26 July 2002
GOVERNMENT ADVISORíS CAUTION ON GM CROPS
1. GM crops 'need more research'
2. FOE WELCOMES GOVERNMENT ADVISOR'S CAUTION ON GM CROPS
1. GM crops 'need more research'
BBC News, Friday, 26 July, 2002
More research is needed before widespread commercial production of GM crops is allowed in Britain, a senior government scientist has warned. Not enough is known about the impact that genetically modified crops may have if they cross-breed with natural varieties, Professor Howard Dalton told BBC News.
The chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said this was why a precautionary approach was necessary.
"My concern is that we are moving specific genes often just one at a time as opposed to the many thousands you do with normal plant breeding.
"What we don't know is the implications of what that one foreign gene might have on other proteins in the recipient plant material", he said.
Defra was liaising with the Food Standards Agency to see what these problems might be, he said.
"They are looking at many of these modified plants to see if they are toxic or dangerous ... we don't know what the implications might be because it's not a normal thing to happen.
"I want to make sure that as a result, there are no problems," he said.
He hinted that there may be further delays to commercialisation of GM crops in the UK.
"If there's an extra delay of a couple of months - maybe six months or whatever of course, they'll (the biotech industry) be frustrated, but at the end of the day it needs to be done and we have to do it.
"We have a responsibility to ensure the experiments are done properly and the results available for everyone to see."
2. FOE Welcomes government advisor's caution on GM crops
Friends of the Earth has welcomed comments to the BBC by the new Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the need for more research on the safety of genetically modified crops.
Professor Howard Dalton told BBC News about his "concern that we are moving specific genes, often just one at a time as opposed to the many thousands you do with normal plant breeding. What we don't know is the implications of what that one foreign gene might have on other proteins in the recipient plant material, so we are adopting a precautionary approach to see what these problems might be."
Professor Dalton also raised the possibility of a delay in commercial development of GM crops for "a couple of months - maybe six months or whatever" if he is not completely satisfied.
Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Adrian Bebb commented: "We're very pleased that Professor Dalton shares the concerns that we have expressed for years about the safety of GM crops and food. We don't believe that the Government's current farm-scale trials programme can properly answer these concerns. It's going to take a lot longer than 'a couple of months, or six months' to do the research that is really needed.
Given that DEFRA's advisor now shares our worries, it's no surprise that the public does not want to eat food containing GM ingredients, or see GM crops growing in our countryside. Mr Dalton's remarks are a welcome contrast to the previous gung ho GM enthusiasm of Mr Blair and Lord Sainsbury. The argument for a full moratorium on the commercial development of GM food and crops gets stronger every day."
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