Ryeview – August 2006

Pledge your support and get voice heard on GM debate


John Clark writes…

First published: August 2006 – Gazette & Herald


Ryedale, the public and consumers have all said no to GM. The market, agribusiness, Biotech Companies, the NFU and the government do not listen. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, is now consulting over GM. Not how to stop GM but on how to limit contamination between farm crops. It is not consulting on how to give the public a GM free choice. It is consulting on how to compensate farmers. It completely ignores the Environment, the long term safety of eating GM and the wishes of the public.

The burden on farmers is to be measured and compensation paid. There is to be no protection for the small producer – gardeners, allotment holders and small holders do not feature in their scheme of things.

Contamination is to be accepted. The ‘rules’ almost encourage contamination up to the ‘legal limit’. GM farmers can contaminate non GM crops up to a level of 0.9%. I don’t remember public opposition to GM being “I’m opposed to GM but don’t mind if every month I eat a GM meal.” The public said “NO”!

DEFRA measures contamination on the assumption that fields are of equal size and that the average ‘plot’ of maize is one hectare (2½ acres). Wonderful DEFRA logic. DEFRA then produces a ‘separation distance’ between all GM and non GM maize of 110 metres. The ‘logic’ doesn’t stop there. The non GM is all mixed together. This is claimed to result in a lower level of contamination. Spreading something around doesn’t reduce it. It just makes it harder to find.

DEFRA state that “in relation to garden and allotment plants, there are no formal rules in respect of these being cross-pollinated by ordinary commercial crops…. Rules are needed to protect the interests of non GM farmers because they must label their crops as GM if they have a GM presence above 0.9%, but people growing plants for their own consumption are not affected by the legal requirement.”

That says it all. Farmers must be protected and compensated. Members of the public growing their own food are neither protected nor compensated. They will not even know if the non GM maize they sow produces a GM corn on the cob. They will have no choice.

Two years ago, the Maize Plant Campaign was launched in Ryedale. We asked gardeners and allotment holders to each grow a couple of maize plants. This was designed to make DEFRA recognise that people have a right for their food to not be contaminated. People have the right to grow their own freshly picked food with zero food miles. People have the right to eat GM free food. Hundreds of people from throughout Britain supported the campaign. In a few weeks, Syngenta stopped their plans to grow GM maize in the UK. For two years, no GM crops have been grown in Britain.

The Maize Plant Campaign is now asking people to once again insist on being heard. We intend to take letters to DEFRA protesting about small producers not only being ignored but also being forced to eat GM contaminated food from their own gardens.

To increase the impact, the aim is to present several hundred letters to a DEFRA minister in one ‘hit’. Would you please send letters to me at Cropton Mill, Pickering, North Yorkshire (01751 417131) or to johnclark@gmfreeryedale.org.uk DEFRA may not acknowledge the number of individuals but they will have to take notice if we tell them all at once.

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