20 May 2002
Government is planning to change the law to make it more difficult for the
public to object to the commercial development of GM crops, according to a
confidential note leaked to Friends of the Earth.
The note headlined “Draft
Submission on Representation and Hearings” follows the public hearings
now underway into the listing of the GM maize variety “CHARDON LL”. The hearings
are being held because lawyers for Friends of the Earth discovered the public’s
right to demand them under the “Seeds (National List of Varieties) Regulations.
More than 200 individuals and groups have objected to the listing of CHARDON LL.
More than 60 are giving oral evidence at the hearings, which restart in London
tomorrow (20th May) .
But the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs is now planning
to change the law to prevent objectors from raising GM safety issues at such
hearings. The change could be made before Ministers have to decide on the
listing of SHERIDAN (another GM forage maize), due around October 2002. The
listing procedure is the only point in the commercial development of GM crops
where the public have a legal right to raise key safety issues and other
The DEFRA note admits that “any proposals to remove GM
safety issues from the scope of National List representations and hearings
will be criticised because it will seem that we are trying to
silence GM objectors. However, we believe that an effective presentation
strategy can be prepared in advance … A fully fledged presentation strategy will
be prepared in consultation with the Communications Directorate, for clearance
DEFRA has decided to
Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Adrian Bebb said:
“Yet another yowling GM cat has been let out of the bag. The Government
pretends to be neutral in this debate. But once more we find that it is secretly
planning to skew the system in favour of the biotech industry, and to take away
the public’s right to raise objections to and concerns about the commercial
development of GM crops.
This shameful memo shows once again that only two things motivate the Government on the GM issue, to deliver what their friends in the biotech business want, and to spin, spin and spin again in the forlorn hope that the public won’t notice what is going on.”