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Meacher: GM will ruin organic farms

David Harrison / London Telegraph | July 23 2006

Michael Meacher, the former Labour environment minister, said last night that the Government's "arrogant" decision to pave the way for genetically modified food to be produced commercially in Britain would lead to organic farms being wiped out "within a few years".

Mr Meacher said that GM crops would "contaminate" organic farms and make it impossible for the fast-growing organic food industry to survive.

Ian Pearson, the Environment Minister, said last week that organic farms would have to put up with some GM cross-pollination and called for "precautionary, science-based and pragmatic co-existence".

Mr Meacher, who was the environment minister from 1997 to 2003, accused the Government of "disgraceful arrogance". He had seen for himself how GM crops had "forced" organic farms to close in the vast Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

"I saw it there and the same thing will happen here," he said. "Nobody will want to grow organic crops because they will be contaminated and the farmers will not be able to sell them and they will be wiped out within a few years."

Mr Meacher accused Tony Blair of ignoring public opinion, which recent studies have indicated is 80 per cent against GM food.

The former minister said the Government's opposition to a GM land register, outlined in a consultation document, showed it was concerned about fields being vandalised, but added: "That is the penalty you pay when you do something against the wishes of the people.

"I am not condoning the trashing of fields, but if you try to force food that has not been tested for safety down people's throats they will retaliate. People have a right to know what they are eating."

Mr Meacher was backed by Patrick Holden, the director of the Soil Association, Britain's leading certifier of organic food, who said the anti-GM food campaign would almost certainly be resurrected. The organic food industry grew by 60 per cent last year, but Mr Holden said it would be under serious threat if non-organic farmers switched to GM on a large scale.


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