8-Misc: OECD conference on GE crops and food (3): Some voices in defense of GE
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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------
TITLE: Genetic foods could bring health benefits
SOURCE: Reuters, by Patricia Reaney
DATE: February 28, 2000
-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------
Genetic foods could bring health benefits
EDINBURGH - Genetically modified food could revolutionise Third World
healthcare and even help prevent some cancers, a major international
conference into the controversial new technology heard on Monday. The
three-day meeting in Edinburgh is the first international forum
bringing together scientists, regulators, environmentalists and
consumer activists in the hopes of reaching a consensus on safety
standards for GM food.
Activists have staged high-profile protests, trashing experimental GM
crops and last week boarding a ship laden with GM soya, forcing it to
abandon attempts to unload in Britain. But scientists said the
technology could save lives.
"Edible vaccines and GM foods will cause a healthcare revolution in
countries not as well off as my own," said Professor Marc Weksler of
Cornell University in the U.S. GM vaccines and food could prevent
measles, which kills one million children a year, he said. They could
also help to overcome vitamin deficiencies linked to blindness,
cancers and immune system functions and to eliminate allergies. "GM
foods offer tremendous opportunities to prevent infectious disease,
certain cancers and malnutrition," he added. Critics say the effects
on people, animals and the environment should be studied before the
technology is used in food and released into the environment.
Professor Hans Gunter Gassen, of Darmstadt Technical University in
Germany, said scientists should tread carefully although he knew of
no claims that GM products are unhealthy. "I am not saying this is
dangerous. I'm saying we should be careful," the professor of
biochemistry warned. Others were more enthusiastic.
"Nature has been doing genetic engineering since the beginning of
life," said Professor Francisco Bolivar Zapata, the president of the
National Academy of Sciences in Mexico. "I believe these tools are
natural and extremely important for the production of healthy food,"
he added. GM technology is already used in 100 vaccines and
"There is no doubt that when we get a vaccine for HIV/AIDS it is
going to be genetically engineered. My claim is that genetically
engineered rice will bring similar benefit," said Professor Gordon
Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States.
Outside the conference, opponents of GM foods staged protests and
accused U.S. regulators of ignoring health risks. "The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has deliberately unleashed a host of potentially
harmful foods onto American dinner tables in blatant violation of
U.S. law," said Steven Druker, an American attorney who is suing the
FDA to obtain mandatory testing and labeling of GM food.
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