Cunningham under pressure to quit

15 February 1999

Cunningham under pressure to quit

By FWi staff

CABINET enforcer Jack Cunningham is under pressure to quit his post over his handling of the row over genetically modified (GM) crops.

Dr Cunningham, who is also chairman of the Cabinet committee on biotechnology, is accused of undermining consumer confidence in food and the biotech industry.

Shadow trade secretary John Redwood said Dr Cunningham should go after revelations of the Labour Partys close links with the biotech industry.

“We want independent-minded ministers – ministers without connections to the industry who can make proper judgement on our behalf and then debate it openly and honestly”, Mr Redwood told the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning (Monday).

Mr Redwood criticised Dr Cunningham for defending Lord Sainsbury, the junior science minister and former chairman of his family supermarket chain, which is backing GM food products.

Meanwhile, the environmental group GeneWatch has accused Dr Cunningham of deliberately misleading the public over the number of GM products on sale in supermarkets.

Dr Cunningham said during various interviews over the weekend that there are only four GM food products on sale.

Genewatch claims that enzymes from GM micro-organisms could be used in up to 90% of processed foods, including soft drinks, and bread.

Dr Cunningham has dismissed as “ridiculous” recent reports that there are risks to human health associated with GM food.

All genetically altered products currently on sale are safe, he told the GMTV programme yesterday morning.

The Independent believes that unless Dr Cunningham resigns, he is likely to be replaced as cabinet enforcer by Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam.

As well as the uproar over GM crops, the paper says Mr Cunningham has been damaged by the “drip-drip” effect of allegations about his taste for the high life.

While Dr Cunningham has been trying to control the actions of other ministers, some outspoken civil servants have leaked details about Concorde trips and spending.

One civil servant who worked with Dr Cunningham was shifted after objecting to an order from Dr Cunningham for six bottles of expensive malt whisky.

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