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EDITIONS
Breakfast Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
GM Food : a national debate
GM Crop protestors
68% of people in the West Country oppose GM crops
A national debate on genetically modified products officially begins today.

The six-week long "GM Nation" debate will take the form of a series of meetings around the country and is being organised by the government.

The result could change the face of British food production forever.

In America, consumers are largely unconcerned by GM technology.

Yesterday Breakfast reporter Yvonne Ndege found out what the American public thinks of GM crops - you can see her report by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

Today, Yvonne reports from the West Country, where she found out why many people here do not want GM crops.


There, locals are concerned that the pollen from GM crops will contaminate those of nearby normal and organic crops - and gradually enter the food chain.

There is also concern that traditional farming methods will be lost.

And many people feel that the introduction of GM methods, which they say, involve the use of chemicals will kill off much wildlife and reduce the diversity of flora and fauna.

At 0810 this morning, Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of the steering board which is organising the debates on GM food, was live on Breakfast

He said that publicity for the debates would be stepped up from today and that the aim is to get as many of the public involved as possible.

But he warned, "it's not a referendum".

Professor Grant did say though that government had given him a "solemn assurance, in writing" that the views of the public would be taken into account, when the final decision on GM crops is being made.


Yesterday a group of organisations, including the Consumers Association and the National Trust wrote to the government to raise concerns over the way the national debate is being run.

They are concerned that the results of the latest trials on GM foods will not be made available until the debates are over.

The public will want to know what the evidence is before they take a view

Sheila McKechnie, Consumers' Association

The results of the three year field trials are not published until September - but the debating period is due to end at the end of July.

The government says it will take a very close look at the results of the national debate, before it takes a decision on whether Britain should produce GM foods.

In America, consumers have embraced the technology and do not think twice about buying food with GM ingredients.


The view from America is that GM crops not only enable farmers to be more productive, but that they also help to protect the environment, as farmers are able to use fewer chemicals to produce their crops.

Scientists in the States are now working on a new generation of GM crops, such as a tomato that helps with pneumonia and potatoes that do not absorb fat.

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