GM can bring benefits says Defra head Spelman

Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman is backing the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in the wake of the resignation of two members of the FSA GM steering group.

Spelman made the comments after holding a live Q&A on the Guardian website on 3 June, which is seen as the strongest ever backing by a UK government minister on using GM food.

In the last few weeks, Professor Brian Wynne and Dr Helen Wallace have both resigned from an FSA steering group, which was commissioned by the previous government to shape and manage a public dialogue on food and the use of GM. Professor Wynne, in a letter, accused the government agency of promoting GM “propaganda”.

Spelman said: “GM can bring benefits in food to the marketplace. The sale should not be promoted by the taxpayer.

“Lord Henley [Defra minister] has approved a trial of a potato blight-resistant variety. That’s the kind of modification that can reduce the amount of agro-chemicals which need to be applied.”

Defra’s approval of GM potato trial was one of the Department’s first public announcements under the coalition government.

In separate news, the Defra Secretary of State’s husband, Mark, is reported to have applied to Companies House to close down Cormack, Spelman & Associates, a food and biotechnology consultancy, set up by himself and the Minister 1989.

Political transparency group the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics wrote to the Defra Permanent Secretary soon after Spelman’s appointment, querying a possible conflict of interest. She is said to have relinquished the unpaid directorship role in June 2009.

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