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Monday, January 12, 1998 Published at 17:49 GMT



Sci/Tech

Confidence crisis over genetic beans
image: [ The market for modified crops in Europe could grow to an annual value of $100bn by 2005 ]
The market for modified crops in Europe could grow to an annual value of $100bn by 2005

An American firm has joined the debate over the use of genetically modified food, saying Europe must toughen up its system of regulation to boost consumer confidence.

Leading biotechnology company, Monsanto, wants a regulation system that will put an end to people's fears and suspicions of the modified food industry.

Monsanto developed the modified soya plant and is working on several other projects involving the genetic manipulation of food. 60% of all processed food sold in Europe contains soya, the bulk of which is imported from America where ordinary beans are mixed with those from genetically modified plants.

The plants' structure has been changed to make them resistant to a certain type of weedkiller, which is then used to treat crops and boost yields.

The modified beans have passed strict safety rules in the US and in Europe, but many consumers are suspicious of the product and uncomfortable about buying and eating it.

Robert Shapiro, the Chief Executive of Monsanto, says a tighter regulation system in Europe is needed to improve consumer confidence.

"We need to have a regulatory system that gives us confidence - and in the absence of that system the alternative of consumers simply fearing all technology probably will lead to bad results for consumers and for society," said Mr Shapiro.

"So the task is to construct a regulatory system that people can believe in and can trust and I take it that it's not the case today - or at least I'm informed it's not the case today in parts of Europe."

Soya is among the first crops to be genetically modified, however, it is estimated the market for modified crops in Europe alone could grow to an annual value of $100bn by the year 2005.
 





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