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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT


GM food - You say no

Consumers want the opportunity to make their own choices

As the debate on the safety of genetically-modified (GM) food rages on, BBC News Online users are still voting to give it a wide berth.

Food under the microscope
Hundreds of e-mails have been pouring in to BBC News Online all week from worried users - many calling for improved food labelling. Others simply want an all-out ban on GM foods.

Asked if they would avoid GM food, currently 83% of users will not go anywhere near it.

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"GM food is to be avoided like the plague. We are not Frankenstein!! Haven't we learnt anything from the BSE crisis? You can't have your GM cake and eat it!!," said Chris from France.

Chris Williamson from Scotland was equally worried:

"Destroying the balance we have with nature could alter our world irreversibly. Messing with the building blocks of life is like fiddling with the foundations of a sky-scraper."

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But the government appears to be considering changing tack on the wider issue of growing GM crops after a public outcry.

Ministers said on Wednesday night they could extend the moratorium on growing GM food in Britain after previously insisting no reason existed for doing this.

O G Fox from England is clearly unimpressed with the government's handling of the whole affair.

"First, Dr Arpad Puzstai fed GM food to a rat. Then the Prime Minister admits he is happy to eat GM food. Hmmm, perhaps this is the link. I'm taking no chances. I'll avoid it (if possible!) thanks.

Demand for improved labelling

Many readers said they would feel happier if foods containing GM material were more clearly labelled.

"I will be giving up all processed foods until proper labelling enables the consumer to select GMO-free products," S Russell, a UK user, said.

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"GM foods need to be clearly labelled and then let the market decide," said John Stapleton from Ireland.

Another said that Monsanto, one of the leading companies involved in developing GM crops should be responsible for any consequences stemming from its actions.

"If biotechnology companies such as Monsanto are convinced that such consequences will be overwhelmingly or exclusively beneficial, they will be prepared to accept liability for any adverse effects of GM food technology, and compensate individuals or bodies who suffer any such adverse effects," said Nick Brooks from the UK.

What's the fuss?

But the call for a five-year moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops in the UK by some enviromental groups has left a bad taste in the mouth of a small number of readers.

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"Humans have been genetically modifying food for the last 20,000-plus years ... so why start to label it now ... it seems a bit silly to me," said Matt O'Connell from the USA.

Briton Duncan Green just wants to know what the fuss is all about:

"People are quite willing to smoke and drink (alcohol), both which have detrimental effects on our health but won't eat GM food's which are SCIENTIFICALLY proven to be safe!!"

Would you avoid GM food? Have your say.


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