar incident claimed in the press by Dr. Traavik. Nonetheless, the BPI enjoins Dr. Traavik to formally submit his data for thorough evaluation. The Department of Agriculture regulations provide that BPI revisits the risk assessment of approved GM crops upon receipt of any new information.

Meantime, the BPI enjoins Dr. Traavik from making public announcement on what he admits as inconclusive results which apparently is causing unwarranted public panic.
************************************

http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=5437

COUNTING CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH?

- Life Sciences Network, 01-Mar-2004

Professor Terje Traavik has put his reputation on the line by going public with warnings of serious health risks from GE foods before the research he cites has been published or peer-reviewed, Chairman of the Life Sciences Network Dr William Rolleston said today.

"A responsible scientist would have presented their evidence to the appropriate regulatory authorities in a manner which allows time for proper scrutiny instead of using the media in an attempt to cause public panic and regulatory over-reaction. If this evidence is credible then the appropriate regulatory authorities will take it into consideration in their decision making as they have always done.

"GE free NZ is right to suggest that Professor Traavik will be criticized for circumventing the proper scientific process and it is probably no coincidence that Professor Traavik's claims coincide with the first major international meeting to discuss the implementation of the Cartegena protocol, which regulates the international shipment of GMOs.

"We have seen these scare tactics before from the anti-GM lobby - Professor Puztai and his potatoes, Professor Kaatz and his bees, and the Monarch Butterfly story. All have failed the test of time through lack of credibility or because they were just plain wrong. Even Professor Traavik's own evidence on DNA vaccines failed to impress New Zealand's Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

"Professor Traavik should know that safety is based on considering all the evidence, taking into account its credibility and putting it into context with current risks," Dr Rolleston concluded.

For more information contact Dr William Rolleston (03)612 6688.
************************************

http://www.thisisbath.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=113966&command=displayContent&sourceNode=113965&contentPK=9138215


GM CROPS' 'VITAL ROLE' IN FEEDING THE WORLD

- The Bath Chronicle, BY ROWENA SPEIRS, 09 March 2004

A University professor from Bath says genetically modified crops could play a crucial role in tackling world hunger. The future of GM crops in Britain was being decided by the Government today with environment ministers widely tipped to be ready to approve some commercial growing.

Prof Rod Scott, from the department of biology and biochemistry at the University of Bath, has been investigating how GM methods could increase the yield of staple crops such as wheat and maize.

Tomorrow night he will outline his views in a public lecture at the Claverton Down campus.

He said: "The world's population currently stands at six billion, double what it was in 1960.

"The increase in growth is largely due to new technology such as better machines and improved irrigation systems now used in farming all over the world.

"This means people, especially in developing countries, are now better fed and go on to have children who survive.

"The result is that the United Nations is now predicting the global population will increase again to nine billion in the next 50 years.

"But we have already used all the world's sustainable agricultural land.

"There are expanses in Africa, for example, where crops just will not grow and other areas which are currently covered in trees - cutting these down could create other environmental problems.

"So, short of reducing the world's population by letting people starve, we need to find a way of feeding an increasing number of people.

"GM crops could play an important role in this. By developing crops which resist the threat of insects and various weather conditions, the total yield will increase.

"I do not believe GM crops are in any way dangerous to people, but I do have certain reservations.

"For example, I do not think it would be advisable for pharmaceutical companies to grow GM crops containing proteins for human growth hormones in open fields.

"These crops could have harmful effects if eaten and need to be grown in a greenhouse or other controlled environments."

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett was today unveiling the Government's decision on the commercialisation of genetically modified plants after months of arguments about the environmental dangers of the technology.

After a national debate about the pros and cons of GM, ministers are expected to reveal a cautious green light for one type of maize seed, but warn that tough regulations will need to be in place to protect farmers and consumers.

Prof Scott's talk, entitled 21st Century Crop Breeding: Harnessing the Fruits of Parental Conflict, will take place at 6.15pm tomorrow in the lecture theatre on the third floor of 2 East building at the university's Claverton Down campus.
*********************************

http://deadbrain.co.uk/news/article_2004_03_09_0509.php

GM gets go-ahead; UK to be eaten by giant plant by Monday

- DeadBrain.co.uk, 9 Mar 2004

The UK will be devoured by a colossal "maize monster" within a week, experts revealed today. The worrying news came after the government agreed to allow genetically-modified maize to be grown by farmers. According to Professor Douglas Ramsbottom, a scientist working for the pressure group People Against Frenetic Foods, studies have shown that tampering with plants' genetic structures can have "disastrous consequences".

"Last summer government scientists accidentally grew a sunflower plant with three human-like heads, a rat's tail and the wings of a chicken," said Professor Ramsbottom. "This Frankenstein creation was left unguarded for just one moment and it escaped from the laboratory in Bootle and ran amok through the town centre, breaking shop windows, stealing candy from babies and spitting at cats. It even stole one woman's trousers."

"And this is just the start," he continued. "In Sweden GM sunflowers have been caught joyriding, in Ireland GM tomatoes have become alcoholic wife beaters and in the US GM potatoes have tried to invade Mexico. There are even some reports that suggest the European Commission has been taken over by GM vegetables but I wouldn't know about that."

Gregory T Mullet, a world authority on scare mongering and a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, immediately agreed with Professor Ramsbottom but warned that the consequences of growing GM maize could be even more serious. "There is a lot of evidence to suggest that if we allow one GM crop in, more will come especially when the Commie scroungers join the EU later this year," he said. "If we open our borders to GM food then we won't be able to close the floodgates afterwards. Britain will be overrun nay, flooded by GM food within days."

Responding to Mr Mullet, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett appealed for calm but was immediately ignored by Mr Mullet's Daily Mail colleague, Linda Lee-Potted-Plant. "The telltale signs are here, the government has failed to hold back the tide: we are about to be invaded by an army of giant maize monsters, hell-bent on taking our jobs and destroying our way of life," she said. "It's time for ordinary, traditional, tax-paying British plants to head for the hills before it's too late."

"And let's be clear about this: it is too late," she added. "We are all doomed and I hope Tony Blair is satisfied with what he has inflicted on this country."