20 May 1999
‘Government plot’ to push GM food

THE UK government has a secret plan to win over the publics hearts and minds to accept genetically modified (GM) food, according several British newspapers.

The papers claim that the government has set up a Biotechnology Presentation Group to counter criticism of GM food in the media. The Daily Telegraph suggests the government has attempted to “manipulate” the debate about GM crops and food.

It claims a leaked cabinet office letter shows that ministers tried to get an “independent” scientist to appear on Radio 4s Today programme.

The government has also discussed how a report from the chief medical officer should be “revised” to give a clearer message to the public.

Meanwhile, The Independent claims that the governments most senior scientist contradicted the governments policy on GM crops.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Robin May has called for a four-year ban on the commercial growing of GM crops.

The paper says: “Sir Roberts comments conflict directly with the Governments position on the issue and represent the most high-profile support to date for environmentalists calls for a moratorium.

“His stance will cause intense embarrassment to ministers, as he will appear at a government press conference next week to unveil a report that he co-wrote with the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Sir William Donaldson.”

That report, which will be presented by Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet Office Minister, will conclude that genetically modified foods are safe to eat.

Several of the broadsheets also pick up on a study by Cornell University showing that GM crops designed to kill pests may also kill butterflies.

The papers say that the link which could have damaging implications for the biotechnology industry and the pro-GM lobby.

And a letter writer in The Daily Telegraph claims that thousands of honey bees died in France 12 years ago after foraging in a field of GM rape.