Former Greenpeace boss slams environment secretary over support for GM food

Lord Peter Melchett. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Lord Peter Melchett. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A former executive director of Greenpeace, who lives in Kentish Town, has lashed out at environment secretary Owen Paterson for supporting genetically modified (GM) food.

Lord Peter Melchett, one of the most vocal campaigners against GM food, said Mr Paterson’s June speech encouraging GM companies to carry out their research in the UK had “little impact” and “actually did more to harm GM”.

Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, a charity campaigning for planet-friendly organic food and farming, said: “There was absolutely nothing new in his speech at all.

“He couldn’t do much worse as a Conservative minister having Conservative Home, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph criticise him.”

Ever since it became a possibility to genetically engineer crops to resist disease or pesticides in 1977, public opinion over GM has been divided, with the majority of people against the technology.


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In 2004, a survey found more than a third of people were opposed to GM food, with 85 per cent saying that the public doesn’t know enough about the potential long-term effects of GM crops on our health.

However, about half of people asked thought that GM crops could hold future benefits for the environment, consumers and those in developing countries.

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Mr Paterson wants the UK and Europe to catch up with countries such as the US in its production of GM crops in order to reap the potential benefits from new technologies.

Lord Melchett believes the UK needs to stop using GM crops for animal feed, taking the lead from many European countries.

“There is still GM in animal feed coming through into what we buy,” he said. “Europe is ahead of us in getting rid of it as we still have GM soya and maize in our animal feed here.

“I think people are outraged that most supermarkets are selling meat, milk and eggs that come from animals fed on GM feed. They are not labelling it as GM and so doing it secretly. That’s what gets people angry.

“If GM is as wonderful as they make it out to be – it’s going to save the world and all this rubbish – why don’t they put GM on their products?” he said.

“There’s a reason for keeping it secret. We’re just asking for some honesty and decency.”

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