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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (18 April 1999)
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Changing the Guard in the UK
[Transcipt from an article inthe Guardian Weekly, 18 April 1999]

MINISTER ORDERS GM WATCHDOG CLEAROUT
by Paul Brown

Ten members of the Government's 13-strong advisory committee that grants licences for genetically modified crops are to be replaced with "independent" members not linked to the biotech industry, the Enviroment Minister, Michael Meacher, said last week.
He is also changing the remit of the committee so that it does not just look at the direct effects of GM crops but will have to look at "indirect, longterm and cumulative" effects. This is designed to prevent the dangers of cross fertilisation with other plants and the effect on weeds, insects and other wildlife of the intensive use of herbicides on GM crops.
The move comes after criticism from Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association which say that 10 members of the Advisory Committee on Releases in the Enviroment are either directly employed by, or receive funding for research or other work from the companies that want to market genetically modified crops.
The commitee has one Green member, Julie Hill, of the Green Alliance, who has often been in a minority of one in opposing the release of GM organisms. All 60 applications for experimental plantings that have so far come before the committee have been granted, although some have at first been turned down and re-adjusted so they fit the committee's criteria.
Mr. Meacher said :"I am not making any suggestion of impropiety by any member of the committee. I have every confidence that the committee has acted responsibly and given honest advice based on the scientific expertise they hold, for which they were appointed in the first place. However, I am taking this opportunity to replace them with people who are independent of the industry and are more sceptical of it. The public did not have full confidence in the existing committee because of its links with the biotech industry and he felt that was not acceptable.
Mr Meacher has been fighting a rearguard action to prevent the fullscale commercial growing of GM crops in Britain. His decision means it will be much harder for the biotech industry to get the licences it needs to begin production.

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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (18 April 1999)
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