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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 09:14 GMT
Demand for 'rational' GM debate
soya dumped in whitehall
Anti-GM protesters have targeted Downing Street
A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to clear up "confusion" over genetically modified food technology and replace it with "rational debate and education".

The All-party Agriculture Committee has said it would help both those who back growing GM crops and those who do not.

The MPs said they wanted to ensure that consumers and farmers alike could make informed choices about the new technology.

They said confusion and hysteria over the foods had blinded people over the real issues.

"The first GM product to reach the shops was a tomato paste, launched with an education campaign, rewarded with satisfactory sales but withdrawn in the wake of panic whipped up by campaigns against `Frankenstein foods'," the committee said.

greenpeace logo
Greenpeace have a massive campaign against GM food
"The supermarket chains responded with radical action to root out genetically modified ingredients in order to reassure and thereby keep their customers."

The MPs complained that few organisations emerged from the situation with much credit.

Sort out labelling

The report also urged ministers to work within the EU to establish early definitions of "non-GM" and "GM-free" labels to apply throughout Europe.

Government guidelines on field trials should be reviewed if there was clear evidence of cross-pollination, it said.

"We recommend that the government maintain the programme of GM crop field trials as planned, and that all steps are taken to ensure that experiments are not scaled down below the size calculated to produce reliable and scientifically sound results."

A spokesman for the government's GM unit welcomed the report, saying that it made a number of sensible points which were in line with government thinking.

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See also:

06 Apr 99 |  Food under the microscope
Genetically-modified Q&A
06 Apr 99 |  Food under the microscope
GM food: A political hot potato
17 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Farmers 'abandon GM crops'
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