Monday, August 10, 1998 Published at 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Experiment fuels modified food concern
The government is confident all GM foods approved so far are safe
New research shows that genetically modified food can stunt the growth of rats and damage their immune system, prompting more concerns about the effect on humans.
After seeing the results of his work at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Professor Arpad Puztai said he would not eat genetically modified food.
The findings, he said, raised grave questions about the safety of the food for humans.
The most worrying feature of the experiment was the effect of the potatoes on the rats' immune systems, he said.
"If it is damaged and cannot mount a proper response, then we are in trouble."
A growing proportion of processed food available in Britain contains GM ingredients but there are no legal requirements for warning labels on packaging.
MP wants ban
Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker, who disclosed last week that GM food had been removed from the menu at the House of Commons, called for a ban.
"The new health findings are very worrying and show that we have become the guinea pigs in a gigantic experiment.
"The government has been irresponsible and spineless in allowing GM foods into our diet without demanding to see definitive proof that it is safe.
"The only proper thing to do now is to ban GM ingredients from all foodstuffs."
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that genetically modified potatoes had not yet been approved for human consumption in the UK and that the department would be interested in seeing the test results.
"The government is confident that each food that has been approved so far is safe," said MAFF.
Top biotech company Monsanto questioned the fairness of the tests as the rats were fed on an unlicensed crop.
Organic farmer Guy Watson lost a legal case recently seeking to prevent GM maize being grown next to his farm in Devon. The crops were destroyed last week by protesters.