UK Environment Minister wants a debate on GM and we suggest the 'GM Dirty Dozen' is a good place to start
The UK government recently announced unprecedented support for genetic modification (GM) technology – thus setting a course directly into the face of public opinion. At this time, it’s important to keep in full view the reasons for continued opposition to GM, not only among the public, but also among elements of the scientific community.
So today, ANH-Intl presents the ‘GM Dirty Dozen’: the twelve most powerful reasons why we should be reducing, or eliminating, demand for GM – not trying to expand their cultivation. We believe that there are already grounds to support the view that the current push to increase GM crop hectarage could represent one of the gravest errors of our species.
Paterson’s speech marks the moment when the radically pro-GM position of successive UK governments steps out from the shadows and into the public arena.
It also provides an object lesson in how politics appears to work in the UK. In December of 2011, the government used the economic downturn to deepen its support of the pharma and biotech industries. Later, in June 2012, UK government representatives met with the biotech industry and discussed a three-point plan to:
Spend more taxpayers' money on research and development for GM crops and on “education”
Promote GM crops in developing countries
Remove regulatory and political barriers
Almost a year to the day later, Owen Paterson makes his speech announcing exactly these initiatives, in the process making GM sound like a miraculous benefit for humankind and the environment. “There are significant economic, environmental and international development benefits to GM,” he declares, asserting that, “We – government, industry, the scientific community and others – owe a duty to the British public to reassure them that GM is a safe, proven and beneficial innovation”. This is an admission that the government is acting as the public relations arm of the biotech industry, by selling GM to UK citizens based on a presumption that it is safe and effective. Any pretence at actually proving GM’s safety and effectiveness has now been cast aside. So as any attempt to reveal the great uncertainty that surrounds almost all the points made by pro-GM protagonists as if they were proven facts.
A closer look at Paterson’s speech shows just how far biotech industry propaganda has infiltrated the thinking of his government. GM will – or has the “promise” to; the distinction is important – increase yields and reduce pesticide use. It will increase “biodiversity, nature and wilderness”, by freeing agricultural land through greater efficiency. GM cotton is an unabashed success story that has resulted in an economic boom for Indian farmers. GM crops in development are likely to improve how efficiently plants utilise nitrogen, resist drought and tolerate salt and temperature extremes. The nutrient profile of GM plants can be improved, and strains can be engineered to produce “plant made pharmaceuticals”. There is, “No scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms...GMOs [are] even safer than conventional plants and food”. The developing world is looking to the European Union (EU) to take the lead on GM; “Europe’s [current] attitude to GM is interpreted as a sign that the technology is dangerous”, so we must work diligently to speed up GM crop approvals. In the most weasel-worded piece of bureaucratic doublespeak we have seen for a while, Paterson declares: “We have a responsibility in the EU to ensure that we set the right framework to enable developing countries to take their own informed decisions about whether GM solutions are appropriate for them.”
It begs the question: Has a UK government minister ever sung so sweetly from the biotech industry’s song sheet?
The GM Dirty Dozen – sparking a proper debate
In response to Mr Paterson, as well as others offering similar, unbalanced views of the benefits of GM crops, we present the ‘GM Dirty Dozen’: 12 reasons why you should oppose and not grow or eat GM foods or ingredients.
Pro-GM politicians like Owen Paterson seem to believe the only thing standing in the way of a GM food future for our planet is the re-education of the public. He asks for a debate, but deems disinclined to have one. We believe a good place to start such a debate is to evaluate each of the 12 points in our ‘GM Dirty Dozen’.
The public has not been told, for instance, that the majority of ecologists — the group of scientists whose professional background should provide the greatest insights over the implications of the technology — have deep reservations about the wide-scale adoption of the technology in agriculture. Rarely are politicians or the public told that GM crops have yet to demonstrate their potential to alleviate poverty or that they do not consistently offer improved yields or reduced agricultural inputs. Nor are they informed that nearly all major crop developments that have improved yields, drought resistance, insect or pathogen resistance, even in recent years, have been the result of non-GM plant breeding techniques.
With considered views being expressed on these and other points, at least there is some chance of the public being able to exercise informed choice on what is a complex issue. And whatever we or others decide, we owe it to future generations to exercise our right of choice with great care.
The GM ‘Dirty Dozen’: 12 reasons to not research, cultivate or consume genetically modified crops
GM has yet to demonstrate its potential to alleviate poverty , while non-GM farming practices have 
GM and intensive, conventional agriculture crops do not consistently provide either improved yields, or reduced agricultural (including energy) inputs [1, 3, 4]
Nearly all major developments in improving yields, drought resistance, insect or pathogen resistance, even in recent years, have been the result of non-GM plant breeding techniques [1, 5]
There are no benefits that have yet to be attributed to commercial GM crops that have not already been attributed to non-GM crops (e.g. insect or herbicide resistance, drought or heat tolerance, nutritional enhancement) 
GM crops may pose serious, unexpected and unpredictable long-term risks to human health and the environment [6, 7]
GM threatens the biodiversity and the viability of wild plant and animal species 
Frewer L et al. Societal aspects of genetically modified foods. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2004; 42: 1181-1193. [Abstract]
Gaskell G et al. GM foods and the misperception of risk perception. Risk Analysis. 2004; 24: 185-194. [Abstract]
Durant RF, Legge JS. Public opinion, risk perceptions, and genetically modified food regulatory policy reassessing the calculus of dissent among European citizens. European Union Politics. 2005; 6: 181-200. [Abstract]
UK citizens: Please write to UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson, and ask him to respond to the ‘GM Dirty Dozen’. Please add any other points of concern you might have as a result of his speech last week at Rothamsted. Please address your letters to: Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. For those who are constituents of North Shropshire you can email him at: http://www.owenpaterson.org/contact. Anybody else can use this email address: [email protected]. We will await our own responses, and feel free to let us know as and when you get your response by emailing the ANH Team at [email protected].
All citizens: Educate your friends and family members about the many serious concerns over GM crops. Share this article and the ‘GM Dirty Dozen’ far and wide.
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