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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 00:32 GMT
GM foods safe say supporters
Maize cobs   Monsanto
The report says there is no doubt that GM crops are safe to eat
Alex Kirby

Supporters of genetically modified (GM) crops say those approved for sale in the UK are in practical terms as safe as most others.

They say the four approved GM foods are "as safe as other supermarket foods".

The claim comes in a report published by CropGen, which describes itself as "an information initiative designed to make the case for crop biotechnology".

CropGen aims to reduce the ignorance it believes surrounds the subject. It concludes GM technology can no longer be dismissed as not independently tested.

CropGen is funded by the industry but says it operates independently of it.

Reassuring doubters

The report, One Hundred Per Cent Safe? GM Foods In The UK, was written by CropGen's chairman, Vivian Moses, visiting professor of biotechnology at King's College, London, and Dr Michael Brannan, a biochemist.

Soya beans   Monsanto
Four GM crops are approved in the UK
It offers a guide to the data collected on the four GM crops approved for consumption in the UK - three varieties each of maize and oilseed rape, and one each of soybeans and tomatoes.

It offers an overview of the regulatory procedures in the UK and the European Union.

Professor Moses said: "As biochemists, our reading of the publicly available information on GM food safety has offered us not one indication of hazard to human health from any of the GM crop foods so far approved for use in the UK.

"Critics can no longer claim that GM technology isn't independently tested. Regulations are in place - and our report shows you where."

The authors also attempt a definition of safety and a judgement on how far 100% safety of a food product is achievable.

Professor Moses said: "In our view it is essential to retain a sense of proportion. Inasmuch as GM crops and foods have value, we favour them being available for those who want them.

"GM technology offers us a more environmentally friendly system of farming and the potential for many consumer benefits.

Reasons for confidence

"In practical terms, approved GM foods are at least as safe as other approved food in the shops."

Professor Moses told BBC News Online: "We're aiming the report at anyone who really wants to know whether GM foods are safe.

Lorry tips beans   Monsanto
The authors hope to dispel ignorance
"We feel there's a lot of ignorance about them in people's minds.

"When we began writing it, I had a general impression they were safe, but I didn't know the evidence in such detail.

"Now I have the chapter-and-verse verdicts of the regulators."

Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth told BBC News Online: "It would be nice if all the GM safety data were made publicly available.

"We've been asking one company for data for weeks, and we're still waiting.

"I can't see how this report can possibly suggest that all approved GM crops are safe. We've found clear and glaring gaps in the science in some approvals."

Images courtesy of Monsanto

See also:

28 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Mexican study raises GM concern
23 Jul 01 | oldBusiness
Fears of GM super-pests
17 May 01 | Sci/Tech
GM coffee 'threatens farmers'
06 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
India allows sale of GM cotton
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