The threat of the UK government lowering our current high EU based standards is very real, as the UK tries to sign a trade deal with America to offset the possible damage to the economy from Brexit. Unfortunately, the lobbying pressure for us to cave in and accept chlorinated chicken breasts, genetically modified meats, genetically modified farmed fish and grains is growing, especially with finances being tight because of the Covid crisis. Even though 72% of UK consumers have said they will not buy GM (GMO) foods or food produced to a lower standard, that in itself is not a guarantee.
Updated February 2021: A lot has happened since I wrote this article and none of it good. The various attempts to amend the Agriculture Bill 2020 to protect both our high UK food standards and UK farming have failed.
Now in February, Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is consulting on changing laws on Genetically Modified foods to allow the growing and selling of Gene Edited foods in the UK. Once again the government is ignoring food experts, like Professor Erik Millstone, who point that there is no research into long term effect on public health of eating Gene Edited food. It seems that vested interests have had several years to plan a strategy to move us towards Genetically Modified foods in our post Brexit world. To achieve this goal the government also has to change UK labelling laws because the government knows the public will not readily buy GM foods. So they intend to loosen labelling laws so Gene Edited food does not have to be labelled as such.
Gene Watch UK & GM Freeze
Two groups are trying to raise the public’s awareness of the government’s move to make these profound changes to our food which will effect our environment and health. The public group called Gene Watch UK have sent a well reasoned and scientifically backed response to Defra, the front page you can view here or click on the link to go view the whole PDF. If you would like to voice your objection to Defra and only have 5 minutes, follow this link and GM Freeze will guide you through the process, it’s really quick and simple!
Update on Petitions to Save Our Food Standards
People continue sign the food petitions I linked to this post, though I still feel the vast majority of people are still unaware of the seismic changes that are going on at this moment, distracted by the issue of Brexit and the pandemic. Never the less, I remain undaunted and continue to share links to this post on social media. People in my country have gotten used to the high food standards we enjoyed whilst in the EU for the last 47 years and haven’t realised that is about to change.
So I ask all UK residents to sign all the petitions, which may boost the collective number of signatures up to 4-5 million from the current tally of about 2.65 million. Share this post with friends and family since it has links to all the petitions in one place. It doesn’t matter if you eat meat, or are a vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian, this will affect all of us! This is not just about protecting food safety and our health as a nation but about protecting British Farmers from cheap, lower quality. unsafe food.
The growth in Factory Farms in the UK A report by the Soil Association has revealed that between 2017 and 2020, the UK has seen increases in permitted intensive livestock facilities, ranging from 7% in England to 21% in Wales. To me this shows there are vested interested already in the UK that wish to replicate the numerous mega farms that have blighted parts of the US countryside. This increase of UK mega farms has so far gone under the radar, and flys in the face of continued public support for stronger, not weaker, food standards.
National Farmer Union petition has been signed by over 1,057,685 people
The Food Standards Petition
Which Magazine have a petition signed so far by 228,411 people
Green Peace UK have a petition signed so far by 499,460 people
Change.Org petition started by Eric Millstone 2018 so far signed by 466,383 people
Keep British Food Safe after Brexit
38Degrees Food Standards petition signed so far by 253,644 people Boris Johnson: Don’t break your promise on food and animal welfare standards in trade deals
Change.Org Any Trade Deal Post Brexit should not include lowering of Standards 25,772 signatures
Change.Org Future UK trade deals must not compromise animal welfare and public health 24,606 signatures
38Degrees Don’t put our food at risk after Brexit 55,846 signatures so far
Change.Org Maintain Our Food and Animal Welfare Standards 554 signatures so far.
We have roughly 53 million adults in the UK, so I want more of the 72% who said they would not eat GM foods or food produced to a lower standard to sign the petition!
*Update: Full list of UK MPs who voted to lower our food standards during the Covid pandemic 327 Conservatives voted against the House of Lords Amendment 16. The amendment sought to put legal protection into the Agriculture Bill, to make sure any food imported into the UK matched the same high standards we have for food produced in the UK. The Agriculture Bill is needed to replace the EU laws we use that will expire when we officially leave the EU at the end of 2020.
After all, how can we say we have high food standards if we are allowing unsafe imports onto supermarket shelves just to get a trade deal? This is in effect lowering our food standards via the back door. The bottom line is this will hurt the health of many, many people.
During my campaigning, people have said self centric things like “I buy my meat from my butcher, so this won’t affect me”. And my response to this is, “What about school dinners, food at care homes or even hospital food?” Caterers often operate on thin profit margins so the temptation to buy cheaper imports will be enormous!
For My American Readers
This is not to say that America has no organic food, on the contrary it has lots but it has flourished in spite of the large corporate farming interests that have lobbied hard in Congress to make growing organic food highly regulated, which of course drives up the cost of buying organic as an American consumer. As a chef who lived and worked in America for 13 years, it breaks my heart to see how powerful lobby groups in Washington protect the status quo for the vested interests and how ill-informed many consumers still are.
