What the environmental movement got right: activists respond to Channel 4 film

| 4th November 2010
Climate change protest

The environmental movement is accused of hampering efforts to tackle climate change by opposing nuclear power and GM (Image: WDM)

Green campaigners reject accusations of failure and point out success of domestic climate legislation, regulations to tackle ozone pollution and growing acceptance from the business community of environmental issues

Environmental campaigners have rejected calls to embrace genetically-modified crops and nuclear power in order to tackle climate change.

In a documentary being screened tonight green activists including author Mark Lynas say environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are 'clinging' to out-dated ideological opposition to solutions like nuclear power.

However, Friends of the Earth says its opposition to so-called 'radical solutions' like nuclear and GM is not ideological but practical.

'The solutions for how to deal with radioactive nuclear waste remain. The technology has been around for five decades now and billions of pounds of public subsidies have gone into the industry yet the problem [of radioactive waste] remains unresolved,' said director of policy and campaigns Craig Bennett, who added the British taxpayer alone already faced £80 billion in liability for nuclear waste.

The Green Party said a nationwide programme  of energy efficiency, together with investment in a range of renewable  energies and decentralised Combined Heat and Power were a 'cheaper and quicker' way to reduce emissions.

On GM, green campaigners said GM was not a 'silver bullet' for poor farmers. 'In order to help the poorest farmers you must empower them to achieve food sovereignty - they are not going to get that by relying on foreign-owned seeds from foreign-owned corporations,' said Bennett.

A coalition of anti-GM campaigners, including Vandana Shiva have also complained to the makers of the documentary that both the Southern-based commentators speaking out in favour of GM crops in the programme were in employment funded by major biotech companies.

'Where it has been adopted, GM hasn't worked to deliver food security for poor or vulnerable communities in the Global South. There is no evidence that it will do so in the future - drought and salinity-resistant GM crops do not exist - and are unlikely to appear any time soon. Only two types of technology have been successfully commercialised: those resistant to a particular type of herbicide, and those resistant to one specific type of pest. Neither of these technologies in any way address the causes of hunger. But the expensive and patented seeds have made seed saving illegal, taking away poor farmers' most basic rights and resources,' said the letter sent to Channel 4 programme makers.

Green campaigners also said it was wrong to cast the movement as a failure and pointed out the 'extraordinary' success of campaigns on climate change, which brought the world's first legally binding legislation in the Climate Change Act 2008. Bennett said the corporate and business world had slowly been brought onboard to an agenda that may once have been seen as radical, but was now mainstream.

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