ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  16 November 2000


GM FEARS OVER CHINA  - Nycomed-Amersham in China and Brazil 
- by Sean Poulter, Daily Mail (London) 15 November 2000

A British biotech company is backing research projects in  China and Brazil which could lead to new strains of  genetically modified pigs, rice and fruit.

The firm is  supporting work on developing GM pigs for the table, together with citrus fruit and rice resistant to pests,  dis-ease or extreme weather.   Nycomed-Amersham is also  working with the Brazilians to establish the genetic make-up of little-known rain forest species in the hope that they may provide new medicines.

The huge company is keen to cash in on the money-making potential of GM advances in food and medicine. However it appears this  could result in much of its research and development being
switched from Britain, the U.S. and Scandinavia.

Last night  GM critics suggested the company was trying to sidestep protests against GM technology in Britain and the West by taking work to countries with less stringent regulations.

The decision could be embarrassing for the company's chief executive Sir William Castell, who is a confidant of Prince Charles, a fierce opponent of GM technology.  Sir William, an advocate of GM technology, is chairman of the Prince's Trust, while Prince Charles has warned about the dangers of meddling with nature.

Multi-national biotech companies have complained about the hostile attitude to GM science in Britain and threatened to pull out millions of pounds of investment.  Some claim the public backlash could effectively lead to the death of British science.

The work on pigs is being jointly funded by the Danish government.  Nycomed-Amersham will take a share in the patents of any medical or farming breakthroughs.

The company denied that it was trying to avoid protests, saying: 'We have had no problems with GM protests in the UK. 'Our view is that we are custodians of powerful science. We are now involved in enabling the science of genetics. 'This science has huge implications. We think the job of a company like ours is to help society see the implications.'

The reality is its commercial future relies on the acceptability of GM technology and proof that it works. If  the projects in China and Brazil bear fruit, it will make billions over the next 50 years and beyond.

Adrian Bebb, of pressure group Friends of the Earth said: 'There has been a concerted attempt by the biotech industry to effectively blackmail Britain and other nations to accept their work, with the implied threat that they'll take jobs and investment elsewhere. 'It is not fair to label people who
have genuine concerns about GM foods as anti-science. All we are calling for is tougher regulation and better testing. 'You have to ask how open to scrutiny this sort of work will be when it is carried out under regimes such as we see in China.' [Entered November 15, 2000]

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