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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK

Special Report

Church tackles genetic engineering

The Presbyterian Church of Wales wants a ban on GM food

Leaders of one of Wales's biggest Christian denominations have called for a ban on the use of genetically-modified foods.

The English Association of the Presbyterian Church of Wales has called on the Government to put a moratorium on the use of genetically modified ingredients in human and animal food.

Seminar organisers= Dr Fiona Liddell insists it is natural for the church to be concerned about the world we live in
The association is also organising a special conference to open up the debate about the ethical and religious issues arising from genetic engineering.

The group says there should be clear and informative labelling of products to provide some protection for those want to make a choice over eating it or not.

[ image: Nick Bourne led calls for a GM ban in Wales]
Nick Bourne led calls for a GM ban in Wales
It is the latest attempt to tackle the issue of GM foods on an all-Wales basis. Shortly before the National Assembly went into its summer recess, members voted to look at whether a moratorium on GM food could be introduced in Wales.

That call was led by Conservative Nick Bourne, who is currently favourite to lead the Tory group on the Assembly, following the resignation of Rod Richards.

The secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Wales's social issues committee, former Clwyd county council chief executive Mervyn Phillips of Mold, said the association shared the concern of the majority of people about the safety of food products.

"Scientific experience in recent years shows the need to be sure about safety before changing the nature of the products we use," he said.

He said the church also had special concern about the ethics of mixing the genes from different species.

[ image: The church feels science could be going too far]
The church feels science could be going too far
"There is a need for debate about these issues, which are not clear- cut and where the Christian perspectives on the importance of creation and human dignity need to be applied," he said.

As a response, the church is organising a weekend conference to discuss the issues at Coleg Trefeca in Powys in September led by Dr Fiona Liddell, joint warden of the college.

Dr Liddell said at the weekend: "Some questions just won't go away. DNA is here to stay and our knowledge of its secrets is expanding at a formidable rate.

"Before long, scientists working on the Human Genome Project will have mapped out every section of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes and identified the effects of every human gene.

Powerful knowledge

"We cannot turn the clock back, we have powerful knowledge at our fingertips.

"But how do we use this knowledge as faithful stewards of God's creation in the service of our fellow human beings?

"That question is our challenge. Scientists alone should not be left to answer it on our behalf."

"What is our attitude to creation and our relationship to other creatures? Who benefits from the genetic modification of plants and animals?

"What does it mean to be human? Who decides for example what it is to be normal and healthy, and how far is at all is it appropriate to temper with somes genetic material in order to ensure them a better or more "normal" quality of life? These are the questions we will be addressing," she said.

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Internet Links

National Assembly for Wales

Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food

Commercial use of GM foods (Dept of the Environment)

Churches' Centre for the National Assembly

Presbyterian Church of Wales

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