7 November 1998

GMOs

LOVE them or loathe them, genetically modified plants, animals and foodstuffs are likely to play an increasingly important role in UK agriculture. But how will their development, or a moratorium on their use affect the wealth of UK farmers and the health of their customers? Can we use the year-long ban on the introduction of genetically-modified commercial crops, to plan for the future of this rapidly developing science?

To answer those questions, Crops sister magazine Farmers Weekly has assembled an expert panel of speakers to address a conference on genetically modified organisms on Thursday 4 February 1999 at the National Motorcycle Museum, Coventry Rd, Bickenhill, Solihull, West Midlands.

Would harnessing the new science benefit farmers and consumers by improving yields and quality while allowing reductions in the use of agrochemicals? Or perhaps you believe we should put a stop to science that seeks to tamper with the very building blocks of life itself. Surely theres a middle way which would allow the careful and responsible development of a technology we cannot afford to ignore.

Special emphasis will be placed on answering questions from the audience and FW and Crops readers. So join us and make sure your voice is heard on a subject that affects all our futures.

CONFUSED about what genetically modified organisms might mean for your arable farming business? Or have you made your mind up whether they would be the blessing or bane of twenty-first century agriculture?

Wherever you stand on this controversial topic, why not make your voice heard? Either attend the conference in person to ask your question or send us your query and we pick the best to put to our panel of expert speakers.

You can post, or fax your question to along with your name, address, occupation and telephone number to the conference address which appears in the registration form. Dont miss out on this unique opportunity to make your voice heard.

"We are looking for a breathing space while research is being done, not dragging our feet."Environment minister Michael Meacher, commenting on the year-long ban on the introduction of genetically modified commercial crops. The Daily Telegraph (22 October).

"The science behind GMOs is exciting and brilliant and the opportunities they could create are thrilling. I have great admiration for what the scientists are achieving. But, if effective, the inevitable effect will be the de-skilling of agriculture."Marie Skinner, Norfolk farmer on the NFU cereals committee and the HGCA board. Crops (17 October).

"The genetic modification of food is intrinsically dangerous. It involves making irreversible changes in a random manner to a complex level of life about which little is known. It is inevitable that this hit-and-miss approach will lead to disasters."Dr Geoffrey Clements, leader of the Natural Law Party (29 September).

"For a moratorium (on genetically modified foodstuffs) to be implemented, we need strong health, scientific and safety grounds – we have none of these."Jeff Rooker, junior farm minister, Labour Party Conference, Blackpool (30 September).

"We need long-term surveillance and we need a new body to actively manage the introduction of GM foods, above all with reliable labelling."Julie Sheppard, Consumers Association, Labour Party Conference, Blackpool (30 September).

"A negative list of food products from GM crops which contain no GM material and which need no labelling may be acceptable legally. But that has to be balanced with accurate labelling, and that means giving consumers what they want."Geraldine Schofield, head of regulatory affairs, Unilever. Farmers Weekly (16 October).

What people say about them

Genetic ModificationPath to profit or road to ruin?

Thursday 4 February 1999, National Motorcycle Museum, Coventry Rd, Bickenhill, Solihull, West Midlands.

Morning session09.00 Registration/coffee

09.20 Chairmans welcome and opening vote

09.30 The promise of GMO technology Dr Doug Hard, Monsanto

09.55 GMOs: The dangers ahead Robin Maynard, local campaigns director, FOE

10.20 Realising the benefits while minimising riskProf Ian Crute, director designate, IACR

10.45 A consumer perspectiveDavid Hatch, chairman, Consumers Association

11.10 Coffee

11.20 Questions from the audience and Crops, fw and FWi readers

12.20 MAFFs view

12.45 Questions

13.00 Lunch

Afternoon session14.00 The EUs strategy on GMOs

14.20 The US vision of GMO technology and tradeRalph Gifford, US agricultural attaché in Brussels

14.45 Questions

15.00 My hopes and fears for GMOsNine leading industry experts share their thoughts about the potential and the pitfalls of GMO science and technology. After outlining their views, speakers will take part in a panel discussion before answering questions from the audience and queries submitted in advance by Crops and Farmers Weekly readers.Speakers include: John MacLeod, director NIAB; Dr Nigel Poole, who contributed to Zenecas successful release of genetically modified tomato paste; Patrick Holden, director Soil Association; Prof Sir Colin Spedding, Farm Animal Welfare Council; Jim Reed, director general UKASTA; Bob Fiddaman, NFU; Dr Michael Antoniou, researcher London University; and from two of Britains largest farming operations, John Chapple, commercial manager with CWS and James Townshend, chief executive of Velcourt.

16.30 Questions

17.15 Chairmans summary and closing vote

17.30 Tea and depart