28 February 2000
Blair U-turn — What the papers say

TONY Blairs apparent U-turn on genetically modified organisms is the subject of intense debate in most of the Monday (28 February) newspapers.

Mr Blair admitted on Sunday (27 February) that there is a potential for danger from GM crops, having previously dismissed concerns as hysteria.

The Financial Times speculates that the Prime Ministers comments are timed to off balance any anti-GM activists planning to protest at this weeks Edinburgh conference on GM food.

Leading on the story, The Guardian describes Mr Blairs shift in position on the safety of GM food as “the biggest U-turn of his premiership”.

The newspaper views the move as an attempt to reach out to traditional Labour supporters who felt Mr Blair was over-zealous in his defence of GM products.

The Guardian also reveals that, in a 1998 meeting, US president Bill Clinton lobbied Mr Blair to open up Britain and the EU to GM products.

The following day, Britain set in motion changes making it easier for GM food to be sold in Britain and Europe.

Mick Hume, writing in , says that while a year ago Downing Street said the Prime Minister had no hesitation eating GM food, “now it appears Mr Blair prefers to eat his own words”.

He says that far from providing proof of the greening of the government it “looks more like evidence that it has turned yellow”.

Mr Hume claims the government has opted to lie back and allow lobbyists to determine government policy on GM foods.

The Independent predicts that Mr Blairs claims will be at the centre of a new storm over GM foods as leading scientists rush to defend GM technology.

The Daily Mail views Mr Blairs comments as a victory for environment minister Michael Meacher and Cabinet office minister Mo Mowlam, who have fought for a tougher line on GMOs.

In its editorial, the Mail says the government must match thoughts with changes in policy.

It says only a month ago, junior farming minister Baroness Hayman told organic farmers they would have to put up with contamination from GM pollen.

“Presumably we have heard the end of such arrogance.”

The future of science minister and GM technology advocate, Lord Sainsbury is called into question by the The Express.

It claims Lord Sainsbury, a huge Labour Party donor, appears to be fighting a losing battle against public opinion.