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9-Misc: UK citizen jury says GM food should be available

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TITLE:  FSA citizens' jury says GM food should be available to buy in the UK
SOURCE: Food Standards Agency, UK, Press Release Ref: R665-37
DATE:   Apr 7, 2003

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FSA citizens' jury says GM food should be available to buy in the UK

The Food Standards Agency citizens' jury decided this afternoon that GM
foods should be available to buy in the UK, although a sizeable minority
(6 out of 15) disagreed, believing that the UK is not yet ready for GM foods.

Over three days, the jurors - comprised of 15 people from Slough - had
access to the entire spectrum of views on GM food, and were able to
develop an in-depth understanding of the issues via sessions with
witnesses from organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Bayer
CropScience, Sainsbury's and the Consumers' Association. The jury was
also briefed by Professor Kathy Sykes of Bristol University about the
nature of risk, food safety and DNA.

After two hours of heated deliberation, the jury presented its verdict to
FSA Chief Executive Dr Jon Bell. The majority of jurors thought GM food
should be available to buy in the UK because:
- They are confident in safety measures
- While some anti-GM concerns are valid, there has to be choice
- If the UK doesn't embrace new developments in science, it will be left
behind, because there are demonstrable benefits from GM

All 15 members of the jury agreed that the following measures are vital
if GM food is introduced to the UK:
-Education to keep the public informed of developments and possible
problems with GM
-Effective labelling and monitoring of GM foods; for example a GM food
logo to ensure that people can make a genuine to choice to eat or avoid
eating GM foods

A number of jurors expressed concerns about the long-term safety of
genetically modified organisms, ethical concerns, and the environmental
impact of growing GM crops in the UK. Although environmental issues are
outside the remit of the FSA, the concerns of jurors about environmental
issues will be included in the final published report of the jury's

The jury, socially representative of the population of Slough, included
an accountant, two students, a housewife, taxi driver, driving
instructor, and a minister of religion.

Thousands of people watched the live internet broadcast of the jury on
the FSA's website over the three days, with over 1000 viewers watching
the jurors deliver their verdict to the FSA. The Jury's deliberations in
reaching a verdict will be available to watch as Video-on-Demand from
midday Tuesday 8 April, on the FSA website.

Note for editors The FSA has commissioned Opinion Leader Research (OLR)
to run a citizens' jury on GM Food with the purpose of testing public
opinion about GM food, exploring public concerns and testing their
validity, and informing the Agency's thinking about the issue. A jury of
15 members of the public considered the question: 'Should GM foods be
available to buy in the UK?'

Professor Kathy Sykes, the new Bristol University Collier Professor in
the Public Engagement of Science and Engineering, which was established
to communicate scientific and technological research in a user-friendly
way to the public, introduced the three-day event in Slough. She is also
one of five presenters of BBC 2's Rough Science programme.

Citizens' jury members have been recruited by OLR using well-established
methods to reflect the local population. They heard evidence from a wide
cross-section of experts in the field, and were able to question the
experts and ask for additional evidence, before formulating a response.
The jury was also asked to explain the reasoning behind their decision,
including any conditions or recommendations.

Witnesses from the following organisations presented evidence to the
citizens' jury and answered questions from jury members: Institute of
Food Research; Genewatch; United States Food and Drug Administration;
Sainsbury's; Europa Bio; New Scientist; Consumers' Association; Friends
of the Earth; Bayer CropScience & Agricultural Biotechnology Council;
Somerset County Council; BEUC. Biographies of all witnesses and details
of the sessions in which they presented evidence are available on the FSA
website: Witness presentations were published
on the FSA website as they took place.

To ensure transparency, the citizens' jury proceedings were broadcast
live on the internet and all evidence presented to the jury will be
published on the FSA website.


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