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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Hawking rejects prince's science concerns
Stephen Hawking
Professor Hawking: Questions the "fuss" about GM crops
One of the UK's most eminent scientists has contradicted a warning by Prince Charles that tampering with nature could cause great harm to the world.

Professor Stephen Hawking, the best-selling physicist and cosmologist, says "people in 50 years' time will wonder what all the fuss about GM food was all about".

He was responding to concerns raised by the Prince of Wales during a contribution to the BBC's Reith Lectures, in which he stressed the need to "work with nature".

In a statement issued to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Professor Hawking said: "I don't think you can outlaw research and development because it can be put to good use."

'Guiding hand'

Professor Hawking became famous for his theories on black holes and on the structure of the Universe, and is the author of the best-selling book A Brief History Of Time.

I don't think you can outlaw research and development

Professor Stephen Hawking
The scientist said studies in science and technology "will happen whether we want them or not", adding that the best people could do was ensure it was harnessed properly.

The Prince of Wales, a long-standing opponent of genetically-modified food, said on Wednesday night that it was because of humanity's "inability or refusal to accept the existence of a guiding hand that nature has come to be regarded as a system that can be engineered for our own convenience".

His comments were also countered on the Today programme by Sir Walter Bodmer, of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ecological problems

He said: "You can believe in God and still believe in what science can do."

You can believe in God and still believe in what science can do

Sir Walter Bodmer
Sir Walter added that he found it "disturbing" that Prince Charles appeared unwelcoming of the application of science to the solving of modern-day problems.

He cited population growth as one of the key problems facing the globe and said that science "may help us deal with problems of sustainability".

He added that new genetic technology could help tell "us about what to do with ecological problems".

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