Wolston says NO to GM - week of activities to stop GM T 25 Farm Scale
trial


Local people who oppose GM Farm Scale Trials (FST) at Wolston, Warwickshire(1) are stepping up their activities against the proposals. The trail was announced by DETR and if it goes ahead could threaten the future of the largest organic farming research station in Europe(2). A week of actions starts in Coventry on Friday 20th April followed by a rally in Wolston on Saturday 21st , a public meeting in Wolston on April 26th and an information stall in Rugby on April 28th. The infamous Maize on Stilts will be attending all events to highlight the threat to local growers from the T 25 Maize (3) which is due to be planted sometime between the end of April and the end of May. The activities are due to take place as follows:

Friday 20th Coventry City Centre Union Street by the fountains from 12.30pm

Saturday 21st Rally Wolston to be addressed by Andy King MP and Alan Gear Chief executive HDRA from 11.00am

Thursday 26th Public meeting WolstonVillage Hall 7.30 pm speakers include Aventis, DETR, HDRA and FOE.

Saturday 28th Rugby Town centre from 10.30am

Lorna Jackson, Secretary for Mercia Organic Producer Group said

"I think it is appalling that the government allow such trials to take place at a time when
the agricultural policy of our country needs a radical re-think. We should be looking
towards a sustainable agricultural system that produces good food which people want to eat. We should start to learn from the past and stop industrialising farming."

Di Smiton of Wolston Village said

"I live in the country because I thought it was better for to my children . We especially
wanted a garden, for the children, and now I find a gm trial on my doorstep. I am very
concerned and annoyed about the massive risk we are putting the environment in before any fundamental research on GM crops has been carried out under controlled conditions."

Chris Crean of West Midlands FOE said

It is imperative that as many people find out about the dangers associated with the Farm Scale Trail of T 25 GM Maize. Once informed they must place as much pressure as possible on local and national decision makers to stop this and other trials of T 25 GM Maize."

Contacts
DI Smiton, Wolston Village 024 76 54 39 73

Joe Beale Wolston Gardener 024 76 54 46 33

Lorna Jackson Mercia Organic Producer Group 077 88 66 48 45

Jane Green Coventry FOE 024 76 71 42 12

Mark Hammond Rugby FOE 01788 560437

Chris Crean West Midlands (FOE) 0121 643 9117

Note to picture editors

There will be information stalls banners and two huge stilt cobs of maize following the events across the county.
More information on request.

Note to editors

(1) The Wolston GM T 25 Farm Scale Trial was announced by DETR on 3rd April 2001. See http://www.press.detr.gov.uk/0104/0209.htm

(2) Ryton Organic Gardens operated by the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) are approximately 2 miles from the proposed trial site and could lose their organic status as a result of the presence of the FST in such close proximity. The Gardens employ @ 100 local people and are a popular visitor attraction for the local
area. See http://www.hdra.org.uk/


(3) Briefing on GM T 25 as follows

Despite the latest intensive farming disaster, foot and mouth disease, the Government is preparing the ground for the next phase of industrial agriculture: proposing the first GM crop for commercial growing in the UK. This is a variety of 'T25' maize, made by the biotech giant Aventis. At the same time, T25 maize is being grown in the Government's farm scale trials programme, which is examining the impact of GM crops on farmland wildlife.

In 1998 Aventis gained an EU marketing consent for T25 maize, which means it can be fed to livestock. It also has a 'novel foods' approval for the processed products of T25 maize to be used in human food. In 2000, the Government proposed to add a variety of T25 maize, Chardon LL, to the UK's National List of seeds and if the Government achieves this T25 will be grown commercially in the UK. So far, this has been delayed as a result of a campaign led by Friends of the Earth (FOE).

During the course of this campaign, FOE investigated the scientific evidence used by Aventis to get approval for T25 maize. A catalogue of shocking failings was revealed. Serious questions were raised about the quality of decisions made by the scientific advisors and regulatory committees charged with protecting human and animal health and the environment. As a result, FOE is calling for the Government to revoke the marketing consent and novel foods approval for this GM maize as a matter of urgency.

