Saturday, 11 June 2011

UK Farms In Crisis; Is it the same where you are?

We have been lucky to live in a farming area for some 34 years now; it once was a farming community but then the supermarkets with their values of the bottom line and sourcing from the cheapest producers from any part of the world closed down many local small farmers and growers. Growers’ in the UK could not compete with, for example tomatoes grown in Africa where the cost of labour and production is low even though the cost of shipping, and the carbon footprint, is high. Our two village market gardens closed down as the majority of our counties grocers shops, unable to compete with the supermarkets closed. One of the market garden owners committed suicide.

The same supermarket pressure has been applied over the last few years to our milk producers, and many are going out of business on a weekly basis. When Pam and I were at the recent South of England Show I took this picture of a milk producer's stall. The most important words read;

Supermarket price approx 85p per litre
Cost of production approx 29p per litre
Farmer paid approx 25p per litre
Outcome 3-4p loss on every litre of milk produced. Thousands of British farms going out of business every year.

The supermarkets focus on buying at the cheapest price and then selling at the highest possible margin. Forget their claims of ‘giving you more’ or even ‘every little helps’ just look at their end of financial year profits to see where their focus really is.

What has happened to the UK farming industry is the equivalent of “selling the family silver”, when the time comes, and it will come soon, that we need the UK’s farmers they will no longer be there... then what?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

How the European Food Safety Authority got GM 100% wrong!

In 2007 the EFSA said that ““A large number of experimental studies with livestock have shown that recombinant DNA fragments or proteins derived from GM plants have not been detected in tissues, fluids or edible products of farm animals such as broilers, cattle, pigs or quails.” This was subsequently adopted as the official advice of the UK’s Food Standards Agency in “Transfer of GM material from feed”


New research from Canada has found a Bt toxin produced by GM insect resistant crops in the blood of women and clear evidence that it was passed to foetuses. The new study was carried out by a team at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec and has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology. The team took blood samples from 30 pregnant women prior to delivery, 30 samples from umbilical cords immediately after birth and samples from 39 non-pregnant women who were undergoing treatment. All the women were of a similar age and body mass index, and none worked with pesticides or lived with anyone who did. Pesticides used on GM herbicide tolerant (HT) crops were also detected.

The same Bt toxin as detected by the researchers is present in Mon810 maize, which has EU cultivation approval but is currently banned in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Luxemburg and Greece.

The results show that the toxic Bt protein Cry1Ab was present in blood serum from all three sources (93% of pregnant women, 80% in umbilical blood and 67% of non-pregnant women). The researchers suggest that the most probable source of the toxin is GM food consumed as part of a normal diet in Canada, where GM presence in food is unlabelled. The Canadian scientists have not speculated on any health effects from the presence of Cry1Ab protein as this was beyond the scope of their study.

Safety concerns have been growing since the introduction of GM herbicide tolerant crops, including links to Parkinson’s disease and cancer in the case of glyphosate. Residues of these herbicides in food are infrequently monitored, and the maximum permitted residue levels for crops directly sprayed with glyphosate, such as GM HT crops, were raised over 200 times in the 1990s.

One of two GM crops approved for cultivation in the EU is genetically modified to produce the Cry1Ab toxin – the Bt maize Mon810 licensed to Monsanto and mainly grown in Spain. The other GM crop authorised for cultivation in the EU is the GM potato Amflora (grown on a very limited scale, 17 hectares in two countries in 2011), genetically modified to produce a starch used for non-food industries (not Bt toxin production), but the pulp would be fed to livestock in the food chain.

I always remember the tobacco industry’s comments regarding lung cancer that “doubt is our product”, the same applies to the GM industry, just ask yourself the question “why is it that no insurance company will insure GM?”