10:55 - 17 July 2003 

Local farmers would be best advised "not to touch GM crops with a barge-pole" says St Ives MP, Andrew George.

His advice follows the publication at the weekend of a Downing Street study which shows any economic benefit to the UK is likely to be limited if GMs are grown here. Mr George wrote to farming organisations in England before the report was published, urging farmers to be cautious about GMs because of poor consumer demand and other concerns.

He is also urging people in West Cornwall to make their views known as the Government's GM Nation public debate ends tomorrow (July 18). A feedback form is available at or on 020 7261 8616.

Mr George said: "The Downing Street report is only a surprise in that it does not reach the conclusion that Tony Blair wants, which is to go full steam ahead with GM crops. It is an open secret in Westminster that the Prime Minister and his colleagues in DEFRA have already made up their minds before the public debate even began - I doubt this report will deter them.

"Farmers would be mad to touch GMs with a barge pole. Consumers don't want it and the Government has not sorted out issues of liability. Farmers should also bear in mind that while the supermarkets have got them over the barrel, the biotech firms would have them by the throat if they went down this route.

"I am also concerned that it would set farmer against farmer, especially where growers wish to remain GM free or organic but find that one of their neighbours wants to grow GMs.

"As far as commercial potential is concerned the door is pretty much closed and the Government should be advising growers that it would be a mistake to even consider it."

He added: "This week is the last opportunity the public will have to air their concerns and I would advise anyone with an opinion on GMs, good or bad, to let the Government know what they think while they still have the chance. Whether the Government will take a blind bit of notice, we will have to wait and see."

Meanwhile Jane Michell of Sennen is urging local people to attend this Sunday's (July 20) debate on the GM controversy being staged at the Hall for Cornwall by Cornwall County Council. (Tickets from Hall for Cornwall).

"Please come to the debate if you can. This is an issue which affects us all not just now but for a very long time in the future," she says. Jane can be contacted on Pz 871718.