SOC: Anti-genetic engineering hysteria growing

GBurch1@aol.com
Sun, 11 Jul 1999 13:34:01 EDT

The following article, forwarded on another list, highlights the level of opposition to genetic engineering that is developing outside the U.S. Based on the extent of the "anti-GM" hysteria I'm seeing increasing signs of in the UK, elsewhere in the EU and to a lesser extent in Australia, I think we may be facing a fundamental showdown on a key element of the transhumanist agenda much sooner than many of us expected. I'm worried that there hasn't been nearly enough time for our ideas to take root and that with Prince Charles declaring that ''Genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone,'' we could be in a world of hurt before we know it . . . check this out:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=000579381554028&rtmo=gZlYnlju&atmo=99999999&p g=/et/99/7/10/tlbees10.html
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Saturday 10 July 1999
Too late to worry about honey and GM crops?

Sam Westmacott finds that bees have been in and out of genetically modified flowers for at least seven years

BEES are good to us. They provide us with honey, one of the purest foods in the world. But are we being good to them? The question is disturbing thousands of beekeepers.

Frank Eggleton, a 67-year-old retired design engineer, is terrified by the threat of genetically modified crops. He cares deeply about bees. There are about 150,000 in the garden of his 17th-century cottage in Wiltshire.

Like many beekeepers, he has infinite patience and a great love of the countryside. Not the kind of chap who you would expect to go ballistic. But he did, when Captain Fred Barker planted genetically modified oil-seed rape at Lushill Farm, Hannington, where his bees forage.

"My bees are in danger," he says. "And what about cross-pollination?
Bees scatter pollen all over the place. Wild turnips, cabbages and all kinds of domestic and wild plants will be contaminated."

He knows that the rape, sponsored by AgrEvo - a major GM company with six field-scale trials this year - has an extra gene and a specific herbicide resistance, so that weeds such as charlock will be destroyed without affecting the main crop.

Eggleton is convinced that the gene's presence will contaminate his honey. He has no evidence for this assumption, but that does not deter his protests.

Friends of the Earth held a meeting in the village hall and Eggleton declared: "Big field trials of GM rape are a step too far. I would never give my two-year-old grandson GM honey or eat it myself. I would rather dump my crop."

Captain Barker burnt his crop in response to pressure from his trustees and the Soil Association. But Eggleton's fear spread throughout the beekeeper community. Adrian Waring, the general secretary of the British Beekeepers Association, was besieged by members worried about genetic pollution.

"No one knows what to believe," he says. Rumours spread that beekeepers
would be fined 5,000 for a hive near GM crops and that Brussels labelling laws would force them to mark their pots "Contains genetically modified pollen". Who will buy it then?

The beekeepers find it difficult to understand how a scientist can think that a buffer zone of 200 yards between GM and other plants can stop cross-pollination. Bees pollinate plants up to three miles away from the hive.

People have forgotten the reason for buffer zones - to protect a crop from contamination. According to AgrEvo, the industry guidelines initially requested 50 yards so that the grower could claim 98.5 per cent purity of seed certification, although they are not yet growing commercially.

Similarly, while the public believes cross-pollination is a real threat, it seems that the Government has other evidence. Imperial College, London, did a series of experiments examining the effect on pollen transfer through wind and insects, including bees. It was on the strength of that work in the Eighties that the Government allowed open-air trials.

AgrEvo and the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that conventional oil-seed rape, a man-made crop created about 300 years ago, had never cross-pollinated outside a laboratory. Such intermittent and partial revelations infuriate Waring and association members. "The Government has been so cagey and the bio-technical companies so slow to publish their research, that they've got us all hopping about and shouting," says Waring.

When the Government announced large field trials last October, most people understood that meant a greater acreage of crops would be planted. Wrong again.

The first GM crops were planted in 1987. By 1992, they were un-netted in the open air. Bees could fly freely in and out of the crops. The plots were about the same size as the floor space of a three-bedroom house. The acreage covered could be vast.

One man who knows how far GM research has gone is David Parker. For 30 years, he has worked with agri-chemical and bio-technical companies carrying out trials on his 900-acre farm in Oxfordshire. He sees research as his mission in life. "Why else would God give me an inquiring mind and put me on a farm?" he asked.

Parker has grown GM crops every year since 1996. Sipping beer in the Carriers Arms, Watlington, he waits anxiously for a protest march to arrive on his land and tells me that he is puzzled that the public outcry had not happened sooner.

"The research is lessening. At 18 acres, this is a small trial. The
biggest was 27 acres in 1996. Every summer, conventional rape and beehives have been dotted all around my GM crops. The bird or bee has already flown," he says.

AgrEvo and the Government confirmed Parker's statement. The acreage planted is smaller, but this is not in response to public opinion.

In 1998, there were 300 trials, this year there were only 150. "We have collected the data we need for various submission packages to the regulators, so there is less call for trials," says a spokesman for AgrEvo.

Bees all over Britain have been in and out of GM flowers for at least seven years. We have probably already eaten honey made from GM pollen. Does it matter?

The government agency that is responsible for safety standards and the labelling of GM food says: "Consumption of gene products from pollen in honey is likely to be negligible." In other words, they do not know what the effect will be.

Honey must be clearly labelled. If a beekeeper knows his bees have been foraging in GM crops and he does not label his honey, he may be fined 5,000.

Parker suggests that genetic modification is to us what steam travel was to the Victorians. "When George Stephenson developed the Rocket, people said the human body could not withstand speed in excess of 20mph. We always fear what we do not understand."

A recent poll by Mori showed one per cent of consumers believe GM is a good thing. The rest of us do not want organic crops compromised or standards changed to allow GM foods, and we do not want field trials on farmland.

Are our fears justified? Three years ago, Catherine Tulip, a solicitor, resigned to fight for the abolition of GM. Last year, she removed the crops on Parker's farm. I expected her to be well informed, a mistress of the facts.

Not so. She knows there are 32 million hectares of GM crops growing commercially worldwide, but she does not know the extent of trials in Britain nor the nature of those on Parker's farm. She expresses a deep human revulsion against man playing God, but has little evidence on which to base her objections. None the less, she is determined GM will stop.

Unlike America, where farming areas are huge and remote, Britain is a small country where urban sprawl penetrates deep into rural areas. None of us, especially the beekeepers, will rest easy until the politicians come clean and make their research open.

     Greg Burch     <GBurch1@aol.com>----<gburch@lockeliddell.com>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide
      http://users.aol.com/gburch1   -or-   http://members.aol.com/gburch1
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley