GM Nation – Manchester's Debate

7th July 2003
news
release

News Release

For immediate release.

Photo Opportunity :Photo call at 6:45pm on Wednesday 16th July at the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester before the debate. Chair, speakers and representatives from Manchester Friends of the Earth and Unicorn Grocery will be available at this time

Manchester Friends of the Earth [1] and Unicorn Grocery [2] invite members of the public to hear, discuss and vote upon the issue of growing Genetic Modified crops (GM) commercially in Britain.

At a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House between 7 and 9pm on Wednesday July 16th a panel will give presentations for and against GM Crops. This will be followed by a discussion. Participants will be able to fill in the GM Nation questionnaires, which will then be sent to Government as part of the ongoing consultation – ‘GM Nation’ [3].

The Government seems keen to push ahead with growing GM crops commercially, and it is therefore crucial that the people of Manchester have an opportunity to hear the arguments and have their say in the decision. A Consumer Association survey noted that less than one third of the population found GM foodstuffs acceptable [4]. There are many issues to be debated:

· Consumers have the right to know if the food they eat is from natural or modified sources.
· The potential health risks have not been disproved.
· The government is in the process of conducting its own science review, but the results are not yet available, meaning that the consultation is being carried out without sufficient information.
· If they are released, there is no turning back. Genetic modification means that we are crossing species barriers and creating organisms that would never normally occur naturally. They have already been found to contaminate other crops.
· We know very little about the potential effects outside the lab and it will be very difficult to track the any harmful effects.
· For the small farmers in developing countries, that GM companies claim will be helped by their technology, there is no evidence that there will be yield increases. Indeed, these farmers would have to stop their age-old practice of saving seeds from year to year and buy more expensive seeds. It is difficult to see how GM is going to be the saviour of the hungry poor.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, there is an online questionnaire at www.gmnation.org.uk.

Graeme Sherriff, Co-ordinator of Manchester Friends of the Earth says:

“GM crops should not be planted in the UK until their safety and need is proven and until the public accept them. This debate is a crucial. The risks are too great to take this decision lightly and without public consent.”

Beth Knowles, of Unicorn Grocery is anxious that the public be heard:

“The government recently declared the debate, on whether GM should now be grown commercially in the UK, to be open for discussion. We felt strongly that the public should be made aware of this debate and be invited to join it. As an organic grocer we are concerned about the impact of GM contamination of organic crops and the effect this will have on our business.”

Notes for Editors

1. Manchester Friends of the Earth is a prominent pressure group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on their website: https://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk. Manchester Friends of the Earth is part of a national network of local groups, affiliated to the national organisation (further information can be found at http://www.foe.co.uk).

2. Unicorn Grocery is a local organic food shop in South Manchester. It opened in 1986 and has been run since then as a worker co-operative owned, run by its own workforce, and is committed to bringing wholesome organic food to its customers. It has a turnover of more than £1 million and is one of the largest and most successful wholefood outlets in the UK. (Website: http://www.unicorn-grocery.co.uk/)

3. The national discussion on GM consists of three components: a public debate (of which this Manchester FoE event is part), a government science review and an economics study. (Website: http://www.gmnation.org.uk/) The deadline for questionnaire returns is 18th July.

4. http://www.which.net/campaigns/food/gm/findings.html