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2-Plants: World agriculture without GMOs still possible



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TITLE:  World May Go Non-GM Says Campaigner
SOURCE: Reuters Online Service, by Christopher Lyddon
DATE:   July 16, 1999

----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------


World May Go Non-GM Says Campaigner

LONDON (Reuters) - World agriculture could still turn its back on
biotechnology according to one of the leaders of the organic
movement. "We're still saying we can have global agriculture
without genetic modification," Patrick Holden, director of the
Soil Association, told Reuters in a telephone interview. The
Association promotes organic farming methods in Britain as well
as providing certification for organic products. Holden predicted
a sharp rise in opposition to biotechnology among the American
public. "The informed minority of American public opinion is
strongly against GMOs," he said. "You don't get concerned about
genetic modification until you have the knowledge."

The fact that European opposition had been so vocal was in itself
making American consumers question biotechnology, he said. "My
prediction is that the American public will reject GMO's, with
massive opposition within a year." The Soil Association itself
had originally been open-minded about biotechnology, but it had
eventually taken the position that genetic engineering had no
place in food or agriculture.

There were concerns over its impact on the environment. Holden
cited fears that herbicide tolerance could affect bio-diversity,
with new varieties ousting others. There were even concerns over
bio-diversity in agriculture, he said, noting that the number of
maize varieties grown in Mexico had fallen since the advent of GM
types. And there were still potential fears over public health.
Even though GM crops had been grown in the U.S. for several
years, health problems could take a long time to surface. "There
was no food safety testing. These products were assumed to be
safe," Holden said.

He was sharply critical of Britain's trials. "The GM planting in
trial plots in this country is treating the environment as an
open air laboratory," he said. In medical research there was a
principle that no viable organisms should be released. In this
research it was being done the opposite way round. "It's
unacceptable to impose a risk on the entire global population,"
he said. The government had not considered the effect of the
deliberate release of GM material. But by accepting the idea of a
minimum level for GM material in foods labeled as not modified
the government was accepting that contamination was inevitable.

"Splicing" genes was incompatible with sustainable agriculture.
"The biotech companies believe they can artificially create
immunity by gene splicing," he said. "I'm interested in growing
plants which have their own vitality to protect them from
attack." "In a way it's a wholesale abandonment of that respect
for nature in agriculture that all good farmers have."
Researchers into biotechnology had "a surprising lack of regard
for that." 



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