by Colin Todhunter
May 11, 2014
British Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary
Paterson is a staunch supporter of the GM sector. (1)
Despite criticisms of him being an
industry puppet (2) and content to ignore the
devastating, deleterious health, environmental, social and
agricultural impacts of GMOs,(3) both he and other
officials like the EU's chief science advisor Anne Glover
(4) have been more than happy to act as mouthpieces
for the GM sector by making false statements and claims about the
benefits and safety of GMOs that fly in the face of scientific
Paterson's support for GMOs is being carried out in partnership with
a number of institutions, including the Agricultural Biotechnology
Council (ABC), which is backed by GM companies such as,
Evidence recently emerged of meetings and briefings involving
ministers and the ABC and its industry backers, despite no such
meetings with groups worried about the impact of GM on human health
and the countryside.
GeneWatch UK made a Freedom of
Information request to find out what was said at the briefings.
Paterson's department refused to give
GeneWatch lodged a formal complaint with
the Information Commissioner in the hope that ministers will be
forced to admit how GM companies are driving government policy. The
evidence strongly suggested that the Government is colluding with
the GM industry to manipulate the media and plot the return of GM
crops to Britain.
Paterson's department refused to provide details of a telephone
conference between the department and the ABC on June 10 last year.
Ten days later, Paterson made a speech
calling for opposition to be dropped and claiming GM crops and food
were 'probably safer' than the conventional equivalent. It also
refused to release a "message on media suggestions" sent by the ABC
to the ministry last April, or details of discussions between
Monsanto and the ministry two months before.
In addition, his ministry would not
provide details of a meeting and emails between former environment
minister David Heath and the ABC.
However, details of certain emails have now been made public. They
reveal what the veil of secrecy is trying to hide and what many
collusion between the government and the GM
sector is rife.
The emails between civil servants and the GM industry reveal how the
two developed a media strategy to convince the public about the
merits of GM food.
Writing on the Mail Online website,(6)
Sean Poulter notes that the email contacts were part of a
wider strategy designed to relax European regulations on growing GM
crops and spend millions of taxpayers' money on GM research in
Owen Paterson has pushed for faster
approval of new crops and lobbying for public support and has
lobbied the EU to allow biotech crops to be planted in Britain even
if they are banned elsewhere.
Poulter argues that such support represents a coup for the GM
industry and follows a meeting with ministers and researchers in
2012 which came up with a series of 'to do' lists.
The GM sector is working to get its products into Britain by
infiltrating or creating institutions and co-opting strategically
placed politicians and officials in order to influence decision
making and manipulate public perception about GM crops. The ABC has
been central in influencing government policy.
Indeed, Poulter notes that email
exchanges often coincided with major announcements by ministers,
which shifted government policy in support of GM crops.
Civil servants hosted a meeting with industry leaders in June 2013
to decide how to present the government's agri-tech strategy.
Officials at the Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS)
department even emailed the ABC asking for advice on how to promote
Poulter writes that one BIS official
"any ideas you may have that will showcase agri-tech - as
you are aware it will need to be eye-catching but reflect the main
themes of the strategy."
BIS also created a list of journalists and influential people who
should be targeted with information about the new strategy and asked
the ABC if it wanted to add any names or flag up "potential
The ABC responded by adding some names,
but it also highlighted a number of journalists on the list who had
been critical of GM.
The GM sector, via,
Paterson's and his Environment, Food and Rural
the BIS (Business, Innovations and Skills)
the All-Party Parliamentary
Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, (7)
...strategically placed scientists with their 'independent' reports
(8) and the industry-backed Science Media Centre
(9) - is mounting a full-fledged assault on Britain.
Its strategy also involves an ongoing attempt to get GM food into
the EU via the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
which is also shrouded in secrecy.
The negotiations for this treaty are
backed by the U.S. GM sector:
it is aimed at dismantling regulations
on behalf of big corporations, bypassing democratic procedures and
threatening governments with legal action. (10-14)
The majority of the British public who express a view on GM food do
not want it. (15)
However, we are experiencing a
consistent, multi-pronged attack on democracy that seeks to distort
the debate over the GM issue, hijack institutions, co-opt so-called
'public servants' and pass off vest commercial interests as the 'public good'.
The GM sector will only get its products into Britain (and
elsewhere) if its institutions and mouthpieces in government,
academia and the media are left unchallenged.
Part of the strategy involves counting
on a misinformed and easily manipulated public.
Be informed and take action: