Friday, 23 January 2015

Uninsured GMOs

These Lidl supermarket Muscari did very
well on the Dining Room windowsill
At last we enjoy a bit of a thaw. The temperatures outside zoom up to a heady 10-11ÂșC, all the snow melts away, the drizzle has a familiar non-crunchy wetness about it and we even have some bees out flying, evicting the latest dead colleagues and doing their hive hygiene thing. The pond looks odd this morning, still covered in a wet, thick, pond-sized sheet of ice but one which is now freed up all around from the banks and covered in wet, thawed rain so that the ice is part submerged. I have been out digging or cutting red cabbage, turnips, sprouts, parsnips and red beetroot without having to scrape away the snow first.

Popcorn and old Doctor Who episodes
for a quiet night in.
Last night I was able to fill the goose baths using the garden hose, though for the first few minutes the hose was pushing out 'sausages' of ice which plinked onto the old ice sheet landing like a small dropped heap of cocktail sticks till the new water eventually evicted them all and the hose could run at normal pressure. The 'little' lamb thrives and is now big enough to be safely out of doors through the night. In reality he probably has been for a good week but we are nervous and over-careful beginners, so the chap will have been enjoying not having to expend calories on keeping warm in the frost. Tonight, his first night out (other than his date of birth, of course, when he took us by surprise and  was welcomed to the world by rain, wind and a wet tuft of grass on which to lay his head) he will only have to worry about keeping dry.  They have a good field-shelter out there with straw-bale walls and a scattered straw floor. They should be grand, but I will be anxiously checking first thing to make sure everybody coped with the night.

On a completely different note, our house insurance is with the mainly farming based company FBD. I believe these people used to be called 'Farm Buyers Direct' but like many such outfits, they now go with the initials and logo and have left the old name well-buried behind, but anyway, they are an insurance company who specialise in insuring farms and farm buildings. We were pretty much obliged to go with FBD when we were building because no-one else we could find, would agree to insure a house over 150 years old but this is not a bother, they have proved to be a perfectly good, professional and reliable company, helpful and pleasant to deal with (all be it we have never had to try to make a claim!).

A welcome gift of a dozen duck eggs from the Mum of one
 of Liz's 'students'.
As you'd expect, we get our renewal reminders sent out annually and we pay up and it all goes away again for another twelve-month. Generally I don't read the small print in any kind of detail but this year I happened to have the papers in front of me having just sat down with a coffee. I was surprised, amazed and, I guess a little delighted, to spot that FBD have now added a specific claims exclusion to the rules - the policy now

The new dish washer chugs through another load.
"excludes loss, damage, cost or expense of whatsoever nature or any legal liability for personal injury to third parties or damage to property belonging to third parties directly or indirectly caused by, resulting from or in connection with a) the research into, testing of production or supply of any genetically modified crop or genetically modified organism, where liability may be attributed directly or indirectly to the genetic characteristics of such crop or organism (and) b) the presence of such crop or organism other than where contained in feed products purchased for use as animal feed on the farm"

Duck egg Spanish Tortilla with our local 'red' coleslaw
(our own red onions and red cabbage plus carrot)
I am curious as to why this should now be so (and I am expecting Mentor Anne to possibly comment - she watches these issues like a hawk and will not have missed this one). I cannot imagine that FBD are taking a principled stand against GMO; many of these big insurance companies have funds which invest in exactly those kind of 'Gen-tech' and bio-tech start ups. I suspect it is more about fear of the unknown which many of us have at the core of our objection to the use of GMOs. We just do not know what will be the effect on natural populations or even on populations of traditionally improved and bred crops of these new man-made genome tweaks. For an insurance company, that may well translate into "what will be the insured risk of those effects" so they are dropping these issues like hot potatoes till there have been some effects and test cases and know whether they can risk their shirts. They presumably have to include the "other than where contained in feed products" bit because the vast majority of commercial feeds already contain GM soya or maize meal, so they would end up with no customers.

Shot gun shell.
Meanwhile, RIP Fox #3, a younger female this time, 36 inches nose to tail.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

I think that is a standard exclusion world wide Matt. As the GM industry has not acknowledged any risk associated with growing GM crops and no independent testing has been done to allow a legal precedent to exist there can be no acknowledged claim of harm. In cases where a farm has been contaminated the farmer has to claim either against the farmer who caused the contamination or the company who supplied the seeds. In the second case the company will in fact lodge a counter claim and sue the contaminated farmer for breach of copy right laws.
There is a very interesting 140.000 page document released by the USDA under the freedom of information act which contains statements from the FDA's own scientists stating that GMO's can be harmful both to human and animal health, it is probably the reason that the biotec companies limit their testing to a mere 90 days as these problems do not show up within this time.