OF&G responds to Defra GM ‘co-existence’ consultation
Date Published: 26/10/2006
Leading organic certifier, Organic Farmers & Growers, has made a detailed response to the Government’s consultation on allowing GM crops in the UK countryside.
Defra launched the consultation exercise to gather findings from all those with an interest in the planting of genetically modified organisms in the UK.
Specifically the document laid out possible scenarios for governing GM in the countryside, including: measures to keep GM and non-GM crops separate; whether GM planting should be recorded in a national register; who would be liable for cross-contamination between GM and non-GM crops; time scales for notification of GM planting.
OF&G sees the introduction of GM elements to the British environment as a huge threat to organic production.
In its response to the consultation OF&G has called for: greater separation distances than those proposed in many cases; robust testing regimes, the costs of which do not fall on the non-GM farmer; compulsory liability insurance for GM growers; a central register of GM crop locations.
Organic Farmers & Growers Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “Despite this apparently being a consultation on the way forward, we felt that the document seemed to be leaning towards keeping the burden of responsibility off GM growers. We believe this is fundamentally the wrong approach.
“Everything possible should be done to reduce the impact of GM introduction on non-GM farmers, both organic and non-organic. After all, they will have done nothing to bring the inevitable problems down on themselves but will be the victims of crops grown by someone, and in places, they have no control over.
“There must be a register of planting, as many other European countries plan to implement and, crucially, we believe that GM growers should be required to take out liability insurance for the consequences of their actions on others.”
OF&G fears that once GM material is allowed to contaminate the countryside there will be no return and it may become increasingly difficult to certify food as organic because of GM contamination in the system.
Organic farmers and food producers are not allowed to use GM products or grow GM crops.
Mr Jacobs added: “The presence of GM could affect our food at all levels. If we can’t get enough non-GM animal feed or non-GM crops, then there will be no, or very little, organic food available! The British public has made quite clear that it wants the ability to avoid GM food. If we are not careful now that will become impossible. We have just one chance to get this right.”
The deadline for the consultation passed on October 20 and will see responses from organisations and individuals on all sides of the genetic modification debate.