Friends of the Earth update

Ken supports GM Free initiative but Council is slow to respond to public concerns

What you can do
(before July 18th!)

If you are concerned about GM crops in your fields and GM food on your shelves. Here's what you can do:
· Visit www.gmnation.org and fill the form out online as part of national debate.
· Email the US Ambassador in Britain from www.foe.co.uk
· See www.hffoe.org.uk for details of your local campaign













Letter from Ken
"I fully support this effort and will lobby both within the UK and the EC to ensure that a GM free policy is adopted and London's voice heard in this.
I am pleased to assure you that my existing policies accord with your request for support, and that I am working to apply these policies to the GLA group as a whole. I do not have any control over foodstuffs in London, but I do wish to see GM foods regulated in such a way as to preserve individual choice over whether to purchase GM food.
* The Greater London Authority follows ethical procurement procedures, and will continue to do so. For example, in our catering contracts we insist on organically certified produce.
* I do not have land under my control where there is an option to use GM plants, as the only land that I control directly is in Parliament and Trafalgar Squares.
 

"Hammersmith and Fulham Friends of the Earth are delighted that the council have a GM free catering policy. We first contacted the council to find out details of their policy last year but it is still unclear whether this includes services other than schools e.g. meals on wheels and other care services. Even though the gm free catering policy is positive, it's about time the council listened to its residents' and effectively communicated its full policy in an area that concerns people and started to put further measures in place to protect the Borough from GM plants in parks allotments and gardens. There are still too many unanswered questions about GM including liability, health, environment and potential impacts on farming industry and economics. It could fall to the public again to pay expensive clean up costs" - Paula White, Hammersmith and Fulham FOE.

On the 12th of April at the Hammersmith Community Festival shoppers in Kings Mall, Hammersmith, wrote an incredible 300 letters expressing their support for the GM free campaign in just four hours at the Hammersmith and Fulham Friends of the Earth stall. However the local borough council is still refusing to listen to residents' concerns over GM. The Borough council claim to have a GM free catering policy but do not publicly provide any details. E.g. through their website or at the library. The council say they believe people have a right to choose but how can people choose when they do not have information about what their own council provides.

In contrast the GLA have responded very favourably to the campaign. Ken Livingstone has made a statement to say he fully supports the GM Free London campaign. In the Mayor's Biodiversity Plan there is a clear statement that 'The Mayor opposes commercial or experimental release of genetically modified organisms into the environment of London'.

The campaign has had excellent support all round from local businesses (e.g. Bushwhacker, the Fresh Food Company, Gingliks, Fulham Palace Garden Centre, The Grove Bar and Restaurant), the general public and the GLA. It's a terrible shame the council are not equally as responsive.

* In my Biodiversity Strategy I have adopted the following proposal:' The Mayor will oppose commercial or experimental release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the environment in London'(proposal 32). In paragraph 4.105, 4.105 and 4.168 of the Strategy you will see that this is for two broad reasons: the potential risks that genetically modified organisms pose to London's farmland biodiversity, and the implications of GMOs in the context of the Rio Convention, including social, environmental and economic implications, particularly in the less developed world.

I am pleased that you are working in this area and wish you well for your campaign."









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And Nationally

At a national level there is a very real possibility that the government will decide in a few months to start growing GM crops commercially in the UK. It was announced a year ago there would be a public debate on the issue. Finally, after month of delays, GM Nation? The public debate has been launched which runs from 3 June until 18 July.

Surprisingly, our own government is keen to push ahead with GM. Given the tremendous pressure from the US and the biotechnology industry, it is crucial that as many people as possible take part in this debate. Silence will be taken as compliance and used by the government to justify opening the country to GM even though polls show that the majority of the public is firmly against it.


US Grow Impatient with Europe

Meanwhile the US has filed a complaint with the World Food Organisation. It is claiming that the EU moratorium on growing and importing GM crops and food is an illegal barrier to free trade.
The European ban on GM was a result of public concern about its possible effects on health and the environment. Europe is developing tough labelling laws to ensure that consumers will continue to be able to choose GM-free food. If the US complaint succeeds, the US will be able to force GM foods onto the UK public, regardless of what people want.