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Without GM, UK to become a ‘food museum’

8 commentsBy Rick Pendrous , 14-Nov-2012
Last updated on 24-Nov-2012 at 14:43 GMT

The UK risks becoming a “food museum” if it fails to adopt new technologies such as genetically modified (GM) foods, the president of Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has warned.

Speaking at a conference yesterday (November 13) in London organised by the agri-food consultancy European Food and Farming Partnerships (EFFP), Jim Moseley, who is also md of General Mills UK and Ireland, called on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to take the lead in proving to the public that consumption of GM food posed no threat to health.

Moseley stressed speed of action was essential in ensuring that the UK didn’t fall behind the rest of the world in the adoption of modern production techniques and, as a consequence, lost its all-important export markets.

Food manufacturing

“Despite its great heritage around food manufacturing in the UK and Europe, we could become a food museum as all the markets around us adopt this and other new technologies,” he warned.

However, he argued that it was not the role of manufacturers to promote the use of GM technology. “It is unlikely that manufacturers will put their heads above the parapet on GM,” said Moseley.

Despite widespread use of GM around the world and no evidence that it poses any health risk, anti-GM campaigners, such as the Soil Association, which represents the interests of organic producers, have continually questioned the safety of GM.

“First and foremost we have got to prove that this technology is safe and in my opinion the FSA is the first port of call in that debate,” said Moseley. “From a manufacturing point of view and from a FDF point of view, we will be encouraging the FSA to start an evidence-based debate around the safety of this particular technology.”

BBC’s Food Programme

In a panel session at the EFFP conference titled ‘More with less – driving performance, sustainably’, radio presenter Sheila Dillon from the BBC’s Food Programme, supported Moseley’s call for further research into GM safety, with the FSA taking the lead. She said: “There is virtually no evidence that these technologies are safe.”

In the US it is not necessary to label foods as GM, unlike in the EU, and Dillon argued that recent unsuccessful moves in California to introduce GM labelling in the US showed that “the safety data is lacking”.

However, National Farmers Union President Peter Kendall strongly refuted arguments by those who claimed GM was not safe and not an effective tool in improving agricultural efficiency.

While he supported the call for the FSA to take the lead making the case for GM, unlike Moseley, he felt it was important that all stakeholders in the in the food sector – including farmers and manufacturers – stepped up their game in arguing the case for GM and convinced the UK public of its safety. “Yes, the FSA does have to lead on this, but we have all got to get out there,” he said.

Iglo Group ceo Martin Glenn said that, while some sections of the population would always avoid GM foods as a “lifestyle choice”,  demand for technologies such as GM would grow as pressure increased on farmers to become more efficient to feed the growing world population, while minimising their environmental impact.

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8 comments (Comments are now closed)

Clear definitions

Living in Canada, there's an argument for and against GMOs like in any other country. Those here who are concerned about GMOs applaud what is happening in Europe and in Japan.

However, to be devil's advocate – a definition on what constitutes GMO should be established. If it mimicked a natural process: that is selecting only the genes that naturally occur in strawberries to make them larger and sweeter, it seems like something that could be accepted. Farmers have been doing that since farming came into practice – grafting stronger plants onto others, cross pollinating the flowers from the sweetest, juiciest peach to other peach trees. I see no harm in that.

I do, however, have a problem with messing around with non-related species genes or adding chemicals to the genetic make up of our food that is not naturally occurring. There hasn't been any testing to prove or disprove that it's safe. How many times do we have to show that we need to see long-term affects of such drastic changes in the genetic structure of natural things?

I suppose I'm on the side of natural evolution, in some part mixed with science but not Frankenfood.

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Posted by Erica Tang
26 November 2012 | 18h01

"Dredging the Depths" should take a closer look at own biases

Mr. Dyall,
I can, and I do. And with two research degrees from The University of Chicago and years of biology and biopsychology bench research experience under my belt, I am fully qualified to make educated judgments on the quality and accuracy of the science behind the GMO safety claims. And the scientific evidence is abundantly clear: GMOs pose both known and unknown safety and health risks to the environment and human health.

Aside from the emerging empirical evidence on GMO risks, the reality is, we don't even know HOW to study and predict the effects of genetic modification on either the organisms modified, or those that interact with the modified organisms. For an explanation of why, I refer you to the book Evolution: A View From the 21st Century by Robert Shapiro, Ph.D. Surely a person as well-versed as you has at least heard of it?

Dr. Shapiro lays out a very cogent, empirically-based argument re: the deficiencies in the current paradigms used to understand genetic function. When we know that we don't even understand how the system works, we are, de facto, unable to understand, let alone predict, the effects of our actions on it.

On that basis alone, we are logically unable to argue that genetic engineering is safe. Since we know that we don't know what we're doing, to say that our actions will have no unintended consequences is a malignant lie. For governments to ignore this fact and gamble with the future viability of our planet, at the behest of the agri/pharma industry, is criminal in a way that dwarfs any other types of human rights and environmental crime.

I'm always amazed at the thoughtless, cavalier way that some people treat themselves and others, for the privilege of serving as a toady to those who manipulate and use them for their own gain.

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Posted by Jennifer Christiano
21 November 2012 | 19h41

He is just a mouth for Monsanto

Too bad hope he eats this stuff, I don't. Avoid the corn and soy beans, this stuff is not fit for animals – hell the bugs won't eat it, why should you?

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Posted by bob
21 November 2012 | 16h25

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