Gene Manipulators Buy UK Government
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Genetic Modification Corps Buy Influence to Avoid Safety Tests
LABOUR’S LINKS TO GENE FOODS
by David Hughes, Political Editor for the Daily Mail
DISTURBING questions about the Governments policy on so-called Frankenstein food were raised last night when it emerged that a producer of genetically modified crops has given money to the Labour Party
An offshoot of the Swiss chemical giant Novartis spent thousands of pounds sponsoring a “seminar” for newly-elected Labour MPs in 1997.
It was also revealed that, in a lobbying blitz on Whitehall, highly paid executives from the GM giants are visiting the Agriculture Ministry on an almost daily basis. One Labour insider said: We were amazed at the extent these companies had civil servants wrapped round their fingers.
The new raft of revelations came two days after Tony Blair rejected calls for a three-year ban on introducing commercial GM foods. The Government had already faced conflict of interest charges because Science Minister Lord Sainsbury is on the Cabinet Comittee dealing with biotechnology – even though his family firm is a leading retailer of GM products. A Labour official yesterday confirmed that Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK had sponsored the training seminar at the Institute of Civil Engineers building opposite the House of Commons. The party refuses to say how much money was involved, other than that it was more than £5,000. Novartis Is one of the worlds leading biotech companies spearheading the introduction of GM food. It specialises in the development of GM maize.
A spokesman insisted yesterday that its UK pharmaceuticals arm is a separate operating company which has nothing to do with GM food. The same point was made by Labour.
But food campaigners said this was merely an attempt by Novartis to cover its tracks in its attempts to gain influence with the Government.
The news coincided with the announcement that Frances biggest supermarket chain Carrefour — which has outlets all over the world — has ordered all GM foods to be cleared from Its shelves. And a Daily Mail investigation revealed that British customers are unaware that they are buying so-called Frankenstein food because of a hopelessly-confused labelling system. It is so full of loopholes that as much as 90 percent of products containing GM Ingredients do not have to be identified.
The big players in the battle of GM food are conglomerates that straddle the world -Monsanto and DuPont from North America, AgEvro of Germany, Novartis of Switzerland. Formed three years ago from the merger of Ciba and Sandoz, Novartis saw its sales stand at £13.9 billion last year. With such huge sums at stake, it is unsurprising that the GM firms are among the most sophisticated lobbying organisations of the age. They say they are working for the good of mankind, particularly the billions in the Third World who do not have enough to eat.
But the real prize is the vast profit that awaits them when the genetically modified crops start growing around the world.
They are masters of the art of persuasion. They have to be knowing that consumers — particularly in the West — are instinctively hostile to the concept of genetically engineered food.
Novartiss involvement with the Labour Party is an object lesson in how they work. The final page of Labours 1998 Annual Report carries a list of all the companies that gave the party at least £5,000 in sponsorship during 1997. The list includes Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd.
Critics have accused the Government, food manufacturers and supermarkets of conniving with the conglomerates to force feed their products to consumers. They point to the fact that huge quantities of GM foods are now in supermarkets despite the fact there has been no consultation with consumers and no studies on the long-term health effects.
MPs have raised concern about a Ministry of Agriculture project, revealed by the Daily Mail last month, under which £125,000 was paid to Sheffield University to devise a strategy to promote public understanding of biotechnology. Researchers from the universitys Journalism Studies department called for a campaign of “official” leaflets and educational videos to be shown at supermarket checkouts.
Friends of the Earth and other campaigning groups would like a five year moratorium on GM foods to help ensure public health is not needlessly put at risk. English Nature, the governments official advisory body on wildlife issues, also wants a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops in the UK amid fears they will contribute to the disappearance of songbirds and other wildlife.
The Prime Ministers rejection of the moratorium idea came despite growing pressure from across the spectrum, ranging from Tory leader William Hague to Prince Charles, Labour backbenchers, consumer groups and green campaigners. The backlash against GM foods erupted in the Commons this week in a highly-charged debate which saw a cross-party alliance blasting the headlong rush to their use.
Tory former minister Alan Clark believes the consumer is feeling the double squeeze of multi-national firms such as Monsanto and the big supermarkets.
“There is an unholy combination between those two forces to cajole, intimidate or by financial inducement persuade the consumer that they are perfectly safe if they go quietly along and swell the profits of these two bodies,” he said.
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