FSA accused over GM results
Source: FWi 12 May 2003

By Farmers Weekly staff

A GROUP which campaigns against genetically modified crops has accused the Food Standards Agency of spinning in favour of the technology.

Genewatch has written to the agency complaining about the way it presented the results of a citizen's jury into GM foods.

The jury presented its verdict in April after three days of debate. It concluded that GM food should be available to buy in the UK.

But Genewatch said that the FSA had failed to report that the jury had unanimously agreed that GM crops should not be grown in the UK yet.

The jury said that more time was needed to understand the long-term environmental implications of GM crops and growing them would be irreversible.

Director Sue Mayer said this conclusion should have been highlighted by the FSA.

"It raises the suspicion that the FSA was more interested in "spinning" the results to fit its own prejudices rather than representing them fully," said Dr Mayer.

But a spokeswoman for the Agency said it was "absolute nonsense" to claim that the press release issued after the event was not a fair representation.

The release had been approved by the jury itself which was asked to highlight the points it thought was most interesting, she said.

Anyone who wanted more details also had the opportunity to view a webcast of the jury's final verdict which was on the FSA website, she added.

The spokeswoman said the jury may have chosen not to highlight its environmental concerns in the release because that was outside the FSA's remit.

"Obviously, the agency's remit is GM food not the growing of GM crops," she said.

Meanwhile, the National Trust has told its 2000 tenant farmers they are not allowed to take part in farm scale trials of GM crops.

Tony Burton, the trust's director of policy and strategy, said: "Our position is not to use our land for the experiments and to adopt a precautionary approach."