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Britain To Scale Back GE Farm Introduction
(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2003)
British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently decided to scale down plans for a massive introduction of genetically engineered (GE) farming into Great Britain, despite his widely known support of the technology, according to the London Independent. Strong public pressure against GE coupled with the public's lack of political trust after the Iraq war made the introduction politically "too risky" for Blair, according to senior officials.

Originally, Blair was expected to grant blanketed approval of planting of GE crops by sometime next month. Now the decision is not expected until the end of the year at the earliest, and is likely to limit and heavily regulate a GE farming introduction.

Over the past few months, Britain has put GE up for public debate, which resulted in 600 public meetings on the topic. 36,000 people registered their views on GE farming. Although a breakdown of the views has yet to be established, it is believed that most people are against the idea of GE planting. Two recent reports generated from within the British government have helped propel the public in this direction. The first report, from the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, states that the introduction of GE farms into Britain would provide no immediate benefits to consumers or the economy. The report is in direct opposition to Blair's repeated claims that GE is essential to the future of Britain. The second report came from a scientific panel led by Dr. David King, the government's chief scientist. His research concluded that were certain GE crops to be planted in Britain, contamination of organic produce would be inevitable. The British government, in order to garner support of GE farming, has also pointed out its benefits for world hunger. However, Oxfam, Action Aid, Christian Aid and other charities at the cutting edge of the battle against hunger deny that GE actually provides such benefits.

GE crops present many other risks to the environment and public health. See Beyond Pesticides' 10 Reasons to Say No to Genetically Engineered Crops and Foods for more information.