GM firm retreats from the UK

Feature story - 31 March, 2004
Following the controversial UK government approval of genetically engineered (GE) maize for commercial planting, the only company authorized to grow GE maize has withdrawn its application. It now appears unlikely the UK will see any commercialised GE crops before 2008.

We protested against GE maize in 1999 - 5 years later Bayer withdraws the crop from the UK.

Bayer CropScience, a German company authorised to plant an herbicide-resistant variety of maize known as Chardon LL, said regulations on how and where the crop could be planted would make it "economically non-viable."

Chardon LL was the variety of maize that 28 Greenpeace volunteers uprooted in Norfolk in 1999 when the crop was undergoing field trials. The activists were acquitted of charges of criminal damage when the court agreed they were acting in the interest of protecting the environment.

Sarah North of Greenpeace UK says that "Anyone who cares about the British countryside will be delighted by this announcement. The only GE crop with a government green light now doesn't even have the support of its manufacturer. Tony Blair bent over backwards to get this crop grown, but Bayer knew its maize would fail in the field. Without the help of a powerful chemical herbicide recently banned in Europe, Britain's first GE crop would have been a flop. That's why it's been abandoned."

GE Maize was the last great hope of the GE industry to invade Britain. The UK government has already turned down requests to commercially plant GE rapeseed (canola) and beets. With Bayer's retreat, the anti-GE forces have won a significant victory.

Some of the world's most powerful companies and one of the world's most powerful governments have remained steadfastly determined to get GE crops grown commercially in the UK, despite massive public resistance campaigns which have:

  • removed GE from all human foods sold in the UK
  • removed GE from nearly all poultry and pig feed
  • reduced the number of GE field trials from over 300 locations per year to currently zero
  • caused Monsanto to leave the UK
This is a great victory for the thousands and thousands of people who have taken online action, shopped selectively to avoid GE products, spent cold nights pulling up crops, long weekends talking to shoppers and farmers, and years of emotional and intellectual energy countering the bullying, lobbying power and financial clout of the gene giants.

Well done, everyone.

Take Action

What remains? Banning GE from animal feed in the UK. Visit the home of "There's something scary in the dairy" and take action now.