Gales View - 7th August 2013
I have spent a certain amount of my parliamentary time promoting the cause of the development of validated alternatives to the use of animals in laboratory experiments. That said, I have also had to recognise that for the foreseeable future, and until such alternatives are available, Medicine Control authorities in the USA, Europe and Asia will continue to demand that new pharmaceutical products be tested upon animals before being trialled in humans and licensed for use. I would prefer that those experiments are carried out in the UK because I believe that our scientists and technicians are more humane, our facilities better and our controls greater than anywhere else in the world. We will not solve a problem by moving it from A to B at the expense of animal welfare.
Similarly, I am dismayed by the fact that Monsanto has taken the decision to withdraw from its European genetically modified food programme. Like the spinning jenny, GM foods have already been created. The question is no longer if” but where” they will be developed, who will benefit economically from their production and, most of all, how they will be scientifically modified and controlled. The future food security upon which our grandchildren will depend is at stake.
In Britain, agriculture and (with the notable exception of Thanet Earth) horticulture are in decline. The French” beans that we buy in the supermarkets come by air from Africa to Manston as do, almost certainly, those eaten in much of France. The cauliflowers now eaten in Europe and which used to be grown in large quantities in Thanet are now flown in from South Africa and beyond as is the year-round supply of strawberries.
The Common Agriculture Policy, designed to prop up the peasant farming communities of mainland Europe, is unsustainable and unaffordable and will collapse. In the interim the damage that it has done to our own now subsidy-dependant farming and the demand for artificially low-cost fruit, vegetables and meat has generated a further shift away from self-sufficiency towards a reliance upon imported foodstuffs. About seventy per cent of the produce on the shelves of our supermarket chains comes either by sea or by air, at huge cost in carbon emissions, from overseas.
The Chinese have economically colonised large parts of Africa, particularly in the francophone countries. That voracious market to the Far East and its millions of mouths that need to be fed, together with Africa`s own demands, will provide literally fertile ground for Monsanto and others to farm genetically modified foods, if they choose to do so, away from the regulation and safety controls imposed by Europe.
I fear that the Frankenfood” campaign waged by a tabloid press and the hysteria that it has generated and that has driven Monsanto away from Europe will prove to be a pyrrhic victory. Genetically modified foods will be produced and we will almost certainly have to depend in the future, at least in part, upon those foods if we, in the UK and the rest of Europe, are to have enough to eat. Those imports will be at a greater cost in the carbon emissions generated by transport over long distances, at greater cost to our own economies, with little or no control over any potential side-effects of genetic modification and at the risk of being held to ransom by suppliers who can turn of the tap at whim. A triumph for the campaigners? I do not think so.