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GM MAIZE APPROVAL IN THE UK THREATENS SCOTTISH AGRICULTURE, PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

As well as the environmental safety of GM maize being questionable, there is also evidence that it may pose a serious risk to the animals who will be eating it, said Green MSPs today. Although Chardon LL (GM maize) is fed to cattle, there have been no published studies that have shown that it is safe for animals to eat. The UK government, with the consent of the Scottish Executive, is set to give the go ahead to GM maize this week.(1)

A feeding study carried out for Bayer CropScience (the patent holder of the organism) by Reading University has never been published, in spite of being completed several years ago. It is believed that the results of the trial have been passed to Bayer, but they have never released the data.(2) During feeding trials of this crop on chickens, the mortality rate of chickens fed the GM maize was double that of the control group. Yet the crop was given marketing approval by the government's own scientific advisors. (3)

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife said: "If this study shows that the crop is safe for animals to eat, why have the results never been published? What is the company trying to hide? If the maize crop, genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Glufosinate, is approved for commercial cultivation in Scotland, consumers will eat the milk and meat from the animals that are fed the forage maize."

Mr Ruskell added: "Until the results of the feeding study are published, there must remain a massive question mark over the health implications of this crop both for the animals themselves and for human consumers of the animal products."

As well as the scientific doubts over the release of GM maize, there are serious doubts over the legality of such a move. Independent scientists have established that the original transgenic structure has now mutated and is quite different from that specified in the original consent form. This renders any release of the altered organism illegal under European law. (4)

The health fears over animal testing are in addition to concerns that the Farm Scale Evaluations were too narrow in scope to accurately monitor the wider environmental impacts of the GM maize.

Mr Ruskell said: "The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission stated in their report Crops on Trial that the field trials were only one part of the scientific evidence needed to give the go ahead for GM crops. Now the government is acting as if this small scrap of incomplete and highly questionable science does indeed give them carte blanche to release these plants into the environment. And once the genie is out of the bottle, we can never put it back." (5)

Number 10 and DEFRA are desperately trying to portray this as a scientific decision, when it is obviously highly political. Mr Ruskell added: "The American government of George W. Bush wants to open up the European market to US biotech companies - and Tony Blair will apparently do anything to please his master."

Notes to Editors

(1) Beckett is expected to give the go-ahead to GM Maize this week going against public opinion and scientific fears. An influential cross party select committee of Westminster MPs last Friday said that there is no valid scientific basis for the commercialisation of GM maize. The Environmental Audit Committee concluded that the field trials were flawed, that no liability regime was in place, that any decision to give the go-ahead would be 'irresponsible' and that new research from North America should be further scrutinised because the GM experience there was beginning to unravel as an environmental, economic and social disaster for farmers.

(2) At the ACRE hearing into T25 (Chardon LL), Prof Phipps of Reading University gave evidence on cattle feeding for Bayer. He said that he and his colleagues had carried out a cattle feeding study using silage from an FSE maize site. The study was completed and being written up for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Since then nothing has been said or appeared, and it is therefore assumed that the results of the study have been so disastrous that they have been withheld from public or peer review scrutiny

3) GM safety tests flawed, BBC news online, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1954408.stm

(4) www.i-sis.org.uk/TLPU.php, EU directive 2001/18/EC, Article 20

(5) Crops on Trial, Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, September 2001. Paragraph 25: "Whilst the FSEs are expected to produce useful data which can contribute to the decision about whether or not the crops involved should be commercialised, we are clear that they are not a sufficient condition for reaching those decisions"

 
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