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Prince Charles

Prince Charles warns that the earth faces a catastrophe because of the investment by multinational firms in GM crops - which he describes as "a gigantic experiment that has gone seriously wrong". Barbara Panvel explains why.

Chief scientific adviser Sir David King recently called on the Government to adopt GM technology, “now necessary and unavoidable if we are going to feed the world in the future”.

He was challenged by many, who cited research findings that a surplus of food is produced worldwide and that people only starve because the food goes to the highest bidder, rather than to those who need it most.

"GM foods will solve starvation among shareholders, but not in the developing world", said EU minister Margot Wallstrom.

A spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills later admitted Sir David simply got it wrong: "Sir David has said this was an honest mistake."

News from many countries, including India, USA, Indonesia, Poland and Sri Lanka contradicts assertions of the technology's widespread usefulness & popularity. Pests have been quick to develop resistance to BT toxin designed to kill them.

Gordon Brown and others have dignified genetic modification of crops as ‘a second green revolution’, apparently unaware of the damage done in India by the first, where a temporary increase in yields led to salination and soil degradation.

More recently DFID provided funds for McKinsey’s Vision 2020 report which advocated putting small farmers off their land in order to use biotechnology on a large scale in Andhra Pradesh. This project went no further in that functioning democracy - following large-scale protests the Chief Minister lost his seat in the next election

Our politicians point out that there is no data showing that eating GM food is harmful to humans. True: because no funding for research on humans - especially pregnant women and children who are most likely to be harmed by the toxins present in GM foods - has been given by corporations or government.

Experiments on animals have shown adverse effects, including sterility and increased neonatal deaths, cancer, systemic organ failures and allergic reactions. Monsanto's genetically modified maize MON863, which has been authorized for planting and sale in Europe, was shown by a scientific study to cause liver and kidney toxicity in rats during feeding trials. The study had initially been suppressed by Monsanto but became available to researchers in 2005 after a Court action in Germany.

A scientist of the government’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes has warned that eating maize into which an antibiotic resistant gene has been inserted could produce resistance to several key antibiotics used to treat people with bronchitis, septicemia, gangrene, cystic fibroses, salmonella, meningitis and Aids.

The testing regime was discredited when an investigation by the Farming Today programme found that twice as many chickens fed on genetically modified corn died, compared with those fed on conventionally grown corn but that – despite this finding - the GM feed was approved for use.

Most members of the public who feel that they have been affected – or farmers whose crops have been contaminated by uncontrollable GM crops - cannot afford to take legal action against corporations.

Some MPs in the British parliament have put a request forward in the following motion: That this House notes the increasing disregard of biotech companies for meaningful consultation with local communities about the implications of GM crop trials; registers a concern about the lack of scientific rigour and openness about crop trial evaluations; and believes that since the industry is clearly determined to push GM crops into the food chain and environment, regardless of public opposition or risk, the Government must now bring forward a Producer Liability Bill to give urgent clarification to the question of legal responsibilities for GM contamination.

Ironically, anyone who wants to be absolutely sure of eating GM-free food should dine at Monsanto’s staff café at its British HQ. Its caterers are reported to have taken all GM-food products off the menu because of customer concerns . . .



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