Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Biotechs, Gordon Brown and GM's versus Natural England.

McCarthy predicts that the countryside will ‘become entirely sterile and lifeless’.

Michael McCarthy in The Independent, Thurs.19th June, predicts that the environmental and ecological impacts of introducing GM’s commercially into Britain, would mean that…'Nothing would be left'…. 'the countryside will become entirely sterile and lifeless.'

Contemplating this scenario leads to a lot more questions eg. 'what will the governmental organization ‘Natural England’ decide to do about all their crucial conservationist work?' On Natural England's website there are pages of information about the actions which they consider to be vital for wildlife and the environment, for example…

'WILDLIFE. Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet. This includes the plant and animal species that make up our wildlife-and the places or habitats in which they live. Natural England is responsible for ensuring that England’s rich biodiversity is protected and improved.'

I reproduce below McCarthy’s article so that we can compare his information with further extracts from Natural England. Perhaps like me you will wonder if Natural England’s existence will become a sham,- will they try to backtrack on their stated intentions and declarations about the environment, will the department be disbanded by Gordon Brown in favour of his vision for a sterile and lifeless countryside full of green concrete? What will be the implications for our countryside tourist industry, when the countryside no longer exists as such? What will be the implication for survival of crops which rely on pollination of bees, when so much of the eco system will be destroyed?

Michael McCarthy: Hello green concrete, goodbye wildlife.
The argument against allowing genetically modified crops to be grown commercially in Britain can be summed up in two words: green concrete.
It means a landscape in which fields have a crop growing in them but nothing else. No wild plants or flowers of any sort, no butterflies or moths, no smaller insects on which birds and their chicks can feed, and so no birds. Green concrete means a countryside that still may be called the countryside, and may still appear green, but apart from the crop, it will be entirely sterile and lifeless.
That is what would happen if the GM crops previously proposed, including maize, beet and oilseed rape, were allowed to be grown on a commercial scale. For they were all genetically engineered to be able to survive the application of increasingly powerful weedkillers, known as "broad spectrum" herbicides, which would kill everything else in the field.
The best known of these chemicals is glyphosate, made by Monsanto under the trade name Roundup. Why is it called Roundup? Because nothing escapes.
In some countries, losing farmland wildlife might not matter so much. In the US, for example, people do not go to the grain prairies of Kansas to see flowers and birds; American agricultural areas are for agriculture. If you want to see wildlife you go to a wilderness area. The US is so big that there are plenty of these, some of them the size of Wales.
But Britain is different. It is a relatively small nation with an intimate, patchwork countryside and, if we want our wildlife to survive, much of it must survive on farms. Yet our farmland wildlife, especially birds and wild flowers, has already been given a catastrophic battering by the intensification of agriculture that has taken place in recent decades.
Who sees a cornfield dotted with red poppies now? How many people hear skylarks? Declines in farmland birds are incredible. Since the 1970s, tree sparrows have declined by 93 per cent, corn buntings by 89 per cent, grey partridges by 88 per cent, turtle doves by 83 per cent and so the list runs on.
This has happened just with conventional weedkillers and pesticides, which do allow some fauna to survive. The introduction of broad-spectrum chemicals, which GM technology would allow, would be a further and fatal ratcheting-up of the intensification process for farming. Nothing would be left. The Government demonstrated this with its farm-scale evaluations of GM crops from 1998 to 2003. They proved wildlife was damaged far more by the GM process than by conventional methods.
Of course, there are many other crop modifications possible besides herbicide tolerance. In years to come, as climate change takes hold, we may need crops engineered to be drought-tolerant or salt-tolerant. They could be real life-savers – but they are not on offer yet.

Below from Natural England website. Natural England was formed by bringing together English Nature,Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service.

From Natural England:

Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet. This includes the plant and animal species that make up our wildlife - and the places or habitats in which they live. Natural England is responsible for ensuring that England's rich biodiversity is protected and improved.
The UK is one of 188 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This Convention has three main objectives: the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of biodiversity; and the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. In the UK this commitment led to the launch of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan(BAP) in 1994.
The Plan’s overall goal is to conserve and enhance biodiversity within the UK and to contribute to efforts to conserve global biodiversity. The UK BAP targets the recovery of some of our most threatened species and habitats in the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. For each priority species and habitat, an action plan describes the current status and threats, and sets out an action programme for achieving 10-15 year objectives and targets.
These action plans, and the UK BAP process as a whole, represent a consensus of Government, the statutory and voluntary conservation sectors, land owners and managers. They give us the best opportunity to date of reversing the major declines in the populations, range and quality of the UK’s biodiversity resource.
Each of the four countries of the UK has subsequently produced country strategies for biodiversity. The England Biodiversity Strategy was published in 2003; it identified new approaches and partnerships across sectors as being essential for achieving the conservation of biodiversity.
At theGothenburg Summit in 2001 the EU committed itself to the objective of halting the rate of biodiversity loss, with the aim of achieving this by 2010. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Heads of Government committed themselves to achieving a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. These, and other, multilateral environmental agreements cover the UK’s action to conserve biodiversity both globally and within the UK.
Species Recovery Programme
Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme seeks to reverse the declines in England’s animals, plants and fungi. The programme recognises that current habitat-based management approaches are often not enough to prevent extinctions and restore species populations to a point where they are secure. Instead, targeted action is often required. This may include a dedicated research programme to understand why a species is declining and what its habitat needs are; a period of trial management to assess how best to reverse the decline (possibly requiring reintroductions); and a period of recovery management to increase population sizes. Natural England is involved in all stages of this recovery process.
Most of the species selected for our Species Recovery Programme are UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. We work in partnership with government, voluntary conservation organisations, land owners and business to deliver the targets for these species. Whenever possible, we also try to involve the public so that the enriched natural environments achieved by the Programme are enjoyed by all.
Biodiversity duty guidance
The aim of the biodiversity duty is to raise the profile of biodiversity in England and Wales, eventually to a point where biodiversity issues become second nature to everyone making decisions in the public sector.
All public authorities are affected, including over 900 public bodies local authorities, fire, police and health bodies, museums and transport authorities.
In recognition of the key role local authorities play with regard to conserving and enhancing biodiversity, Defra has produced two sets of guidance.

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