Ryeview March 2004

First published in the Gazette and Herald 17th March 2004

Do you want GM to get into your garden? Do you mind if the organic or conventional food you grow becomes Genetically Modified? This is the situation we are approaching.

In June of last year the Liberal councillors on Ryedale District Council introduced a ‘GM Free’ motion. This obviously in itself is not enough – but it is more than just a gesture. The EU and the government have to consult and listen to RDC. Of course they may take no notice!

Before introducing GM crops the EU will consult prior to giving permission. There is one exception. This is for the growing of one type of forage maize. The EU gave permission for this crop long before GM was seriously questioned. Certainly before RDC ever considered the subject.

The British government has a problem with GM maize. According to the EU if permission is given there must be strict regulations. There must be a known ‘separation distance’ between any proposed GM maize and all nearby non-GM crops. No separation distance must be less than a fixed distance. This, in theory, is an attempt to reduce any contamination of non-GM with GM. This is where you can help.

If a large number of people in Ryedale were to grow non-GM maize the sorting out of the separation distances would become extremely difficult. This may well make it impossible for DEFRA to give permission for GM maize to be grown anywhere in Ryedale.

I don’t believe fields of maize are required. Hundreds of people in Ryedale each growing a couple of maize plants may well keep GM maize out of Ryedale.

We all have a ‘right’ that our food is not contaminated. We also have the right to have GM free allotments, gardens or even window boxes. GM crops grown in Ryedale will make it impossible to grow similar, non-GM crops in our gardens without them becoming contaminated.

There is yet another interesting twist. The Biotech companies are reluctant to accept responsibility for any damage they may cause. Friends of the Earth question what happens if farmer A growing non-GM is contaminated with GM. Was it farmer B, C or D? Quite rightly their view is that compensation should be the responsibility of the biotech companies.

In the case of individuals growing GM free maize in their garden the situation is even more complicated. Who tests it for GM? Is it tested just before it is ready to eat? Does the gardener eat the rest and then wait for the GM test results only to find out it was GM contaminated! OR The gardener doesn’t eat the rest. The test results come back GM free – by which time the ‘corn on the cob’ is no longer at its best, fresh etc. How much compensation do we receive? It is zero food miles, grown organically, freshly picked  ‘corn on the cob’. The answer is ‘priceless’. To T. Blair, DEFRA and Monsanto “Don’t pollute our food, our gardens or anything else. You cannot afford it!

Hopefully we can stop the growing of GM maize in Ryedale. If you would like to ‘take part’ and look after a couple of maize plants please contact me. You can do that on (01751) 417131, Cropton Mill, Pickering N. Yorks. or johnclark@gmfreeryedale.org.uk

There may be things in this article that need clarifying. Don’t hesitate to ask. Please help. Together we can change things.

P.S. The maize plants are of a variety that, in a good year, can produce ‘corn on the cob’ – GM free, of course!