Once GM crops are planted they are impossible to eradicate. Sooner or later, it pollutes the food chain - and we'll all end up paying the price

About time too. The Food Standards Agency has eventually declared that illegal GM rice from China found in the UK food chain is "unsafe" and told food companies to recall any affected products.

It's a scandal that has taken 18 months, and a court case brought against the FSA by Friends of the Earth, to get action. In that time, unquantifiable numbers of people have been exposed to this inadequately tested rice, with unknown health implications. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the risk to human health, particularly the potential to cause food allergies. The judge had to rap the FSA over the knuckles for failing to issue a food alert to local authorities. 

Illegal GM contamination incidents are becoming more common, even though no GM crops are currently grown commercially in the UK, and only one in Europe. And further evidence of the unpredictable nature of GM crops emerged last week with the news that Swedish researchers have found GM crops can persist in the soil for at least 10 years. Their research, which investigated the persistence of oilseed rape following a GM trial in 1995, found that despite intense efforts to eradicate the GM plants in following years, 'volunteer' plants, growing from seeds in following years, were still detected 10 years later. 

These findings underline the fundamental problem with GM crops - once the genie is out of the bottle, it is impossible to recall it. Sooner or later, GM pollutes the food chain. So much, then, for the government's stance on growing GM crops alongside conventional and organic crops. Proposals for England set no separation time between growing a GM and non-GM crop, although 95% of public respondents to Defra's GM consultation opposed that.

Laid back or what? These reckless proposals will lead to unavoidable contamination of the food chain. We'll all end up eating GM food, whether we like it or not. The anti-GM evidence stacks up, yet the government is still ever-ready to bend over backwards to accommodate the biotech lobby. Gullible proposals for the 'coexistence' of GM with organic and conventional crops should be binned now. 

Instead, what we urgently need is tough rules to protect GM-free food and farming from contamination, and a strengthening of environmental liability laws to force biotech companies to stump up for any damage they cause to our environment and farmers'


Joanna Blythman is the

author of Bad Food Britain