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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Frankenstein Government shows true colours

If anybody ever thought that this UK Labour Government has green credentials then they would have been disabused of that notion yesterday when a British Environment Minister tried to persuade the European Community to lift its ban on GM crops and food.

The decision will make it easier for the Welsh Assembly to maintain its own anti-GM stance in line with public opinion. However, it seems that such concern cuts no ice with Elliot Morley, the Minister concerned. As Friends of the Earth's UK campaigner on the GM issue, Emily Diamand, said:

"Today's vote is a vote for common sense, and a victory for European consumers, who are overwhelmingly opposed to GM food.

"The actions of the UK today have been appalling.

"It is bad enough that Elliot Morley should ignore public opinion on this important issue. But it is outrageous that he should try to prevent other countries saying no to GM.

"His actions will do nothing to improve the UK's battered reputation on this issue, or help its poor image in Europe."
'Frankenstein Government'?

The Working Party does not believe that there is enough evidence of actual or potential harm to justify a moratorium on either GM crop research, field trials or limited release into the environment...

The application of genetic modification to crops has the potential to bring about significant benefits, such as improved nutrition, enhanced pest resistance, increased yields and new products such as vaccines. The moral imperative for making GM crops readily and economically available to developing countries who want them is compelling

- Nuffield Council on Bioethics

You may well have a different view. How about a reasoned argument?
There is a significant danger of contamination posed by GM crops to nearby organic crops. There can be no such thing as a limited release into the environment as evidence in the USA and elsewhere demonstrates that genetic pollution travels huge distances. These crops can also play havoc with biodiversity and with native insect life.

As for the benefits these are unproven. However, there is an equal risk that tampering with food supplies can have long term impacts on human health. That has to be balanced against any gains. In the circumstances a precautionary approach is the only safe solution until scientists can prove once and for all that these mutations are safe.
If you really insist that we have to wait until scientists can prove them safe you'll have a long wait. It's logically impossible to prove a negative (that GM crops are without harm) - not scientifically impossible or politically inconvenient but logically impossible.

So let's assume you aren't being so unreasonable as to demand a change in the laws of logic. Then I presume you mean scientists should prove safety to some degree of sufficent proof - and you haven't described what is your degree of sufficent proof.

The degree of assurance you seem to require is clearly much greater than than that of the Nuffield Bioethics Council. What is it?
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