|Regulation, Law &
The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.
Thursday March 23, 2000
By Pat Phibbs
PHILADELPHIA--Sales of genetically engineered
foods are 'dead' in Europe until manufacturers can convince consumers that
the benefits outweigh any potential risk, a food safety consultant to the
European Union said
Bevan Moseley, a molecular geneticist,
disputed the safety of genetically modified food during a debate between
the Society of Toxicology and European Society of Toxicology (EUROTOX)
held during SOT's meeting March
Moseley represented EUROTOX. He also chairs the Working Group on Novel Foods in the European Union's Scientific Committee on Food.
Moseley opposed the idea that traditional tests, which show genetically modified foods are as safe as their traditional counterparts, are an appropriate way to assess the foods' safety.
Ian Munro, who represented SOT, argued in favor of traditional tests.
SOT asked both men to focus on food safety, not ecological issues that also are part of the debate.
"I support the technology," Moseley asserted. However, unless manufacturers conduct multigenerational safety studies that examine a multitude of possible risks, unexpected problems may occur, he said.
Currently, companies that develop GM foods
test the toxin and allergen levels of the new food as well as the safety
of the genetic trait they are implanting, Moseley said. If both are safe,
the companies assume the
However, it is not that simple, Moseley
continued. Creating genetic variations within a crop is not as specific
a process as consumers are led to believe, he said. When companies introduce
a genetic trait into a plant,
This means companies must conduct tests
to detect unanticipated problems, Moseley said. Because he is not a toxicologist,
Moseley said he did not know exactly which tests are needed. However, he
said, "we have to be
If companies are not prepared, problems may emerge, and "that would kill the whole science of genetically modified food," Moseley said. "I don't want that to happen. ... The public won't forgive us."
Moseley described several problems companies face as they try to convince the public, particularly the European public, to buy genetically modified foods.
'Burned' by Mad Cow Disease
First, Europeans do not trust scientists
who tell them food is safe, because in the early 1990s scientists assured
them British beef was safe, Moseley said. Since then 50 people have died
and 12 people have been
"We don't know if this is the tip of the iceberg or most of the iceberg," Moseley said. That experience has made European consumers worried about chronic illnesses they fear they may contract from food, he said.
Genetically modified foods benefit farmers, but they offer "no perceivable benefit" to consumers, Moseley argued.
Consumers would see a benefit if GM foods were cheaper or the quality significantly better, but most GM foods do not offer such advantages, he said.
Developing "functional foods" might offer
such advantages, Moseley said. He referred to foods that would be modified
to have more vitamins or antioxidants. However, developing such foods will
As companies move toward these more complicated
endeavors, Moseley said, he would be "very surprised" if they did not create
inadvertent, unexpected health problems in these foods.
For many more such statements of concern by scientist: Statements by Scientists on the dangers of genetically engineered food
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH etc.
For more information on GM foods see the
guide to avoiding GM foods
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