ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

21 November 2002


for more on the bizarre antics and unfounded assertions of Trewavas - see: "Prof Trewavas requires a health warning'


Doctors slated over call to halt GM crops

The Scotsman, 21 November 2002

SENIOR doctors were yesterday accused of adopting a policy of "stagnation" after demanding an immediate halt to genetically modified crops.

Professor Tony Trewavas from the Royal Society of Edinburgh said yesterday if we had always adopted such a "precautionary attitude" progress would never have been achieved.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament's health committee, he said: "The precautionary principle which says do nothing until you know everything about anything is in fact a recipe for total stagnation. We would never have developed electricity, gas or aeroplanes or trains or anything if we had ever taken that principal to heart in life.

" We try and look ahead and see risks [we can] assess, then we move forward with caution."

Prof Trewavas added: " No-one can guarantee the long-term safety of any food, and that includes organic food. "

The British Medical Association has warned that insufficient care is being taken to protect public health and that there has been a lack of public consultation about crop trials.

Dr Charles Saunders, the chairman of the BMA's Scottish committee for public health medicine and community health, told the committee that the absence of monitoring meant any potential side effects experienced by people living near GM crops trials were not being picked up.

He said: " There are certain mechanisms within the NHS with regards to human health in relation to food that tend to pick up known organisms and known conditions. They are quite good at picking up things that kill people, but are relatively poor at picking up things that don't. I would have no confidence in their ability to pick up unusual symptoms in people living near GM trial sites."

Dr Saunders told the committee that consideration needed to be given to designing adequate surveillance that lasts long enough and has sufficient detail to pick up any adverse effects .  Ross Finnie, the environment minister, said he could not understand exactly what part of the risk assessment process the BMA, which represents more than 13,500 doctors in Scotland, objected to.

He said: "I take very seriously any opinion taken by that body, but we are dealing with a process that is clearly laid down by regulations."

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