Tag Archives: Food Standards Agency

GM – the more we hear, the less we like

“Waiter, will you serve me a dish of genetically modified food?”

I don’t see anyone clamouring to eat it.

Genetic modification. Such a mild-sounding term. A bit of modifying here, a bit there – what could be wrong with that?

A lot. Genetic modification is a radical departure from traditional plant breeding.

Genetic modification is about taking a gene from one species and placing it in the gene pool of another species.

And why, pray? To help feed the world, as the GM companies would have us believe?

Um, no. Commercially developed GM crops have been ‘modified’ to survive being sprayed by the GM companies’ pesticides.

GM makes spraying intensive farms easier – just spray the field and what is left standing is your genetically modified plant.

The GM companies claim that their new technology cuts down on pesticide use.

A recent report published in the US has found that growing GM plants is actually increasing pesticide use.

Meanwhile here in old Blighty, the UK’s venerable scientific institution, the Royal Society, wants to invest millions of our taxpayers’ money into researching GM.

Stop this madness! We need to be spending our money on researching systems that DO work, such as organic farming, to find out how to make them even better.

Money invested in low-tech research is pitiful compared to money sunk in magic-bullet technologies – set to make corporations even richer than they are because – here’s the rub, so listen carefully:

Once a corporation genetically modifies a seed, the corporation can patent it. It owns the seed. 

And if that GM seed should land accidentally in a farmer’s field (and seeds do travel, borne by bees, or wind) then the farmer has to pay the GM corporation a licensing fee – viz the terrible case foisted on the 70-year-old farmer, Percy Schmeiser, in Saskatchewan, in Canada. And, according to the Soil Association, hundreds like him…

This week we heard the Food Standards Agency wants another go at persuading the British public that GM is OK.

The Food Standards Agency. That’s the same outfit that published a  flawed report in August stating  the benefits of organic food are “insignificant”. As I thrive on fresh organic food, this  incensed me. My post on the FSA’s report got the most comments ever.

So anyway, as I was saying, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants another go at brainwashing the British public.

The FSA is calling it a “dialogue project”.

The way we use words, eh. Obviously ‘dialogue’ was deemed innacurate – suggesting a two-way give-and-receive exchange of views. Which it is not. It’s a project. A dialogue project.

So a steering group of academics has been assembled so consumers “can be helped to make informed choices about the food they eat.”

Only two out of the 11 members of the steering group are known to be critical of GM technology, according to the Telegraph.

In fact one of the members, Professor Bryan Wynne, signed a letter to the paper saying (I paraphrase) the dialogue project was a waste of money anyway.

I like the sound of Prof Wynne.

I remember the government-led public debate on GM, called GM Nation.

The more debaters heard about GM, the more anti-GM feeling grew: “soaring to 90%” said Geoffrey Lean in this week’s Telegraph. Back in 2003 he reported how “Many regarded the debate as “window dressing used to cover secret decisions to go ahead with GM crop development”.”

The more we hear, the less we like.

FSA wastes my money on rubbish organic research

Preparing for pesticide application.
Image via Wikipedia

The UK government food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, has published a new report on organic food.

“Let’s stop this tomfoolery once-and-for-all about organic food being better for you,” seems to be the subtext.

In its attempts to convince us we are wrong to trust our senses (including common sense and sense of taste), the Food Standards Agency has had to undertake some mind-bending contortions. See for yourself – the actual report is here.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) claims to have conducted an exhaustive review of all the literature comparing organic and non-organic produce in the last 50 years.

Its review of 162 studies seems rather meagre compared to the Soil Association‘s 2001 review by Shane Heaton of over 400 studies.

Perhaps the FSA managed to keep its numbers low by omitting studies. It conveniently left out:

  • studies on contaminants such as pesticide residues (see pic)
  • studies examining the environmental benefits of organic farming
  • results of a major European Union-funded study involving 31 research and university institutes and the publication of more than 100 scientific papers earlier this year.

Professor Carlo Leifert, who conducted the above EU-study, which found organic milk is way-much better for you than non-organic milk, remarked:

“With these literature reviews you can influence the outcome by the way that you select the papers that you use for your meta-analysis…My feeling – and quite a lot of people think this – is that this is probably the study that delivers what the FSA wanted as an outcome.”

The FSA could find only eleven studies that fitted its meta-criteria.


I am no scientist, but since when was eleven a big-enough sample to draw conclusions?

The fact is we need more research on the nutritional differences.

But I don’t want my tax spent on a biased analysis.

The FSA has a reputation for being hysterically anti-organic and pro-GM.

This report is making me think its rep is live and kickin’ again.

Addendum 19 September 2009

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]My understanding of this report continues to grow.
Let me share my findings: the FSA report DID show higher levels of key nutrients in organic food in some of the data.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine carried out the survey (goodness knows why)
rejected the findings because the samples did not meet its criteria.
If you add the samples together, the results would show organic food does have more nutrients.
Crikey – complicated, eh?
It’s the deceptions and obfuscations which make things hard to understand.
I always say: the truth is simple.