This article is not from a swivel-eyed conspiracy rag, unless we consider the Daily Mail as such. On The Holistic Works, we’ve been pointing out the same thing for years … and have even produced a specially-created app which is free of charge and that gives you GM information about thousands of foods on sale in the UK – including those that are GM, and those that contain meat and dairy from animals fed on GM-feed. You can download our free Shop GMO-Free in the UK app here.
By Geoffrey Lean
After a Daily Mail campaign well over a decade ago, the British people decisively rejected GM food, forcing it off supermarket shelves by refusing to buy it.
But the controversial technique is making a silent, but steady return — becoming firmly established in our food chain.
As yesterday’s Mail reported, most of the meat we eat comes from animals reared on GM feed. Eighty per cent of the maize and soya in their diets comes from modified crops.
The very technology consumers so comprehensively thrown out all those years ago has snuck in again through the back door.
But few have noticed its reappearance. As Liz O’Neill, the director of the anti-GM lobby group GMFreeze, said this week: ‘The public will be very surprised’.
But then the food industry has not exactly been shouting about the return of GM.
‘We find it convenient not to make a big noise about it,’ David Hughes, professor of food marketing at Imperial College London, scandalously told a farming conference on Tuesday.
The only beneficiaries of the re-introduction of GM technology to our food chain are the big companies so comprehensively defeated by consumer power in the late Nineties and early 2000s, but which have never ceased to try to flog us their disputed technology.
And this is likely to be only the start, for the Government has been manoeuvring to introduce the growing of modified crops on British farmland, following an agenda set in Brussels.
Indeed, the likelihood of GM crops being grown in this country is greater than at any time since the late Nineties.
Ministers would love to see engineered food widely back on sale. In time, we might even face modified meat itself.
It’s 20 years since the first GM product — tomato puree — hit British supermarkets.
Within a few years, though few consumers knew it, 60 per cent of the food on the shelves contained modified ingredients.
Widespread cultivation of GM crops — designed to resist herbicides, so fields could be widely sprayed to get rid of weeds without damaging the crop itself — seemed imminent.
Some varieties had already been approved for planting: 53 others were awaiting the go-ahead. The giant biotech companies, which not only designed these crops but also manufactured the herbicides to be used on them, were feted on the world’s stock exchanges.
The then prime minister, Tony Blair — with characteristic hubris — even boasted about making Britain the European hub of the technology.
Only a few lonely voices — most notably Prince Charles’s — were raised in doubt, though unease was growing among a public beginning to discover it was unknowingly consuming modified food.
Then, in 1999, the Daily Mail began its long campaign on GM food, asking awkward, vital and hitherto largely ignored questions. Might not genes spread from engineered crops, contaminating other plants and creating superweeds?
Did these GM crops really benefit the farmers or the companies that made them resistant to their own herbicides, which they could then sell in ever greater amounts?
Was there enough evidence that GM foods were safe to eat? And were regulatory controls on the technology strict enough?
Blair dismissed such questioning as a ‘flash in the pan’ that would not hinder the march to a genetically modified future.
Some flash. Some pan. As the answers came in — like so many genetically modified chickens returning to roost — the public made its verdict clear: by 2004, 84 per cent of Britons said they would not touch the stuff.
Long before then, as public opposition grew, supermarkets scrambled to take the engineered produce off their shelves.
They also pledged not to sell meat from pigs and poultry given GM feed. What seemed to be the final straw for the big GM companies came when the cultivation of modified crops in Britain was banned after extensive government trials showed they did more damage to wildlife than normal crops.
GM giants such as Monsanto and Bayer CropScience ostentatiously withdrew applications to get new varieties approved.
But, as we now know, they did not go away. Nor did underhand attempts by successive British governments, and the European Commission, to smooth their return to our food chain.
Back in 2008, the then EC President, Jose Manuel Barroso, called two secret meetings of special representatives of European prime ministers: the confidential minutes show that they resolved to ‘speed up’ the spread of the technology and ‘deal with’ public opposition.
From 2010, GM-fed meat appeared in British supermarkets again, and in 2011 the EU even decided to allow animal feed to contain low levels of GM crops not approved for safety.
Today, as the Mail has revealed, such meat is almost ubiquitous. And there is an ever-increasing danger that shippers bringing in animal feed will stop carrying GM and non-GM produce in separate containers, and thereby deprive farmers of the ability to use unmodified feed.
Meanwhile, despite his 2010 election manifesto promising to be tough on GM, David Cameron let it be known that he was working, yes, to ‘speed things up’ in spreading the technology.
Even Eurosceptic Owen Paterson seemed to follow the Brussels script as Environment Secretary, promoting it as a ‘safe, proven, beneficial innovation’ and accusing critics of talking ‘humbug’.
Be in no doubt, ministers want to grow GM crops in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have pledged to stay free of them). They, and the industry, are equally keen to see modified food back on our dinner plates.
For now, GM-fed meat brings Britons closest to the technology, and to be fair, there’s no good evidence it endangers health.
It may possibly pose a danger to the animals themselves. There is anecdotal evidence that some have suffered from eating GM feed, but the case is far from conclusive.
On the other hand, a massive 2014 study, which was hailed by the industry as giving GM a clean bill of health, is also unconvincing. Key evidence in the study did not directly compare the health of animals on GM and non-GM diets.
It noted, instead, that the weight and health of U.S. animals improved in the years after modified feed became available. But other factors — including increased use of antibiotics — could have been responsible.
And livestock is usually slaughtered young, long before any harm could show up.
More worryingly, perhaps, the widespread use of GM feed means more and more land is being used to produce genetically engineered crops — and dramatically increases the danger of genetic contamination and of superweeds emerging.
So far, more than 30 types of weeds worldwide have become immune to pesticides as a result of such genetic contamination.
But much the worst aspect of the ubiquity of GM-fed meat is that people trying to avoid it have eaten it unwittingly.
Connor McVeigh of McDonald’s admitted to Tuesday’s farming conference that families did not like GM, but excused the fact that his company sold meat from cattle-fed modified crops by saying it is ‘becoming increasingly difficult to source non-GM feed’.
That seems disingenuous to say the least. Are we really to believe the fast-food giant’s purchasing power could not create a market for animals given unmodified feed?
France, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg all have voluntary, but Government-sponsored, schemes to label non-GM-fed meat, milk and eggs. At the very least we should have one, too.
Or do ministers refuse to introduce such a scheme for fear that British consumers would comprehensively reject the technology again, putting paid to their egregious plans to introduce it across the entire country?
From the Daily Mail
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