Tuesday, June 1, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Prince sparks GM food row
Prince Charles's article will add fuel to to an aready heated debate
Prince Charles has launched a scathing attack on genetically-modified products, but the UK Government has reponded by saying it won't force GM foods "down people's throats".
And he rejects the argument that GM crops represent a solution to feeding the world's growing population as "emotional blackmail".
Mr Meacher told the BBC that rules governing GM technology were "stringent and tight", but that he understood the public's concern:
In a separate development, Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Prince Charles is to meet the scientist whose research ignited the debate over genetically modified foods.
Dr Arpad Pusztai alleged that rats fed GM potatoes suffered damage to their immune systems and was later forced to abandon his work at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen.
Two weeks ago Dr Pusztai's findings were condemned in an independent report compiled by fellow scientists at the Royal Society.
In the Daily Mail article, Prince Charles asks 10 questions to highlight his fears.
Before listing them, he says: "It is very hard for people to know who is right. Few of us are able to interpret all the scientific information which is available - and even the experts don't always agree.
"But what I believe the public's reaction shows is that instinctively we are nervous about tampering with Nature when we can't be sure that we know enough about all the consequences."
Last November the Prince set up a discussion forum about GM foods on his Website, which he says has received 10,000 "hits".
The first question Prince Charles asks in his article is whether the country needs GM food.
He says: "On the basis of what we have seen so far, we don't appear to need it at all. The benefits, such as there are, seem to be limited to the people who own the technology and the people who farm on an industrialised scale."
"This argument sounds suspiciously like emotional blackmail to me. Is there any serious academic research to substantiate such a sweeping statement?" he writes.
He says that if conventional and organic crops can become contaminated by GM crops grown nearby, people wanting to be sure they are eating or growing "absolutely natural" food will be denied that choice.
The Prince ends the article by asking "What sort of world do we want to live in?"
'Who are the trials for?'
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The government has been in the forefront of calls for a sensible, national debate on GM foods rather than the scaremongering we have seen in some parts of the media.
"Prince Charles's article should be seen in that context. This is a complex area and the government is proceeding according to the best science available. GM foods currently on the market in this country are safe."
Greenpeace Executive Director Peter Melchett, commenting on the article, said: "The Prince of Wales is right to say we will be denied the freedom to choose organic and non-GM food grown in this country if GM plantings go ahead.
"The fact is, our right to choose is being jeopardised by the GM crop trials which are already under way. This will contaminate both organic and non-GM crops.
"People don't want to buy GM food. Supermarkets won't be selling it.
"Food manufacturers don't want GM ingredients - so who on earth are the government carrying out the GM field trials for?"