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Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
GM: The Royal debate
Last month it was revealed some British crops were GM tainted
Three members of the Royal family have now pitched into the debate on genetically modified (GM) foods.

The Duke of Edinburgh seems to have given his seal of approval to the GM industry by playing down fears about the products.

The Princess Royal
Princess Anne: Concerned the issues are being oversimplified
The Duke's comments echo those of his daughter, Princess Anne, in an interview she gave two days ago for The Grocer magazine.

But both are at odds with the views of Prince Charles, a keen supporter of organic farming, who recently gave a lecture in which he warned of the dangers of playing God with nature.

Prince Philip: 'Squirrel greater danger'

In an interview for The Times newspaper Prince Philip said: "Do not let us forget we have been genetically modifying animals and plants ever since people started selective breeding."

Prince Philip
The duke has played down public fears
The introduction of foreign pests, such as the grey squirrel, had done more damage to the environment than genetically modified crops would ever cause, he argued.

"People are worried about genetically modified organisms getting into the environment.

"What people forget is that the introduction of exotic species - like, for instance, the introduction of the grey squirrel into this country - is going to do or has done far more damage than a genetically modified piece of potato."

Prince Charles: Scientific 'peril'

The Prince of Wales feels genetic engineering takes man into the realms that belong to "God and God alone".

Reflecting on the 2000 Reith Lectures, Charles said: "Part of the problem is the prevailing approach that seeks to reduce the natural world, including ourselves, to the level of nothing more than a mechanical process.

"It is because of our 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, or as a nuisance to be evaded and manipulated, and in which anything that happens can be 'fixed' by technology and human ingenuity.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles wants money put into traditional farming methods
"This means being careful to use science to understand how nature works - not to change what nature is, as we do when genetic manipulation seeks to transform the process of biological evolution into something altogether different.

"The idea that the different parts of the natural world are connected through an intricate system of checks and balances which we disturb at our peril is all too easily dismissed as no longer relevant.

"So, in an age when we are told that science has all the answers, what chance is there for working with the grain of nature?

"I happen to believe that if a fraction of the money currently being invested in developing genetically manipulated crops were applied to understanding and improving traditional systems of agriculture, which have stood the all-important test of time, the results would be remarkable."

Princess Anne: 'Life is not that simple'

The Princess Royal told The Grocer magazine: "It is a huge over-simplification to say all farming ought to be organic or there should be no GM foods - I'm sorry, but life isn't that simple.

"Man has been tinkering with food production and plant development for such a long time that it's a bit cheeky to suddenly get nervous about it when, fundamentally, you are doing much the same thing."

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | UK
Duke joins GM debate
03 Jun 00 | UK
Princess defends GM foods
01 Jun 99 | UK
Prince sparks GM food row
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