- Genetically modified food banned from Houses of Parliament
- Environment Secretary Owen Paterson launched pro-GM campaign
GM foods are banned from restaurants in the Houses of Parliament despite government claims it is ‘probably safer’ than other meals.
Government ministers are demanding that ordinary families should abandon their reluctance to eat genetically modified food, however they are banned from MPs’ plates.
This week the food and farming secretary, Owen Paterson, launched an extraordinary propaganda campaign to encourage the nation to accept GM crops and farming.
He bolstered his campaign with claims that some seven million children in the Far East could have been saved from blindness or death in the last 15 years if only people had opened the door to a new form of GM ‘Golden Rice’.
However, his efforts were unravelling today amid evidence that GM food is banned from the dinner tables of MPs, while his claims for the GM rice proved to be bogus.
The House of Commons Catering service today confirmed that the ban on GM ingredients which dates back to 1998 remains in place as a matter of ‘customer choice’.
It said: ‘In line with its procurement policy, the House of Commons Catering Service avoids, wherever identifiable, the procurement of foods that contain genetically modified organisms.
Speech: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson this week urged Brits to eat GM
‘To this end, as part of the tendering process, food suppliers are required to work to a strict GM organisms policy and give assurances that goods supplied be free from genetically modified materials.’
It added: ‘The decision to avoid GMs is seen as largely a matter of customer choice.’
Mr Paterson has set himself up as the chief cheerleader for so-called Frankenstein Foods, however it appears that he has been unable to convince fellow MPs to accept them in their restaurants.
As a result, the minister and fellow MPs leave themselves open to accusations of hypocrisy and complaints that they are telling people to ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
Speaking earlier this week, Mr Paterson said: ‘The use of more precise technology and greater regulatory scrutiny probably makes GM organisms even safer than conventional plants and food.
‘There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health…An enormous amount of material has been eaten, not a single case has been brought to my attention.’
Mr Paterson’s most powerful argument for accepting GM was the development of Golden Rice, which has been genetically modified to boost levels of beta carotene and Vitamin A, which can protect eyesight.
In an extraordinary statement, he said: ‘Over the last 15 years, despite offering the seeds for free to those who would need them, every attempt to deploy this golden rice has been thwarted.
‘In that time seven million children have gone blind or died.’
It emerged today that these seeds have not been offered free to communities in the Far East who might need them because they have not yet been through a safety checking and approval system.
Neither have any tests been carried out to establish whether they contain sufficient nutrients to make any difference to the eyesight of children, let alone save millions of lives.
Golden Rice has not been available to farmers and consumers for the past 15 years and is only now going through crop growing trials in the Philippines.
If these prove successful, the rice will be sold for profit just like any other agricultural commodity and will not be given away free.
The International Rice Research Institute has issued a statement which makes clear that Mr Paterson’s claims that Golden Rice could have prevented millions of youngsters from going blind or dying over the past 15 years are also bogus.
This states that: ‘It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.’
It said tests will be needed to establish whether the rice would be useful, but this process could take another two years.
The Channel 4 News FactCheck blog concluded: ‘Mr Paterson has been misleading on a number of counts.
‘There haven’t been attempts to give golden rice out for free. The leading exponent of it says it will cost ‘about the same’ as ordinary rice.
‘To then claim that seven million children have gone blind or died as a result of such attempts being thwarted doesn’t follow either. The numbers are a large and inaccurate extrapolation.’
A spokesman for Mr Paterson’s department, DEFRA, said: ‘We have only just started the discussion on the potential benefits of using GM products here in the UK.
'Other governments wouldn’t licence these technologies if they didn’t recognise the economic, environmental and public benefits.’