‘Charles GM remarks risk becoming political crisis’

August 17th, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown

London, Aug 17 (IANS) British ministers believe anti-GM remarks made by Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, risk becoming a constitutional crisis, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Sunday Telegraph said ministers are furious with Charles, who told the paper last week that not only GM technology but also the Indian green revolution - which was based on hybrid rather than GM crops - were causing “disasters”.

It quoted an unnamed Labour source as saying: “Usually we welcome Prince Charles’s contributions to various debates, but on this issue he seems to have overstepped the mark.”

It said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is said to be determined that anti-GM campaigners will not dictate his policy. The destruction of a GM trial in North Yorkshire two months ago is said to have hardened his stance.

In the aftermath of Charles’ remarks, several commentators have pointed out that the British royalty is a figurehead who is not supposed to make political statements in public or take sides on divisive issues.

Britain’s Environment Minister Phil Woolas, in an interview published in the Sunday Telegraph, strongly criticised Charles, hinting the privileged royal was not best placed to comment on poverty.

“… Government ministers have a responsibility to base policy on science and I do strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility to the developing world to ask the question: can GM crops help?” Woolas said.

“It’s easy for those of us with plentiful food supplies to ignore the issue, but we have a responsibility to use science to help the less well off where we can. I’m asking to see the evidence. If it has been a disaster, then please provide the evidence,” he added.

The paper said that while Woolas chose his words carefully, privately ministers are furious.

It quoted sources close to the Prince as saying he had not been trying to cause a political row: “This was in no way an attempt to lay down a challenge to government policy. The Prince’s considerable interests in the environment are non-political: he simply cares for the future.”

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