Saturday September 27, 2003
Professors, clergymen, politicians and professionals have signed a pledge to pull up any genetically modified crops that may be grown commercially in Britain, according to a new national group that is hoping to get 10,000 people to register their strong disapproval to the government. Buoyed by the 5 to 1 public rejection of the crops recorded in this week's national debate results, Oxford-based group Greengloves said it was hoping to get people to pledge to non-violently pull up the crops or to financially support others who do.
It claims to have signed hundreds of people within days of launching the idea on the internet.
The group, which includes several people who have been acquitted in the courts for damaging trial crops as well as activists from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other organisations, said yesterday that it intended to signal to the government the depth of feeling at the grassroots.
"The idea is to let people register their intentions in advance of a decision being made," said a spokesman yesterday. "The scale of dedicated opposition at the grassroots is enormous".
He added that more than 3,000 people had recently signed a similar pledge in New Zealand. "We would expect to get very many more in Britain." The Agriculture Biotechnology Council, which represents the GM industry, yesterday said that it doubted whether people would actually do anything.
"When are we going to see a commercial GM crop cultivated in Britain? It's a long time away. Some of the heat may have dissipated by then," said an ABC spokesman. "We are opposed to activities and pledges which are issued with little regard for the regulatory process or the law."
More than 50 of the government's trial crops were partly or wholly destroyed by activists, but the industry is hoping that farmers will not be forced to register where they are growing them.
The Greengloves statement says: "If the UK government gives the go-ahead to commercialise the growing of GM crops against the overwhelming wishes of the British public, I pledge to non-violently remove GM crops from the ground or support those who take action to remove GM crops."
The group points to a Mori poll earlier this year which found that only 14% of the British public support GM food.
Four countries - the US, Canada, Argentina and China - grow the overwhelming majority of GM crops.