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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK


Genetically modified food to be scrutinised by doctors

Genetically-modified food could bring health risks, say doctors

The impact on health of genetically modified food is to be investigated by doctors' leaders.

The British Medical Association board of science has agreed to examine the scientific evidence to determine whether genetic engineering could pose a serious health risk.

Dr Peter Dangerfield, a lecturer on anatomy at Liverpool University, told the BMA annual conference in Cardiff that nobody knew what the full impact of introducing foreign genetic material into the food chain would be.

"The public concern is an issue we cannot ignore," he said.

"This organisation should take a step back and review the evidence in a holistic manner, not biased by commercial pressures."

Don't waste time

Dr Judy Gilley, deputy chairman of the BMA GP committee, called on the association to take active steps now and not to waste time collecting information when enough detail was already available to demonstrate health risks.

"We need to be pushing for a high profile professional medical input into existing regulatory bodies and urging the creation of a medical watchdog body," she said.

Dr Gilley warned that genetic modification of food could lead to the creation of hazardous new toxins and allergens. There was also concern about the widespread availability of baby food which contained genetically modified soya.

The impact on antibiotic resistance was also a major concern.

However, doctors agreed that a reasoned examination of the issues was needed first.

Dr Dangerfield said: "Commercial development may have overridden the safety issues, but the BMA is in no position to march in and start saying things to the public without the security of fair and square evidence."

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