Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Should this man be in charge of a government department?

Having mishandled the horsemeat scandal then you’d think Owen Paterson would wise to engage his brain before he opens his mouth. The rural affairs minister had to be forced by Downing Street to withdraw his claims that eating the product could be harmful. Then after his bumbling performance in Parliament in early February the Independent columnist Donald Macintyre likened him to Basil Fawlty from the 1970s iconic British comedy classic, Fawlty Towers. 

Paterson now believes Britain should go it alone in Europe on Genetically Modified (GM) foods. He has announced he is talking to the EU health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg on a “single state” approach. This was despite the fact that this was not part of David Cameron's recent proposed renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU. 

Leaving aside the very big if that GM will be never safe - and the technology will only benefit the corporations that control the seeds and chemicals needed to grow the crops - Paterson’s approach could leave Britain isolated from its main market if Europe chooses to remain GM free. 

Then there’s the voter’s views with an opinion poll last year showing only 10% of the British public are not concerned about GM food. Consequently most British retailers do not sell GM foods and if they stock them they must be labelled, as is also the case elsewhere in Europe. Only two GM crops have been approved for commercial growing in the EU. The Monsanto produced maize is banned in France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary.

Meanwhile both the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly have policies which are opposed to GM crops, fearing they will damage their rich environments and threaten their reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. 

Not unlike paranoid bully Basil Fawlty, Paterson has strong right-wing views and when asked about why he opposed gay marriage he replied “Biddies don’t like botties.”

A keen fox-hunter he is estimated to be worth at least £1.5 million. Despite its popularity, Fawlty Towers ran for just 12 programmes and it appears that Paterson’s own stay as farming minister may be similarly short. 

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