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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
GM foods 'not harmful'
By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online science staff

Britain's academy of science, the Royal Society, says there is no evidence that eating GM food is any more harmful than eating non-GM food.

Crop field
The UK Government is sponsoring a review of GM science

The society says in a submission to the UK Government's GM review that although the technology could lead to "unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional status of foods", the same is true of conventional crop breeding.

It says the chances of GM crops and foods triggering allergic reactions are in principle no worse than the chances of non-GM plants doing the same.

A senior member of the Royal Society attacked one environmental protest group for what he said was a failure to provide evidence to back up the assertion that GM food was dangerous.

'Smokescreen of claims'

"The public have a right to decide whether they want to buy GM foods, and are entitled to have access to sensible and informed advice, based on sound science.

"It is disappointing to find a group like Greenpeace stating on its website that 'the risks are enormous and the consequences potentially catastrophic', without offering any solid reasons to support such a claim," said Professor Patrick Bateson, the Royal Society's Vice-President and Biological Secretary.

"Undoubtedly some important questions need to be answered about the potential impact, good or bad, of GM crops on the environment.

"But these should be addressed without a smokescreen of unfounded claims about their threat to human health," he said.

Professor Bateson acknowledged that the majority of the British public was opposed to GM foods.

Consumers had been frightened by unsubstantiated claims but GM developers had also failed to convince them that GM foods products had benefits, he said.

'Pet technologies'

A spokesman for Greenpeace UK rejected the attack and criticised the Royal Society's role in the GM debate.

"Greenpeace commissioned and published a major report from the University of Wageningen on the uncertainties and unknowns around GM crops.

"This has been submitted to the science review and it's a pity Professor Bateson hasn't read it.

"But then the Royal Society are gaining a reputation as campaigners for their pet technologies," he said.

'Citizens' jury' backs GM food
08 Apr 03  |  Berkshire
Meacher attacks GM crops
18 Feb 03  |  Politics
Doctors review GM crop evidence
31 Jan 03  |  Science/Nature

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