Pigs on Drugs
I know this headline sounds rather outrageous, but it is a fact that much of American pork is injected with a drug called Ractopamine which promotes growth of lean meat. The fact is, Ractopamine is banned in 160 countries around the world due to concerns about safety for animals and humans. This week (Nov 27th, 2020) the Taiwan parliament was in uproar when pig guts were flung about in protest because the government has just allowed American pork imports in even though Taiwan farmers are banned from using Ractopamine. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-55097091
Hormone Treated Beef
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows steroid hormone drugs for use in beef production and to increase the milk production in dairy herds. This has been banned in the EU since 1989. People might think, what’s the harm in speeding up the growth of cattle with hormone treated feed? Well, scientific studies around the world are beginning to show a link between recombinant bovine growth hormone and the growth of certain kinds of cancer. This is what the American Cancer Society say
Another example of US food standards that could negatively impact the UK is chlorinated chicken. The American poultry industry is more intensive with lower animal welfare standards than in the UK. Subsequently the chicken has high levels of bacteria, so the industry has resorted to acid and chlorine washes at the end of the meat production chain, producing chicken that may not be safe for consumers to eat. A recent report by a US no-profit Consumer Group found 97 per cent of 300 American chicken breasts tested contained harmful bacteria including Salmonella, campylobacter and E.Coli. Around half of the chicken breasts tested also contained at least one type of bacteria that was resistant to three or more antibiotics.
Genetically Modified Foods
In the US, 88% of corn and 93% of soy are genetically modified (GM) and products containing GM ingredients are commonly sold. In the EU, GM is widely rejected due to concerns over its safety and and lack of scientific proof of its purported benefits. Indeed a growing number of studies have shown harmful health impacts for humans and animals, and the crops have been associated with some environmental problems, including weed and insect resistance, and degradation of soil health. Here is just one example: US Farmers Lose Superweeds Fight as Glyphosate Resistance Tops 75%
Experts estimate that in another 30 years, as many as 10 million people could die annually from antimicrobial resistance. There are two reasons that antibiotics are proving less effective when used as medicine, one is over prescription and the other is the use of antibiotics in cattle, sheep and pigs. Too often antibiotics are used as a preventative and are mixed with feed. The use of antibiotics per animal in US farming is on average 5 times higher than in the UK. Investigations have shown that antibiotics crucial to human medicine are still being used in “unacceptable” quantities on US livestock farms, despite rules brought in last year to curb their use and combat the spread of deadly superbugs. A US trade deal risks undermining the efforts UK farmers have been making to reduce antibiotic use, fuelling further antimicrobial resistance with potentially grave consequences for public health.
At the moment American farmers use almost 10 times more kilos of pesticides per hectare (2.47 acres) than UK farms and many of them banned over here. This is in part because GM crop seeds have been genetically altered to be pesticide resistant. Some GM seeds actually have a pesticide component genetically engineered to make insects die on the crop when they bite it. Of course, using so much pesticide on crops is going to leave a residue in the food consumed; traces of the widely used glyphosate herbicide are now being found in everyday foodstuffs which could impair the health of humans. In 2015, the World Health Organization said there was sufficient scientific evidence to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. For example an American apple has 400 times more Malathion pesticide (which is a known carcinogen) on it than an average UK apple. Similarly, American grapes are allowed to contain 1000 times more Propargite pesticide residue compared to UK grapes.
Lack of Safe and Clear labelling
When GM meat or fish is sold in US supermarkets it is not labelled as Genetically Modified, so consumers cannot make an informed choice. Some years ago when congress debated labelling GMO foods, lobbyists worked hard in Washington to ensure that GM foods were not labelled. So my question to the makers of GMO food – If genetically modified food is so great and safe why not put it on the label?
We in the UK feel we have a right to know what is in our food, whereas vested US Food industry considers nutrition labelling a ‘barrier to trade’, it has an on-going dispute with the European Union over this.
American Print and Television Media
A few years back I challenged a few high profile American food writers to be more outspoken about these issues and was dismayed by their lack of knowledge and timidity. Some said their editors or publishers would not allow controversial articles to be printed for fear that advertisers would pull out, like Monsanto. But my article should also be a clarion call to Americans to fight back and raise their own food standards.
In America, unfortunately the food industry has has gone too great lengths to influence not only politicians, but also to sway the general public by setting up fake organisations like the “International Life Sciences Institute”. This organisation is supposed to be a non profit group that conducts “science for the public good” and “improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment.” However, investigations by academics, journalists and public interest researchers show that the International Life Sciences Institute is a lobby group that protects the interests of the food industry, not public health.
If you are from the UK, I hope my words have shown you that the powerful interests of American Food corporations and GMO companies like Monsanto, can change our food for ever unless we are more active in its defense. Please sign the petitions.
And I strongly urge all of my American readers and friends to join the fight back, go read these two books.
The Seeds Of Deception by Jeffery M. Smith
Genetic Roulette by Jeffery M. Smith
Both books are not the ramblings of lunatic; they have clear science behind the message, laying out the problems of genetically modified foods and the business drive to sell them to us at all costs. I wrote an article back in 2008 which you can see here.
Other Source Material
And other scary stuff
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