T25 maize has been genetically modified by Aventis to be tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, also produced by Aventis. Aventis has developed two varieties of T25 maize (Chardon LL and Sheridan) that it wants to be grown on UK farms. The crop is intended to be used to make 'silage' (produced by fermenting the whole plant) and fed to cattle.

T25 maize contains a gene derived from a rare strain of a soil bacterium found in Cameroon. According to the EU's scientific advisors on GM crops, the novel protein ('PAT') produced from this gene is completely new to human and animal food chains.

The Scientific Failings

Environmental Safety: In Aventis' application for EU marketing consent, only one page out of the 85 looked at the potential environmental impacts of T25 maize. The impact of the GM crop on wildlife biodiversity was not even mentioned. Four years after T25 maize received marketing approval and was considered "safe" for the environment, the crop is still being tested for impacts on wildlife in the farm scale trials programme.

No Cattle Feeding Tests: Commercially grown T25 maize would be used to produce 'silage' for cattle, but it has never been tested on cows. The only studies conducted by Aventis related to animals with a single stomach (chickens and rats) whilst cattle have four stomachs. UK and EU committees have stated that tests on rats are not applicable to cattle.

The US Food and Drug Administration has pointed out that any change in the chemical composition of a cow's diet that would be considered insignificant for human consumption may be very significant in the animal's diet. Aventis' own analysis found significant differences in the levels of fat, protein and fibre between T25 maize and normal maize. Since fodder maize can make up to 75% of a cow's diet, this chemical change could create animal health problems. Aventis, despite its own evidence, claimed that the composition of T25 maize silage is "not materially different" to non-GM maize.

Safety for animals and humans: Experiments were conducted by Aventis to examine the safety of the novel PAT protein produced in T25 maize. FOE commissioned independent experts to examine the robustness of these tests:

Chicken Feeding Study: Aventis commissioned a feeding study in which grain from T25 maize and normal maize was fed to chickens. Twice as many chickens died when fed GM maize than when fed non-GM maize (although this was not statistically significant), and there was much greater variation in factors like body weight and weight gain in the GM-fed group. Independent scientists from Bristol University said these results were 'suspicious' and should have prompted further investigation. They also criticised the design of the experiment and its analysis, stating that, ".. the reporting and the design are wholly inadequate and this became really obvious after only five minutes of reading." and "It is very basic science that has fallen down at this stage, and I am amazed that it has not been picked up."

Toxicity Studies: Aventis also examined how quickly the novel protein was broken down in the gut by gastric juices. (If a protein takes a long time to break down this indicates that it may be toxic, or cause allergies). Dr Vyvyan Howard, Head of the Fetal and Infant Toxico-Pathology Group at the University of Liverpool, examined this test and concluded that the experiment did not represent what would happen in a real animal and so the PAT protein appeared to break down more quickly than it would in reality.

In another test, the novel PAT protein was isolated and fed to rats for two weeks. Dr Howard criticised the examination of the PAT protein in this way, because it did not test for toxins in the whole plant which could have been produced as a side effect of genetic modification.

Government Failings

Environmental Safety: In the UK, Aventis' application for T25 was considered for its environmental safety by the Government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). On 20 June 1996 draft 'advice' from ACRE, which stated that the product did not pose a risk to the environment or human health, was circulated by civil servants in the Department of the Environment. This was one day before they had even sent the Aventis application to members of ACRE for consideration.

Animal Feed Safety: The safety of T25 maize for use in animal feed was also considered by the UK Government. This was done by the Interdepartmental Group on Novel Feed Developments, which had been set up in the wake of the BSE crisis to advise the Government on animal feed issues. When consulted on T25 maize they strongly criticised the safety evidence presented by Aventis and stated that "The current concerns over BSE mean that MAFF must take the precautionary approach ...". They recommended that further testing take place, particularly testing the safety of T25 for the animal to which it would be fed, but this advice was ignored.

Safety for human consumption: The EU decision to approve T25 maize for human consumption under a fast-track procedure was based on a report produced by the UK Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), in which they stated that the GM food was safe for humans. But when they produced this report, the ACNFP only had a draft, incomplete version of the rat feeding study and they had never seen the chicken feeding study.

