Criticism of GM code is irrelevant

23 June 1999

Criticism of GM code is ‘irrelevant’

By Johann Tasker

ASSERTIONS that farmers could eliminate all wildlife by following a voluntary code to grow genetically modified (GM) crops are irrelevant, it was claimed today (Wednesday).

English Nature, the governments wildlife advisors, had warned that a voluntary code drawn up by the biotechnology industry for GM crops will not work.

The code was drawn up by the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC), a group of organisations in favour of GM crops.

It was approved last month by Cabinet Office minister Jack Cunningham, who is also chairman of the cabinet committee on biotechnology.

An English Nature briefing warned yesterday, however, that the SCIMAC code was “very limited in its purpose” and not designed to protect biodiversity.

“Even if growers followed the code to the letter, they could eliminate all wildlife from their fields,” the briefing said.

The warning was welcomed by environmental campaigners who believe that GM crops will create “wildlife deserts” and areas of “green concrete” in the countryside.

But Bob Fiddaman, who is the National Farmers Union SCIMAC representative, said the English Nature claims were misguided and wrong.

“For them to argue that [the code] is not designed to protect biodiversity is irrelevant,” he told Farmers Weekly this morning.

Mr Fiddaman said the SCIMAC code would only be used after GM crops were shown to be no more environmentally damaging than conventional crops.

Any GM variety would be approved by the governments Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment before it was grown, he said.

Part of that approval process would assess the likely impact of GM crops on biodiversity and the environment, Mr Fiddaman added.

“GM crops are only another version of crops we are already growing,” he said.

“Our code is based on formal studies which would have already approved the GM varieties in question.”

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