Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Sunday, 17 August 2008 08:51 UK

Prince 'must prove anti-GM claim'

Prince Charles
Prince Charles has his own organic farm at his Gloucestershire estate

The environment minister has challenged Prince Charles to prove his claim that GM crops could cause a global environmental disaster.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Phil Woolas said it was now down to the opponents of genetically modified food to prove it was unsafe.

"If it has been a disaster then please provide the evidence," he said.

On Wednesday Prince Charles said firms developing GM crops risked the biggest environmental disaster "of all time".

The government's initial response to the prince's comments in sister paper the Daily Telegraph was to say that it welcomed all voices in the "important" debate and that safety was a priority.

'Africa strategy'

However, on Sunday Mr Woolas went further, saying it was the government's "moral responsibility" to investigate whether genetically modified crops could help provide a solution to hunger in the developing world.

"We see this as part of our Africa strategy," he said.

"It's easy for those of us with plentiful food supplies to ignore the issue but we have a responsibility to use science to help the less well off where we can.

"I'm grateful to Prince Charles for raising the issue. He raises some very important doubts that are held by many people.

[A] gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong
Prince of Wales

"But government ministers have a responsibility to base policy on science and I do strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility to the developing world to ask the question: can GM crops help?"

Earlier this week the Prince of Wales warned future reliance on corporations to mass produce food would drive millions of farmers off their land.

He said huge multi-national corporations involved in developing GM foods were conducting a "gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong".

What should be debated was "food security not food production", he said.

The prince's comments come at a time of rising world food prices and food shortages.

The biotech industry says that GM technology can help combat world hunger and poverty by delivering higher yields from crops and also reduce the use of pesticides.

However, green groups and aid agencies have doubts about GM technology's effectiveness in tackling world hunger and have concerns about the long-term environmental impact.


SEE ALSO
Prince Charles makes organic plea
28 Jun 04 |  Berkshire
Prince's GM fears are 'hysteria'
12 Jun 02 |  UK News
Prince warns of GM crop 'threat'
11 Jun 02 |  UK News
MPs seek Prince's GM views
19 May 00 |  UK News

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
The Independent Dominic Lawson: The Prince is entitled to his views but not his ignorance - 5 hrs ago
SABC Prince Charles warns of GMO crops 'disaster' - 18 hrs ago
New Scientist Latest: Comment: Why Prince Charles is right - and wrong on GM - 31 hrs ago
Glasgow Herald Prince praised for stance on GM crops - 31 hrs ago
CNN Prince Charles: GM crops not the answer - 35 hrs ago



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