In December 1997, the ACNFP decided that only "highly refined foods derived from GM crops" should be allowed onto the market under a fast-track procedure, whereas "all other ingredients derived from GM crops, such as flours and protein extracts, should be given a full safety assessment". One month later Aventis notified the EC of its intention to market several T25 maize foods which were not "highly refined" and can be expected to contain GM protein or DNA. One week after Aventis' notification, the EU member states agreed to adopt the ACNFP position that GM products approved under the fast-track procedure could not contain GM protein or DNA. Aventis had escaped being required to do a full safety assessment on its notified produced by just one week. As a result, T25 maize products are very probably already in the EU human food chain without a full safety assessment. Aventis' human food approval has since been challenged by the Italian Government.


HDRA press release April 2001
Warwickshire GM Maize Trial threatens world-renowned organic centre

A GM maize trial is proposed at Wolston, Warwickshire, less than two miles from Ryton Organic Gardens, the long established headquarters of HDRA, the organic
organisation.

What can you do to help? Read HDRA's position on genetically modified food and crops

The trial threatens the organic status of the gardens, which attract thousands of visitors each year, and where HDRA conducts research for the government.

'We are very disturbed by this news. The land has been cultivated organically since 1985. We have always grown sweetcorn here at Ryton, and bees are kept on the site, so there is a serious risk of cross-pollination,' says Alan Gear, Chief Executive of HDRA. 'If the trial goes ahead we could lose our organic certification. We use our produce in our restaurant and sell it through our shop, so we must retain our Soil Association registration.'

HDRA has not been consulted about the trial, and first heard about it through the local radio station. 'We will be contacting the DETR, asking them to abandon the test site,
at the earliest opportunity, and are also considering legal action,' says Mr Gear.

Maize is sown at the end of April or beginning of May, so the organisation has an inadequate amount of time to take any action.

Notes to editors

1. HDRA (the Henry Doubleday Research Association) is Europe's largest organic organisation with an international membership. It researches and promotes organic
gardening, farming and food.

2. All types of maize, whether it is grown for animal forage or human consumption, can cross-pollinate. The herbicide resistant GM maize used in the trials will be grown to harvest.

3. Soil Association Standards, which are legally binding, state that 'organic certification may be withdrawn from land, crops or products where the Certification Committee considers that there is contamination or a specific risk of contamination, from GMOs or their derivatives'.

4. Maize is wind pollinated, and the pollen can travel a considerable distance. There is also a good deal of evidence that insects also collect the pollen. Bees could move
maize pollen several miles from the crop each day in suitable weather. Evidence shows that significant amounts of pollen are involved, The pollen can remain viable from between three hours and nine days. [Report by the National Pollen Research Institute by Dr Rob Treu and Prof Jean Emblin for the Soil
Association, Jan 2000.]

5. HDRA is a signatory to the Five Year Freeze, which calls for a five-year moratorium on the growing of genetically engineered crops for any commercial purpose, on the
import of genetically engineered foods and farm crops, and on the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops.


HDRA's position on genetically modified food and crops

HDRA is against the commercial use of genetically modified food and crops, because it feels that there is a lack of adequate knowledge of the effects of their widespread
use, particularly in the long term. Three major areas of concern are: their effects on human and animal health; on wildlife and the natural environment; and lastly the concentration of control of the supply of seeds of major food crops into the hands of a very small number of commercial businesses. This could seriously damage agriculture and social structure, particularly in developing countries. HDRA has registered its organic food-producing land with the Soil Association, which does not allow GMOs in its accredited food.

HDRA Briefing Paper - GM Trials at Wolston

HDRA's actions against genetically modified food and crops have included, for example: ?

Becoming a founder signatory to the Five Year Freeze Campaign (1999) which calls for a five-year moratorium on the growing of genetically engineered crops for any
commercial purpose, on the import of genetically engineered foods and farm crops, and on the patenting of genetic resources for food and farm crops.

