DOCTORS CRITICISE REPORT ON GM FOODS
By Gillian Ní Cheallaigh - The Irish Times - 13th March 2001
A group called the Irish Doctors' Environmental Association has described as "unbelievable" conclusions on the safety of genetically modified foods, made in a Government-commissioned re port published last week.
The group of 40 Irish GPs, specialists and consultants is to meet the EU Food Safety Commissioner, Mr David Byrne, soon. They will demand a ban on all genetically modified foods, unless they are proved to be safe for human consumption.
"We take issue with what's in the report," said Dr Elizabeth Cullen, co-chair of the group yesterday, challenging all three grounds on which the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Modern Biotechnology based its conclusion that GM foods pose no threat to human health.
The group is also "very, very disappointed" that the report does not recommend the establishment of a register of diseases thought to be linked to GM foods.
Dr Cullen said the group met the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, "ages ago" to request a register, and he told them he would bring it to the attention of the inter-departmental group.
A motion is to be proposed at the upcoming Irish Medical Organisation
annual general meeting in April reiterating this call to the Minister.
Rejecting the report's contention that "the scientific evidence about the
safety of current GM food products is supported by the absence of reports
adverse effects from their consumption", Dr Cullen said: "The complete lack of labelling
means it's virtually impossible to trace back possible allergies."
She said there had been a recent increase of allergies to soya among Irish children, and there was no way to tell if it was related to foods containing GM soya products, because there is no obligation to label them under EU law.
According to Dr Cullen, the study of epidemiology compares the reactions of exposed individuals to suspect influences such as food, with those of unexposed individuals, to determine any adverse effects. "This is impossible to do with the present labelling system," she said.
The group is opposed to the recent European Union Directive on GM Organisms
that allows the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment under licence.
The directive does not impose any obligation to label foods containing
GMO ingredients. The Government has not included itself in a
group of EU nations forming a de facto block on GMOs despite the new legislation.
Some processed food products sold in the State, particularly those originating in the United States where there are 70 million acres of GM crops for food production, contain GM soya ingredients, and many carry no labelling.
The report states that genetically modified "soya bean products such as oil,flour, and lecithin are used in a wide variety of processed foods" currently on sale here.
The group is concerned about the potential for antibiotic resistance
as a result of GM foods in our daily diet, and the increasing levels of
toxins they introduce into food.