If any one has any illusions left about the quality of those charged with protecting us and our environment against damaging 'releases', please listen to BBC Radio 4's "Farming Today This Week"

and its item on the genetically modified maize "T25" marketed by Aventis; and bear in mind the flaccid under reporting by the BBC of the issues related to FMD. [If Farming Today carries such a damning report the true situation is likely to be worse.]

The programme can be heard on 'listen again' at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/ram/farming_today_week.ram

How, one wonders, can the French authorities, erring so far on the side of caution that they still refuse to allow the import of British beef, have approved the release of a novel seed on such flimsy evidence? What are the allegiances of the compliant 'scientists who make up the MAFF "Advisory Committee on the Releases to the Environment" [ACRE]. Looking at their website, [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/index.htm], I see that applications for new places on the Committee closed yesterday. I wonder who Aventis and the like have lined up for the new membership - and to ease their future products into the UK environment? I wonder how they operate in France and the EU, where the maize was approved in 1996?

Points mentioned in the BBC report included comment by respected scientists that the research on the safety of the GM maize [and, note, this was research into the 'direct' safety of the animals eating it - not those eating the animals fed on it - or the environment at large] "wasn't really good enough to base a student project on, let alone the marketing consent for a GM product".

Although the maize is intended as a cattle feed, it was only tested on chickens and rats [not cattle - or pigs - which are taken to be similar to humans] - the mortality among the chickens fed on T25 was double the 'normal' mortality - and ACRE and its Chairman Lord Allen Grey found nothing unsatisfactory about any of this.

It was apparent from the interview that Lord Allen Grey, the chairman of ACRE was alarmingly vague about the whole basis for allowing its release. He seemed to have been looking for excuses to approve the product rather than to protect us and our environment.

Michael Meacher, for the government, had first agreed to be interviewed for the programme but had then withdrawn. Peter Ainsworth, the shadow Minister, suggested that there are huge worries about the product and whether the system of checks and control are sufficiently robust.

Consider this; and question the rest of the edifice of so called 'science' used by DEFRA and our government. Rather than protecting us and our environment, committees like ACRE and the VMD have the effect [intended or not] of protecting corporations like Aventis from the consequences of their actions.

Lawrence.