Objecting in writing to the inclusion of genetically engineered Chardon LL maize on the
National List. Its inclusion would mean that it could be grown commercially. It is a T25
maize, like the one planned to be grown in Wolston.

Launching a campaign to HDRA members that enabled us to:

participate in the debate more fully by offering positive, practical alternatives to GMOs, by providing more organic gardening information;

produce and promote a set of postcards 'Gardens don't need GMOs', which are
available by mail order and in HDRA's three organic shops;

support the other campaigning organisations, and report on the issue in our
membership magazine, The Organic Way;

attend Greenpeace's GMO free picnic at Greenwich in 1999 and attend the Glastonbury Festival of Modern Performing Arts for the past two years as part of the
Greenpeace True Food Campaign to present the positive alternatives to GM food.


How to support HDRA's objection to the GM maize (Chardon LL) trials

1.Write to The Hon Mr Michael Meacher, MP, Minister for the Environment, Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). The main concern is about cross pollination from trial plots to HDRA's organic crops. HDRA stands to lose its SA organic certification if this happens, as we grow sweetcorn on site, which readily cross-pollinates with forage maize.
At the time of writing, MAFF researchers are not making farm visits because of the foot and mouth risks - the trials organisers are ignoring this advice.
Address: Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW14 5DU.
Also: Biotechnology Support Unit, Zone 3G9, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE.
email: biotech@detr.gsi.gov.uk

2.Write to Alan Gear, Chief Executive, HDRA - at Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, CV8 3LG - expressing your opposition to the trials in particular, and to GM crops in general.

3.Write to the local MP, Andy King at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

4.Write to your own MP.

5.Before the general election, lobby parliamentary candidates in your area and find out what their attitude is to GMOs.

6. If you live locally, lobby Rugby Borough and Warwickshire County Councils. Attend the public meeting to be held at Wolston Village Hall on 26th April, 2001 at 7.30 PM, and sign the petition in our shop or in the village shops.


7.If you need background information, HDRA will send you briefing notes. Also, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association all have briefings on the subject, most of them available on the Internet. You could also contact the local groups of these organisations.

Information for the press:

Warwickshire GM Maize Trial threatens world-renowned organic centre

A GM maize trial is proposed at Wolston, Warwickshire, less than two miles from Ryton Organic Gardens, the long established headquarters of HDRA, the organic organisation, which attract thousands of visitors each year.

The trial threatens the organic status of the fresh produce sold from the gardens, where HDRA also conducts horticultural research on organic food production for the
government.

'We are very disturbed by this news. The land has been cultivated organically since 1985. We have always grown sweetcorn here at Ryton, and bees are kept on the site, so there is a serious risk of cross-pollination,' says Alan Gear, HDRA's Chief Executive. 'If the trial goes ahead we could lose our organic certification. We use our produce in our restaurant and sell it through our shop, so we must retain our Soil Association registration.'

HDRA has not been consulted about the trial, and first heard about it through the local radio station. 'We will be contacting the DETR, asking them to abandon the test site,
at the earliest opportunity, and are also considering legal action,' says Mr Gear.

Maize is sown at the end of April or beginning of May, so the organisation has an inadequate amount of time to take any action.

Chris Crean
Friends of the Earth Midlands
The Warehouse
Allison Street
Digbeth
Birmingham
B5 5TH

Tel 0121 643 9117
FAX 0121 643 3122

Visit the BNRR web site at

http://www.beep.dial.pipex.com/bnrr/index.htm

Labours response to the Tory Drivers charter launched on 26/03/01 in Birmingham
was as follows from PA

Transport Minister Keith Hill hit back today: ``This re-announcement of pious platitudes and ludicrous proposals shows that the Tories have nothing new to offer Britain's motorists.
``The Tories' o16 billion of cuts mean they cannot match Labour's transport investment which is helping repair Britain's roads and revive public transport ...
``The Tories would cut investment in road maintenance, and they have yet to come
clean about their plans for new private toll-roads across Britain's countryside.''


But was it not Labour who gave the go ahead for the first toll Road in the UK on 28th July 1997


These personal opinions do not necessarily reflect the policy of Friends
of the Earth.
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