'It beggars belief that the self-styled leading farming organisation is
recommending insurance as a possible compensation measure to its members to
facilitate the commercialisation of GM crops into the UK when not one single
company will offer such insurance. Either the NFU Council has been asleep
over the past day or two or it is deliberately ignoring the realities facing
farmers in the UK. If the latter, it is hard not to conclude that the NFU at
the HQ level is overtly pro-GM and content to see not co-existence, but GM
contamination throughout UK farming.'

We presume the attached document was forwarded to us following today's
publicity by a disgruntled or disbelieving NFU member, possibly a Council
member given its immediacy?

FARM has produced a briefing setting out the practical and commercial
implications of GM crops for working farmers

Summary of PRESS RELEASE  as sent out yesterday: 7/10/03 - for immediate

No-one will insure GM crops

"The worry is that GM could be like Thalidomide - only after some time would
the full extent of the problems be seen"
- Insurance company spokesperson

A survey of the principle insurance underwriters in the UK, carried out by
the new campaigning group FARM, found that neither farmers considering
growing GM crops or non-GM farmers seeking to protect their businesses from
contamination by GM crops would be able to find anyone willing to give them
insurance. [1]

The survey conducted by FARM staff and working farmer members revealed a
level of opposition from companies taking on the risks of insuring GM crops,
comparable to the public's hostility to purchasing and eating them.

Insurance company spokespeople compared GM crops to 'Thalidomide', 'Asbestos
' and 'Acts of Terrorism'. [2]

All the companies surveyed felt that too little was known about the long
term effects of growing these crops on human health and the environment to
be able to offer any form of cover:
"50 years ago insurers were writing policies for asbestos without a care in
the world - now they are facing claims of hundreds of millions of pounds.
The insurance industry has learned to be wary of new things, and there is a
real feeling that GM could come back and bite you in 5 years time", said one
company spokesperson.

Cropgen rant

This is fairly predictable. They won't have been pleased by this morning's
OSR story from New Scientist on Today programme etc.

NB - FARM is not 'an anti-GM farmers' organisation' - there may be
applications of Biotech. such as Marker Assisted Selection that bring
benefits to farmers and the publci without the risks and controversy.
However, we can see no benefits for farmers from the current generation of
transgenic crops proposed for commercialisation.


The little world of campaigner tactics

London, 9th October 2003 - Two days ago, those newspapers that go in for
that sort of thing were screaming about the stillbirth of GM crops in the
UK - the insurance industry would not insure UK farmers against liability
claims. Farm, an anti-GM farmers organisation had apparently phoned round
and came up with the startling news the risks were every bit as bad as
thalidomide and asbestos.

Never mind that millions and millions - and millions - of acres of these
crops are grown round the world. Many of those acres are in North America,
among the most litigious of societies. Yet US farmers obtain insurance cover
with no great difficulty. And why shouldn't they? In more than eight years
there has been not a single confirmed case of damage to anybody's health.
Environmental impact is at a level typical for agriculture in general and,
as far as CropGen has been able to find out, not one organic farmer has lost
accreditation because of "contamination" by neighbouring GM cultivation.

Yesterday in a radio interview, an insurance spokesman was more cautious,
saying only that the risk had not yet been evaluated and if the "Government
said the foods were safe" they would think again. He may, of course, not
have been an expert in this field. But it was odd that, as a spokesman on
this matter, he did not seem to know that all the foods and crops authorised
for human consumption have indeed been declared safe by the British, US.
Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and other government authorities as well,
of course, by the EU.

It is worth noticing that GM agriculture in no way interferes with organic
cultivation practices. The EU regulations state many times that "(organic)
products (must be) produced without the use of genetically modified
organisms and/or any products derived from such organisms". If farmers do
not use GM seed, they will be fulfilling this obligation. Nowhere is there
any suggestion that such products must not contain any adventitious quantity
of GM material. Only that if there is more than 0.9% GM content in any
ingredient it must be labelled accordingly - just like any other foodstuff.

The size of the teacup in which this latest storm had been brewed has since
become a little clearer. Reuters has reported a spokesman for the
Association of British Insurers (ABI) accusing Farm of "scaremongering", and
said it would look to provide insurance cover when the risks, if there are
any, are known.

Never mind; rest assured there will be something else next week.


1. Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91of 24 June 1991or organic production
of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural
products and foodstuffs

2. http://www.just-food.com