AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com
Thanks very much for your letter and material of 13
I appreciate that discussion of significant new technologies
and their likely impact on societies, both in our own ambit and in countries of
which we personally might know very little, is a good thing. I don't think that
discussion can take place in an atmosphere of 'ban it'. Polarisation of opinion
and concerns away from context understanding and towards vast fears about the
future potential damage that might be caused is not something I can agree with.
I don't want to detract from the value of discussion, but that discussion has to
be open-minded. I fear that many of your supporters are only open-minded so far
as it concerns their own definition of the subject.
There are certainly areas where it would be inappropriate to
apply biotechnology to agriculture or food, such as the creation of consumer
foods that glow in the dark. This would be ridiculous. There are other areas,
such as reduction of pesticide burdens, reduction of population pressures (by
yield increase on a given area), reduction in toxicity of staple foods such as
cassava, where biotechnology gives us a better chance of achieving something
concrete in a manageable period of time.
It is also not true to say that crops that have been
genetically-improved through biotechnology are either less safe or have not been
tested compared with crops produced through crossing or irradiation. If we are
worried about gene addition, we should be far more worried about new
conventional strains of useful farm crops, since these have hundreds if not
thousands of potentially harmful genes, compared with a very few
well-characterised genes added by genetic engineering. No crop produced by
cross-breeding or irradiation has had the same kind of safety testing in
laboratory studies, animal studies or human volunteer studies as crops produced
by biotechnology. To assert that the only criterion is 'substantial equivalence
is to misrepresent quite grossly the large amount of time, effort and funds that
have been expended on safety tests.
Your literature is very useful. It confirms that you proceed
from a set of givens (such as that any food produced by means of biotechnology
techniques has to be labelled and that genetic variation in organisms is
invariably harmful) that get immediately in the way of any open-minded
discussion of what tremendous potential we have here. If we go to the ultimate
application of the various 'experts' you quote to give weight to your arguments
(Prince Charles, for example) we should immediately abandon all made items, such
as clothes, shoes, houses and other interference with God and nature, and
perhaps even grub our food from the ground and eat it raw.
A 5-year moratorium will do nothing to allow us to evaluate
the impact of genetic improvement through biotechnology in the measured way that
you suggest. If you are really interested in consumer choice, you should be
supporting my right to have GM foods and ingredients if I wish (as I do). When
there was public participation in debates about crop biotechnology, in the
Consensus Conference organised some years ago in UK, a remarkable amount of
balanced commonsense was produced by a well-informed group of non-expert
ordinary people, who proceeded with an open mind.
Organic farming, as promoted by the Soil Association and
similar organisations, amounts to nothing more than Agricultural Apartheid, a
policy of condemning something that a self-serving organisation has decided is
not acceptable, by blackguarding it, threatening and blackmailing people who
might want to use it, and generally putting in bans on this and bans on that,
that have no basis in science and as far as I can see none in law. It beggars
belief that a farmer's crops can be declared 'non-organic' because his land is
close to trial sites for GM crops. I last met with this kind of thing in
histories of Nazi Germany, Bolshevik Russia, Pol Pot's Cambodia and Afrikaaner
To add onto that the absolutely unacceptable condemnation of
animals that have received GM food or biotechnology-derived vaccines or
medicines, as if they themselves are tainted, confirms that your supporting
organisations have no foundation in reality but exist only to follow whatever
anti-science propaganda they are fed, or can drum up themselves.
I hope you understand why I am not in any way supportive of
attempts to steamroller policy makers, scientists or consumers over this topic.
It is not a fight of little Davids of the environmental or consumer movements
against the big evil bucks of the Goliaths of commerce, it is a fight between a
science that can genuinely, I believe, change the world for good, and interests
that seek, for a wide range of reasons, to pervert and destroy that potential by
misinformation and fearmongering.
Finally, it is interesting that a recent report reveals that,
when given the opportunity to find out and ask and get concerned about whether
there might be GM ingredients in their works canteen foods, only 5 of many
thousands of people bothered to ask. You may take that finding as indicating you
haven't done your work of agitating people well enough. I take it as an
indication that there might be some sensible people out there.
Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner BioBridge Associates
& Arcadia International eeig; 45 St Barnabas Road, Cambridge CB1 2BX tel +44
1223 566850, fax +44 1223 470222
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